Today’s teachers are finding it increasingly challenging to engage students. Considering the unique learning styles of our students and catering teaching techniques to support these styles can improve student performance (Dunn, R., Beaudry, J.S. & Klavas, A., 2002) and increase student engagement.
Research indicates that learning styles are the result of many influences including biological, sociological and cultural characteristics. Within each culture, class bracket and classroom ‘there are as many within-group differences as between-group differences. Indeed, each family includes parents and offspring with styles that differ’ (Dunn, R., Beaudry, J.S. & Klavas, A., 2002, p.88). Studies have found the closer the match between a student’s and teacher’s styles, the higher the grade point average (Dunn, R., Beaudry, J.S. & Klavas, A., 2002). It’s important to remember that no learning style is BETTER or WORSE than another and each style has similar intelligence ranges. “Most learners can master the same content but HOW the master it is determined by their individual styles” (Dunn, R., Beaudry, J.S. & Klavas, A., 2002, p.89).
Determining Learning Style
There are several learning style models and tests to determine which style applies to each student. Educationplanner.org (http://www.educationplanner.org/students/self-assessments/learning-styles.shtml) offers a twenty question online test to determine if your learning style is Auditory, Visual or Tactile. Tafesa.edu (http://linkup.tafesa.edu.au/learning_styles_evaluation.html) offers an online evaluation that helps to determine if you’re an Adventurous learner, Social learner,
Practical learner or Conceptual learner
After taking each assessment, my results showed that I was primarily a Visual and Adventurous learner who likes to ‘Do it my own way’. No surprises there – I have been working happily on my own as a consultant for several years. Although it may be helpful for me to identify my OWN learning style, it’s even more important that I consider the different learning styles of my students when putting together my courses.
Strategies to Support Different Styles
Vincent and Ross do a great job outlining different methodologies surrounding determining learning styles AND provide strategies to help support unique styles.
Their article, ‘Personalize training: Determine learning styles, personality types and multiple intelligences online’ provides recommendations for each of the three learning styles: Auditory, Visual and Tactile or Kinesthetic (Vincent, A. & Ross, D., 2001):
- Provide as much auditory stimuli as possible
- Provide verbal reinforcement
- Provide group activities and class discussions
- Have students read aloud and put information into a rhythmic pattern
- Provide as many visual clues as possible
- Use videos, charts and pictures
- Provide assignments in writing
- Use bright colors
- Encourage students to take notes and draw pictures
- Provide many activities allowing students to participate in learning
- Use hands-on activities and include physical movement
- Provide stories filled with action
- Encourage many stand up and stretch breaks
- Allow students to participate by touching and practicing
Including ALL of these strategies into an online course, or offline course, for that matter may seem like a tall order. However, newer technologies now allow for the use of multi-media content and collaboration within the online learning environment.
A Case for Virtual Interactive Whiteboards
As Technology Coordinator at his school, William Beeland is responsible for helping to improve the learning environment for teachers and students. His pilot program tested the use of interactive whiteboards in f2f classroom environments in hopes of better engaging Visual, Auditory and Tactile learners. The results strongly suggested that the use of the interactive whiteboards DOES LEAD TO INCREASED STUDENT ENGAGEMENT.
Teachers were able to employ many of the strategies listed above not only by showing images and videos on the whiteboard but also allowing students to touch and interact with the whiteboard themselves. These capabilities are now available in a virtual or online environment with the help of several apps like twiddla.com. Emergingedtech.com reviews several virtual interactive whiteboard apps, including twiddla.com, in an article that has been amongst its top 10 posts since it was published in 2010.
twiddla.com (http://www.twiddla.com/) is an interactive whiteboard that allows virtual collaborators to browse the internet, watch videos, view images, co-create charts and do almost anything else you can dream of. They call themselves a ‘no-setup, web-based meeting playground’ and offer a free online demo. After giving it a try, I have to say I LOVE this tool and can absolutely see how it would be valuable to engage online learners.
Teachers and educators may be feeling the pains of a shifting educational paradigm. Education is changing. However, we can leverage existing research on learning styles and new technology to help overcome some of these challenges and provide a better learning experience for our students.
Beeland Jr, W. D. (2002). Student engagement, visual learning and technology: Can interactive whiteboards help?.
Dunn, R., Beaudry, J. S., & Klavas, A. (2002). Survey of research on learning styles. California Journal of Science Education, 2(2), 75-98.
Vincent, A., & Ross, D. (2001). Personalize training: determine learning styles, personality types and multiple intelligences online. Learning Organization, The, 8(1), 36-43.