In spite of many learning styles studies having been carried out, most education trainers and instructors lack to acknowledge that students are different in the way they understand and process the information given to them. Particularly, they have been brainwashed by the notion that cognitive skills are identical in different training programs or at the collegiate level; a display of arrogance that either sanction one group of learning style or discredits the learning styles found in another group. However, we should note that information delivery is not a limitation to effectiveness needed in effective teaching but rather a lack of a model that incorporates students’ minds at work and encourages students’ participation in the learning processes. Effective learning can therefore occur when instructors affirm the validity and presence of the diverse learning styles in order to maximize the classroom learning conditions by inducting instructional design principles that account for the learning difference and hence increase learner’s success rate (ISDA, 2011).
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Learning styles are characterized by psychological and cognitive behaviors that determine the perception and response of learners within the learning environment. Keefe (2008) notes that there have always been and there will always be continual studies that will aim at improving the instructors, trainers, and institution, and therefore, educators need to constantly increase their understanding of how people learn and the awareness of the various individual learning styles. Failure to do this, educators will always experience difficulties on how to teach in accordance with the learning and motivational characteristics of the students making up a diverse student body. Marzano (1998) suggests that it is of importance that we have a clear understanding of the common learning techniques models available and how they can be used to increase the success rate of students while learning.
Fleming’s VARK/VAK model
Fleming’s model is the most commonly used learning styles model which incorporates visual, auditory, and tactile (kinesthetic) learning styles. The model is built on the notion that visual learners prefer seeing or rather thinking in visual aids such as diagrams, pictures, overhead slides, and handouts. The model also points that auditory learners only learn best while listening and therefore, information should be imparted to them through auditory means such as discussions, lectures, and audios. The model also puts across that the kinesthetic learners only learn best through experience and should therefore be allowed to engage with the learning environment through experiential means such as touching, doing, and moving. This can be made effective in learning by actively exploring the world through different means such as performing experiments and giving out science projects. The model, therefore, encourages teachers to develop a teaching model that will address the visual learners, kinesthetic learners, and auditory learners in order for the teaching process to be effective. Optionally, students can make use of the model and identify the individual learning style that will help them focus on what can aid in maximizing their educational experience (Gregory & Hammerman, 2008).
Anthony Gregorc’s model
This model focuses on how our mind works with its basis on perceptions; how we evaluate the world in order for us to find sense in what is happening. As Gardne, Jewler, and Barefoot (2008) point out, these perceptions form the foundation of the specific learning strengths or styles that students need. In concrete perceptions, information is registered through the senses while information is registered through abstract perceptions when we understand the quality and concepts of our ideas (Gardne, Jewler &Barefoot, 2008). Sequential learners organize their information logically while random leaner’ information is organized in chunks. According to Gardner, Jewler, & Barefoot (2008), even though both perceptual and ordering abilities are found in all persons, each person has specific dominant ordering abilities and perceptual. For instance, while some people will use their five senses to extract information through aural (listening), visual, and print, others will extract information through olfactory, haptic (grasp or touch), or through interaction. Therefore a person will possess different things that are sensitive to them, different strengths, and different questions during the learning process(Gardne, Jewler &Barefoot, 2008).
According to Hayman-Abello & Warriner (2002), perception learning characteristics shows that students like observations and facts are not comfortable with the symbols, are practical, have an interest in coursework that reflects the real world, like using well-established procedures while solving problems and hate complications or unexpected twists. Stewart & Felicetti (1992) suggests that teachers should therefore use strategic teaching techniques in order to incorporate Gregorc’s model in the learning process and meet the characteristics of perceptual learning. For instance, he points out that teachers should relate the course work to real-world applications, use demonstrations and analogies while illustrating the magnitude of the calculated quantities, balance conceptual information such as mathematical models and theories with concrete information such as demonstrations, physical phenomena description, and problem-solving algorithms.
David Kolb’s model
This model is constructed on the basis of experiential learning theory (ELT) and outlines two interrelated approaches towards learning. Reid (2005) points out that the model’s two approaches in grasping experience (information) include abstract conceptualization and concrete experience. Once the experience is grasped, the experience must be transformed through active experimentation and reflective observation. Reid (2005) also states that as people try using the four approaches, they develop strengths in one transforming experience approach and one grasping experience approach resulting in a combination of four learning styles which include: diverger, assimilator, accommodator, and converger.
Assimilators use reflective observation and abstract conceptualization and hence, they learn well through inductive reasoning and therefore, theoretical models should be used when teaching. Convergers use active experimentation and abstract conceptualization, use deductive reasoning in solving problems, and hence, practical applications should e sued to teach them. Accommodators use active experimentation and concrete experience, are good at interacting with the world, and hence, they should be taught through experimentation. Divergers on the other hand tend to lean through reflective observation and concrete experience whereby they use imagination, come up with ideas, and have different perspectives. Hence, divergers should be taught in a diverse environment where imagination and idea-sharing is encouraged (LSR, 2011)
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As we have seen, learning styles play a major role in the delivery of knowledge and information to the students. Since no single model can cater to all students, educators should assess the students learning styles and incorporate different learning styles outlined in the models. Hence, teachers should encourage students to be sensitive, intuitive, and imaginative by incorporating traditional analysis methods and solving problems sequentially. Teachers should integrate learning styles models in order to come up with teaching techniques that are experiential, conceptual, reflective, and experimental. All this can be made effective by incorporating various learning components such as audio, movements, music, and visuals. While assessing, a variety of assessment techniques whose focus is on ‘whole brain’ developmental capacity coupled with each learning style should be employed to enable them to come up with teaching techniques that are appropriate for the students (Merrill, 2000).
Gardner, J.N, Jewler, A.J & Barefoot, B.O. (2008). Your College Experience: Strategies for Success. London: Cengage Learning.
Gregory G.H. & Hammerman, E. (2008).Differentiated Instructional Strategies for Science, Grades K-8. New York: Corwin Press.
Hayman-Abello S.E. & Warriner E.M. (2002). Child clinical/pediatric neuropsychology: some recent advances. Annual Review of Psychology. Vol. 53, (309). Pg.339.
ISDA. (2011). styles and pedagogy in post-16 learning: A systematic and critical review. www.LSRC.ac.uk: Learning and Skills Research Centre. Web.
Keefe, J. W. (2008).Learning style: An overview. In NASSP’s’. Student learning styles: Diagnosing and proscribing programs. Reston: National Association of Secondary School Principles.
Learning Styles Research. (2011). Overview of the Seven Perceptual Styles. Web.
Marzano, R. J. (1998). A theory-based meta-analysis of research on instruction Aurora: Mid-continent Regional Educational Laboratory.
Merrill, D. (2000). Trends and Issues in Instructional Technology. London: Prentice Hall.
Reid, G. (2005). Learning styles and inclusion. London: SAGE
Stewart, K. L., & Felicetti, L. A. (1992). Learning styles of marketing majors. Educational Research Quarterly. Vol.15(2), 15-23.