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Cracking Your Learning Style by: Tara Teeling

“I’ve never been a very good student.”

 “Books just aren’t my thing.”

 Have you ever thought this about yourself?  Have you ever made either of these statements to someone as an explanation for why you might have walked away from your education or shied away from learning altogether?  If so, you’re not alone.  Countless people dismiss the idea of continuing their education because they (falsely) believe that no amount of effort will ever be enough to keep up with other students, that “book smarts” are the only way to succeed in a classroom setting.

For many, many years, the school room was a horrifying place for students who found themselves unable to learn the same concepts and ideas as their peers when the teacher or instructor used a traditional method of teaching (writing lessons down and memorizing the content).  More often than not, those who floundered with their studies came to be viewed as lazy or deficient in some way, often enduring ridicule or criticism for something that was very much beyond their control.  It is unsurprising that students who faced this sort of experience each day would abandon their education once they were of age to do so, moving into the workforce where they might have felt more productive and valued.  At that time, jobs in which “book smarts” were not required were plentiful, ranging from factory work to service positions, and those who felt more drawn to this type of work happily left the horrible memories of their perceived scholastic failings behind them.

 Over the years, however, the landscape of employment has changed dramatically, with factory work disappearing, and other so-called “blue collar” jobs evaporating due to the use of robotics, computer and automation.  Suddenly, those who are “good with their hands” aren’t as in high-demand as they used to be, and without an education to help them find alternative employment their options appear to be limited.

For someone who believes that they aren’t strong learners, this presents an incredible challenge.  There is more than hesitation; there is real fear and worry because the stakes are much higher in that they may now have a family to provide for, or a lifestyle they’ve become accustomed to and don’t want to give up.  Failure would mean more than slight humiliation; it could mean the loss of independence, the breakdown of the family, and worst of all, the complete abandonment of hope.

The truth is that change is the only constant, and that to play a part in the workforce you have to be willing to change with it.  Every profession will have its share of transformation, and even those with seemingly secure employment will need to continuously update their knowledge or skill set.  The trick is to figure out what sort of instruction will benefit them the most.

In 1983, American developmental psychologist Howard Gardner identified eight separate intelligences which he thought illustrated how different kinds of minds require different approaches to teaching from those who are instructing them.  These intelligences include:

Visual-Spatial – These learners tend to think in terms of physical space. They prefer to be taught through drawings, verbal and physical imagery.

Bodily-kinesthetic These individuals prefer movement, making things, and touching; hands-on-learners.

Musical – They can be taught by turning lessons into lyrics, and enjoy certain sounds in the background when learning.

Interpersonal – These learners tend to learn through interaction. They prefer to uses tools such as the telephone, audio conferencing, time and attention from the instructor, video conferencing, writing, computer conferencing, E-mail.

Intrapersonal – Prefer to be taught through independent study (primarily books) and introspection. They are the most independent of the learners.

Linguistic – These learners like words and prefer to be taught by encouraging them to say and see words, read books together.

Logical –Mathematical – These learners think conceptually, abstractly and are able to see and explore patterns and relationships. Their instruction should include logic games and investigations.

Naturalist – These learners distinguish among, classify, and use features of their environment.

What is most striking about this theory is that it separates idea of “smart” from “strengths”, as most of us will have some ability in all eight competencies, but strength in only a few.  What may come easily to one person many not come as easily to another, but this in no way diminishes the potential of the latter.  Instead, through understanding your strengths, you can take charge of your own education by developing your own method of learning.  Once you are aware of this, your instructor or teacher can adapt their teaching style to better suit your needs, enabling you to get the most out of your educational experience.

While classical teaching methods continue to be used today, more and more educational providers (like Academy of Learning College) are developing alternative methods of instruction to suit the needs of each individual student.  This might include one-on-one learning, e-learning, audio lessons, online lectures, visual aids (video), or group learning structures.  What seems to be key is creating an atmosphere for the student that reassures and relaxes them so that their anxieties are eased and their focus can be solely on the content of material.  Students can be less concerned about keeping up with others and more committed to their own learning process.  With this kind of attention to their learning style, curiosity is restored and insecurities lessen for the student who may find his or herself in an educational setting for the first time in years.

Do you know what your learning style is?  If not, now is the time to find out!  Try one of the links below to take a learning style quiz:

http://www.literacynet.org/mi/assessment/findyourstrengths.html

This is a short and simple quiz which you can do to get a broad idea of your learning style.

http://www.bgfl.org/bgfl/custom/resources_ftp/client_ftp/ks3/ict/multiple_int/questions/choose_lang.cfm

This tool is slightly more complex but delivers results.

https://www.jobsetc.gc.ca/pieces.jsp?category_id=317

This one will require that you create an account.  As it is the Service Canada website, you can also take advantage of the various tools and information to help you along with your job search.

Any of these links will provide you with a great starting point in discovering what kind of learner you are, and give you hints as to which career path is worth exploring.

Learning shouldn’t be a painful experience for anyone, and the experience of it should never end in your lifetime.  With a better understanding of yourself and how you interpret information, you can work with your educational provider to help you remove barriers and allow for real possibility

 
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