Essay, Research Paper: Learning Styles


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Throughout our lives, we are faced with many different learning experiences.
Some of these experiences have made a better impact than others. We can
attribute this to our learning style. A person’s learning style is the method
through which they gain information about their environment. Research is going
on all over the world to help explain learning styles. As teachers, it is our
responsibility to learn about these different learning styles so that we can
appeal to every type of learner in our classrooms. Howard Gardner has elaborated
on the concept of learning style through what he calls “multiple
intelligence’s” (Gardner 3). Understanding these intelligence’s will help
us to design our classrooms and curriculum in a way that will appeal to all of
our students. We may even be able to curb negative behavior by reaching students
in a different way. If we implement activities that call upon the use of all
these “intelligence’s” (Gardner 2) we will get the best out of all of our
students (Santrock 311). Their grades will improve and they will retain more
information for a longer period of time. Learning styles can also help us to
determine possible career paths so that we can help to steer children in the
right direction. Discovering our own learning styles can potentially maximize
our own information processing and teaching techniques. Howard Gardner is a
professor at Harvard who has studied the idea of intelligence in a way that
links research and personal experience (Traub 1). He began speaking about
“multiple intelligence’s” in 1983. Since then, he has won a MacArthur
“genius” grant, he has written books which have been translated into twenty
languages, and he gives about seventy-five speeches a year (Truab 1). His ideas
have been backed and popularized by many groups seeking to reform the current
educational system. The idea is that we know a child who scores well on tests is
smart, but that doesn’t mean a child who does not score well is not getting
the information or is incapable of getting it (Traub1). Gardner’s goal is to
turn what we normally think of as intelligence into a mere aspect of a much
wider range of aptitudes (Traub 1). Most of us believe that doing well in school
requires a certain amount of intelligence. School work usually focuses on only
two avenues of intelligence. Traditional teaching focuses on verbal and
mathematical skills. A person who is weak in both of these will probably do
poorly in school. Gardner suggests that their is eight different aptitudes or
“intelligence’s” (Gardner 3). Each individual has the “eight
intelligence’s” in various amounts. Our strengths and weaknesses in the
“intelligence’s” influence how we learn (Gardner 5). They may even affect
how successful we are in life. “Verbal- linguistic” is the first of
Gardner’s proposed “intelligence’s” (Gardner). A linguistic learner
thinks in words. This person uses language to express and understand meaning
(Gardner 24) Linguistic learners are sensitive to the meaning of words, their
order, and their inflection (Gardner 24) This type of person uses writing to
express themselves, often through poetry, stories, and letters. “Verbal
linguistic” (Gardner 24) learners are usually very skilled readers. Speaking
is another strength that they possess. Oral communication is used often for
persuasion and memorization (Gardner 133). They are often eloquent speakers and
have wonderfully developed auditory skills. This type of intelligence tends to
pick up foreign languages with ease. Identifying a “verbal linguistic”
(Gardner 24) learner in your classroom is not difficult. Because of their
talents at expressing themselves their class work will stand out. They tend to
do well at expressing themselves through writing. The will often speak their
mind and can easily explain an event that happened through words, both speaking
and writing. Planning lessons that appeal to the “verbal linguistic”
(Gardner 24) learner is very easy. The traditional curriculum appeals best to
this kind of learner. They are very good at reading and writing which is already
the main method of teaching in most classrooms. Some activities that appeal to
this kind of learner are storytelling, writing essays, joking, debating, story
problems, and crossword searches. These activities will allow the student to use
words to learn material and express what they have learned through words. The
“visual spatial intelligence” has the ability to think in pictures (Gardner
65). They perceive the visual world accurately and are able to think in three
dimensional terms. According to Gardner visual learners can easily recreate
something that they have seen (Gardner 67). Art is usually a strong area for a
student who learns this way. Constructing things is another activity that come
easily to this type of learner. They have a knack for turning ideas into
concrete examples (Gardner 67). An example of this type of student is some one
who can bring an architectural design from their minds to paper and then into a
model. A person strong in this type of “intelligence” (Gardner 133) has a
keen awareness between space and objects. The student who learns best visually
will most often sit near the front of the class. They need to see the
teacher’s body language and facial expressions to fully understand the content
of a lesson. This type of learner learns best from visual display. Diagrams,
illustrated text books, videos, flipcharts, and handouts are crucial to the
learning of this type of “intelligence” (Gardner 24) . Activities that this
type of learner will excel at include: creating collages and posters,
storyboarding, painting, and photographing. People who are strong in the
“visual spatial”(Gardner 17) type of intelligence are indispensable when it
comes to professions. We rely on them to be aware of the big picture with the
knowledge that each element relies on another. They seem to have an instinctual
awareness of what is going on around them and are wonderful navigators,
mechanics, engineers, architects, interior designers, and inventors. “Body
kinesthetic” (Gardner 88) learners have the ability to control body movements
and handle objects skillfully (Gardner 88). These learners express themselves
through movement. They have a good sense of balance and hand eye coordination.
Interacting with the space around them is the way that the “body
kinesthetic”(Gardner 144) learner processes information. This learning style
involves a sense of timing and coordination. Michael Jordan, for example would
most likely have a well developed “body kinesthetic intelligence” (Gardner
144). His ability to move quickly across a basketball court, while dribbling a
ball, with a roaring crowd, while processing the whereabouts of five opponents
and four teammates shows that there is a specific intelligence in his movement
and perception of the basketball court’s layout (Santrock 292). The “body
kinesthetic” (Gardner 2) learner can often be a handful in the classroom. As a
student it may be difficult for this person to sit still. This learner will do
best if they are able to work while moving around or standing. This type of
learner will do well with activities that involve acting out skits, directing
movement, and playing charades. They will often excel in physical education and
delight at becoming involved with sports. “Logical mathematical
intelligence”(Gardner 6) is another intelligence that is already heavily
implemented in our current school system. It involves the ability to use
numbers, logic, and reason . These learners think conceptually, in logic and
number patterns (Gardner 112). They are often able to perform complex
mathematical problems. This type of intelligence involves deductive and
inductive reasoning skills, as well as critical and creative problem solving
(Gardner 122). Children who use logic and mathematics as a primary way of
learning tend to be obvious in the classroom. This child will ask a lot of
questions and enjoys doing experiments. They will often excel in mathematics and
science. Finding ways to help this person succeed in language arts and social
studies can often be a challenge. This person will do well if we help them to
focus on categorizing information. Grouping concepts together and then finding a
relationship between them will help this type of intelligence to understand
concepts not related to math or science. Helping a child master these techniques
will no doubt help them tackle issues in their everyday life. “Musical
Rhythmic” (Gardner 121) learners have the ability to produce and appreciate
music. These musically inclined learners think in rhythms, sounds, and patterns.
They immediately respond to music either appreciating or criticizing what they
hear. Many of these learners are extremely sensitive to environmental sounds
such as; crickets, dripping, bells, and trains (Santrock 345). They are also
very sensitive to patterns and pitch in sound. “Musical rhythmic” (Garnder
121) learners are able to recognize, create, and recreate sound using their
voice or instruments (Gardner 125). An understanding of the connection between
music and emotions is prevalent in these types of learners (Gardner 125).
Identifying a person who is a musical learner can be tricky. They often play an
instrument and are involved in some kind of extracurricular activity involving
music. This type of learner will recreate a sound by tapping on their desk or
humming the tune. Accommodating this type of leaner in the classroom can be
challenging for teachers. This person will benefit from being able to bring
music in to their lessons. Their homework may include writing songs about
periods of history and literary events. Musical learners may need to create
songs in order to memorize operations and sequences. They should be encouraged
to make up songs to help them memorize things like planets and mathematical
formulas. Gardner is especially interested in the “musical intelligence” (Santrock
354). Gardner himself had been a serious pianist and a composition student (Traub
2). His interests in the “musical intelligence” (Gardner 121) particularly
focused on childhood (Santrock 354). Preschool children have the ability to
learn musical patterns easily, and they rarely forget them. (Gardner 77). He
points out that many adults can still remember tunes from when they were very
young. (Gardner 78). “Intrapersonal intelligence” (Gardner 129) are learners
who are very introverted. They are aware of their own strengths and weaknesses.
These types of learners use self knowledge to guide decision making (Gardner
129). They have the ability to monitor one’s self in interpersonal
relationships and act with “personal efficacy” (Gardner 128). They are aware
of their feelings and are able to regulate their moods and emotional responses.
(Gardner 110). I believe that I have a strong “intrapersonal intelligence”
(Gardner 129). I have always been a very quiet person, but only on the outside.
There is a whole lot of things going on inside my head. I plan my actions ahead
of time, then act them out the way that I had planned. Being intrapersonal, I
have always been very selfish in a way. When I think of an struggle or issue I
always decide what I would do, rather than put myself in someone else’s shoes.
Having discovered this side of me I try to be more conscious of it and not let
it rule my personality. A student who is an “intrapersonal learner” in the
classroom will often keep to themselves. (Gardner). They will enjoy thinking and
meditating on ideas. These types of people are planners. Activities that will
stimulate this type of intelligence include journal writing, fiction writing,
and self assessments. They are very comfortable with their own feelings on
subjects and think things out very thoroughly. “Interpersonal or social
intelligence” (Gardner 138) identifies themselves through their relationship
with other people (Gardner 138). These people see things from other people’s
point of view in order to understand how they think and feel (Santrock 293).
They often have the ability to sense feelings, intentions, and motivations.
Organization is a key strength, although they sometimes resort to manipulation
in order to make things run smoothly. This type of “intelligence” (Gardner
139) is a born group leader and encourages cooperation. Their strengths lie in
both verbal and non-verbal language to open communication channels with people.
(Gardner 139). This type of person is often a great listener and practices
empathy for other people. The “interpersonal learners” (Gardner 140) are the
leaders of the classroom. Problem solving is an attribute that will come in
handy when communicating with your classroom. These learners are able to
understand your role as the teacher as well as the plights of the students. They
will do best working in groups or with partners. Activities such as reporting,
interviewing, teaching, and choreographing are things that the interpersonal
learner will excel in. The “interpersonal” (Gardner 140) person will do best
with careers that involve working with people. They are easily able to empathize
with situations and find the best solutions to problems. They are also
manipulators who can persuade people in a different ways. Their skills in
communicating and understanding needs and motivation of people help them to
become wonderful teachers, counselors, salespeople, politicians, and
businessmen. The “naturalist” (Gardner 150) is the eighth and newest
declared learning style. The “naturalist” (Gardner 150) has an understanding
of the natural world. This person’s interest and understanding lies in plants,
animals, and scientific studies (Gardner 155). They are able to recognize and
classify individuals, species, and ecological relationships (Gardner 155).
Interacting with living creatures comes easily to the naturalist. Gardner says
that these types of learners have a certain skill for understanding animal
behavior, their needs, and characteristics. The “naturalist intelligence”
(Gardner 156) will tend to have a green thumb and are able to grow plants with
ease. In the classroom the “naturalist learner” (Gardner 156) will often be
an observer. They will enjoy field trips to places like the zoo and to farms.
They will often have collections of insects and rocks which they could share
with the class. They will benefit from activities such as collecting leaves,
growing plants, doing experiments, and participating in field studies. Cooking
and home economic related activities can also be a strength for the
“naturalist” (Gardner 156). One of the first interventions that can be used
by the classroom teacher to accommodate individual learning style of students is
changes in the classroom design. Many classrooms are formal in design with all
students facing desks. For the students whose preference is
informal this often is a hindrance to learning. Offering optional seating in
groups, pairs, and on couches can accommodate individual learning preferences
and increase student success. Gardner believes that each of the intelligence’s
can be destroyed by brain damage. According to Traub’s article, Gardner
studied brain damaged patients at Boston’s Veterans Administration Hospital
(Traub2). He found that patients who had profound damage to a main intellectual
function, leaving them barely able to speak, could still recognize a metaphor or
even tell a joke (Traub 2). I recently saw a news segment on the actor Dudley
Moore who has a disease that is deteriorating his brain. He reported that he can
no longer play the piano: “I can not bring the sounds from my head out through
the piano” (ABC News). This is perhaps an example of how brain damage or
neurological diseases can affect intelligence. Each of the intelligence’s
involve unique cognitive skills and shows up in exaggerated fashion in both the
gifted and idiot savants (Gardner 168). Studies are being done concerning autism
and learning styles. It appears that people with autism are more likely to rely
on only one style of learning. Having worked with autistic children, I am able
to say that each autistic child has his or her own way of interacting with the
world. This can easily be translated into their primary learning style and can
be very helpful for those who work with autistic children. By observing the
autistic person, one may be able to determine his or her primary learning style.
For example , if an autistic child enjoys looking at books, watching television,
and tends to look carefully at people and objects, then he or she may be a
visual learner (Santrock 433). Once a person’s learning style is determined,
then relying on this modality to teach can greatly increase the likelihood that
the person will learn and possibly communicate. Some people have problems with
Gardner’s theories about intelligence (Traub 3). Many say that there is no
concrete research behind Gardner’s ideas (Traub 5). The problem may lie in the
term “intelligence” (Traub 3). Intelligence is not often viewed as a
concept, but as a measurement, a term of value. (Traub 3). Gardner says that his
use of the word “intelligence” (Traub 3) is intentional. He chose to
challenge the traditional view of the concept of intelligence. There are many
different avenues available to help people discover their own learning style and
assess their intelligence. Mainly there are questionnaires to help assess the
way that people process information. Looking through a few of the assessment
which can be found easily online, I found that they are pretty standard. They
call for you to check statements that you find are true about yourself. These
statements are then put into their appropriate “intelligence” (Traub 3)
category. The category with the most true statements is ranked as your strongest
intelligence. Each of the other intelligence’s are put in order accordingly.
As teachers, we can quickly assess our students at the beginning of the school
year by performing a similar inventory. We can take the statements and re word
them so that they appeal to a younger audience. We can also assign activities
and let our children choose how they are going to present them. A fun activity
that is often used is “What I did over summer vacation”. The children are
asked to present what they did over summer vacation. They are able to present
this any way they like and are given suggestions such as “Write a song about
your summer vacation” for the musical learner; “perform a skit about your
Summer vacation” for the “body kinesthetic” (Gardner 12) learner; and
“tell us what you learned about yourself over your Summer vacation” for the
intrapersonal learner. Getting to know the learning styles of the children in
your classroom at the beginning of the year will help you to plan your
curriculum effectively for the rest of the year. Knowing about learning styles
and multiple intelligence is helpful for everyone, especially for people with
learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder. Although there is not
concrete research to back up Gardner’s theories; we know that using learning
styles in the classrooms is working. Knowing your own learning style and the
learning styles of your students will help to develop coping strategies,
compensate for weaknesses, and capitalize strengths. It is every teacher’s
duty to make the learning process a pleasurable one for all students; becoming
familiar with the different learning styles will help us to do just that.
Gardner, Howard. Frames of Mind. New York: Basic Books, 1988 Santrock, John.
Child Development. McGraw-Hill, 1998 Special Report on Dudley Moore. Channel
Seven News, ABC Network. Nov. 1999 Traub, James. “Multiple Intelligence
Disorder”. The New Republic (1998). 5 pgs. 24 November 1999

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