Strategies for Teaching to Diverse Learning Styles
When looking at a class' diverse learning styles, a teacher may start with Howard Gardner's eight intelligences: verbal, mathematical/logical, bodily/kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, spatial, musical and naturalistic. This is an excellent summary and starting point, as other learning styles can branch from these eight.
Students may tell their teachers how they learn best. For instance, in a literature course, some students may like to hear the teacher read (verbal), others may read alone (intrapersonal) and some may want to read aloud to themselves (musical). Take their explanations seriously and work to incorporate them into activities.
Some students, perhaps younger ones, may not verbalize their preferences. Look at other ways to gauge their learning styles. If students have a summary to write, allow students to choose how to communicate. Some may make a time-line (mathematical/logical), others may want to act out the story (bodily/kinesthetic) and others want to draw (spatial).
Provide students with possibilities and see what they enjoy creating. This will provide an inkling into their learning styles. The goal with learning styles and students and strategies is to have students learn the same material, just in different ways.
Setting Classroom Expectations
The students that comprise a class will influence the teacher's ability to teach learning styles and students and strategies. In order to have students work with the teacher and not against him, set classroom expectations early, remind students of them frequently and enforce them.
At the start of the year, give students clear guidelines concerning their communication. Demonstrate a proper attitude and understanding toward peers who are different. Some activities, such as peer interviews, may help with this goal.
Later, have students present assignments to demonstrate that the same material is covered, just in different ways. A cohesive working atmosphere is the goal, so students respect each other.
Maintaining a Positive Attitude
Addressing diverse learning styles can be a struggle, especially for new teachers. Teachers know their attitudes greatly impact the class' beliefs and actions. Teachers should not waver from their positive approaches and different techniques in teaching.
If an activity is not going well and students are not learning the material, it is acceptable to change the format without changing the topic. For instance, if a science class was comparing different types of mirrors with pictures from the Internet, it may behoove you to bring in actual mirrors. Be open with students and explain that to learn better, different ideas are sometimes needed.
Show students throughout the year that as they cooperate with activities, they will be rewarded with more freedom. When introducing a unit, provide students with a list of possibilities for vocabulary, summarization and note-taking. Allow them an investment and choice in their activities.
An array of learning styles brings many options for both students and teachers. Students will learn from their peers while teachers will grow their portfolios and abilities. A willingness to explore different activities with a positive attitude will help teachers along the way.