Learning Styles in The Classroom
Various researchers have attempted to hypothesise ways in which learning style theory can be used in the classroom. Two such scholars are Dr. Rita Dunn and Dr. Kenneth Dunn, who follow a VAK approach.
Although learning styles will inevitably differ among students in the classroom, Dunn and Dunn say that teachers should try to make changes in their classroom that will be beneficial to every learning style. Some of these changes include room redesign, the development of small-group techniques, and the development of Contract Activity Packages. Redesigning the classroom involves locating dividers that can be used to arrange the room creatively (such as having different learning stations and instructional areas), clearing the floor area, and incorporating student thoughts and ideas into the design of the classroom.
Their so-called "Contract Activity Packages" are educational plans that use: 1) a clear statement of the learning need; 2) multisensory resources (auditory, visual, tactile, kinesthetic); 3) activities through which the newly-mastered information can be used creatively; 4) the sharing of creative projects within small groups; 5) at least 3 small-group techniques; 6) a pre-test, a self-test, and a post-test.
Another scholar who believes that learning styles should have an effect on the classroom is Marilee Sprenger in Differentiation through Learning Styles and Memory. Sprenger bases her work on three premises: 1) Teachers can be learners, and learners teachers. We are all both. 2) Everyone can learn under the right circumstances. 3) Learning is fun! Make it appealing. She details various ways of teaching, visual, auditory, or tactile/kinesthetic. Methods for visual learners include ensuring that students can see words written, using pictures, and drawing time lines for events. Methods for auditory learners include repeating words aloud, small-group discussion, debates, listening to books on tape, oral reports, and oral interpretation. Methods for tactile/kinesthetic learners include hands-on activities (experiments, etc.), projects, frequent breaks to allow movement, visual aids, role play, and field trips. By using a variety of teaching methods from each of these categories, teachers offer different learning styles at once, and improve learning by challenging students to learn in different ways.
Research evaluating teaching styles and learning styles, however, have found that congruent groups have no significant differences in achievement from incongruent groups (Spoon & Schell, 1998). Furthermore, learning style in this study varied by demography, specifically by age, suggesting a change in learning style as one gets older and acquires more experience. While significant age differences did occur, as well as no experimental manipulation of classroom assignment, the findings do call into question the aim of congruent teaching-learning styles in the classroom.
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