There has been a lot of talk about learning styles (feel free to Google as there are multiple definitions and interpretations). The overall belief, however controversial, is that teachers must somehow cater to students’ individual learning style. There are workshops designed to help teachers understand various learning styles and a perception that those teachers who do not adapt to this “educational reform” must not be good teachers, must be the reason students are failing, and must be retired so that newer educated teachers can take their place. Of course this is an extreme view, but it is there.
The idea that a teacher has failed because he has not implemented the newest teaching method, in my opinion, has missed the point. Blaming the instructor for a child’s inability to learn negates the responsibility of the learner. It is a selfish view of both the student and the parent to assume that the student must be catered to or find a school that will put that individual child first.
Granted, I do share the opinion that learning styles exist. Certainly everyone, not just current students, has a style, either innate or learned, that contributes to how he comprehends information. Neurology shows how the brain functions during the learning process and whether information is accepted or rejected into short term and long term memory. However a researcher, instructor, or neurologist defines learning styles, I do believe it is appropriate to say that a learner possesses that strength.
Nevertheless, I do not believe that a teacher should be expected to teach to a learning style. I do think that an instructor ought to be familiar with learning styles, but recognition and acknowledgment doesn’t necessarily mean adapting and adjusting instruction. Each instructor ought to be given the opportunity to teach according to his own teaching style. After all, it is a given that if a student has a way of learning best, an instructor should also be viewed as having a way to teach best. Denying a teacher that freedom is no different than denying a student a way of learning.
Now, let’s address a student’s way of learning. If we accept that a student has a specific strength that contributes to his learning, how does that strength express itself within a student’s specific personality; and how can a student use that strength to not only learn but to enjoy learning? The answer to this question is learning strategies. If a student can be taken through the process of understanding his learning strengths and his personality, i.e., temperament, he can then develop strategies to help him process the information he is required to learn during compulsory education. And, this information can be taken into post-secondary education and even beyond the classroom: Training for a new job, pursuing a hobby and learning more advanced techniques to do more of that hobby, understanding a diagnosis, etc. Further, this takes the full responsibility of education off of the instructor and demands that the student take control of his learning. Even if primary and secondary school is compulsory, the student can approach it in such a way that the difficulty of learning is lessened. Note, I am referring to those students who do not require special education.
Four years ago, I was introduced to learning strategies developed through a student’s learning style and temperament. My work introduced me to the TIPP™ Learning System. I was able to take the online assessment and later meet with TIPP™ qualified consultant who helped me understand how the results could be used in my educational pursuits. I invite anyone who might be interested in improving their learning abilities to check out the site – http://www.performanceprofessionals.com . The individuals behind the product are more than willing to explain how it works and how it might benefit you.
From my own personal experience, I learned the most dominant characteristic of my personality is ideational and personal. I understood these two personality traits to mean that I enjoyed learning where I could be in relationship with others. I identified well with this description. I have always enjoyed learning, and in fact, I have only taken approximately two years off from school since starting kindergarten. The second personality trait of being personal is also very true for me. I recognized it within myself not only in the classroom but also in the workplace. I can remember back in junior high, my English teacher described me as a very persistent teacher’s pet. I craved her approval more than anything, and that approval became woven into any learning experience I had. I didn’t mind other students viewing me as a teacher’s pet. In fact, looking back, I see that those teachers who took a special interest in me were some of my favorite teachers, and their classes were some of my favorite classes. In the work place, I also find that the environments where I thrive are those where I feel a family-like atmosphere. I crave approval and recognition by others. The learning style I most identified with, based on this TIPP™ Learning System was kinesthetic, in other words, as I understood it, I learn by doing. And, this also makes sense to me. While I certainly don’t mind reading through a manual or listening to an instructor, I learn best through trial and error. And, it frustrates me when I’m not able to learn about a product in that manner.
As you can see, I identified very well with this TIPP™ Learning System. I really felt that it was accurate and reliable for me. But before you think I am contradicting myself by identifying those environments or classrooms where I thrived, let me clarify. Notice that I said there were certain environments where I thrived, not all. And, I don’t blame those individuals in those environments where I was not successful. It is my opinion that I didn’t understand who I was as a learner or what my options were to become a better learner and enjoy all the environments where I was a learner. Again, I’m putting the onus on myself, not just the instructor. I feel those places I enjoyed were ones where my boss or teacher shared the same strengths as I did; and those I did not enjoy were ones where my boss or teacher did not share the same strengths as I did. As I mentioned before just as learners have their own unique learning style, so do teachers, and they should not be negated.
So with this new understanding came development of my own learning strategies. Perhaps the most important thing about me as a learner is my desire to learn within a relationship. So, what are my options when I find a mentor who does not share this personal personality? Well, I know that I desire approval, recognition, a feeling of being equal with my teacher. If that is not present in my learning environment, then I must take it upon myself to find a complement to this learning environment that will provide what I need. This could take the form of learning more about the subject than I could within the classroom, remembering that such a task made me feel special in classrooms where “personal” was valued. It could also take shape in a simple question to the instructor, telling him that it would help me if he could acknowledge my successes verbally or in written form on my assignments. Notice, these are my actions, and of course the instructor is free to say yes or no.
Similarly as a doer, it is my responsibility to speak up, acknowledge the need to read through a manual and listen to an instructor but then ask if I might be able to use trial and error as my way of learning. Again, it might not be appropriate every time to learn through trial and error, but the fact is I, as a learner, have taken the responsibility knowing I need to learn, and asking for the opportunity to exercise my learning strength. And, also, it is important to realize that one’s learning strength will not always be honored. In those circumstances, a learner must find an outside source where that learning style and temperament can be exercised.
Before I close, I want to say that this entire blog contains my own thoughts and opinions. They do not represent any outside company, and I was not asked to promote or advocate the TIPP™ Learning System. It is simply a system that I have found useful and wish to let others know about.