How does school integrate learning styles?

In a classroom, all of the students listen to the same teacher, but they all take notes in different ways. Some take notes in a notebook. Others use applications like Notability, while others record the lecture and watch attentively as the teacher lectures on. The same information is processed differently by each student based on their preferred learning style.

According to the American Psychology Association (APA), a learning style is a preference for a teaching mode that leads to better understanding of a topic. The most popular current idea of learning styles is based on sensory preferences. For example, visual learners prefer to learn through pictures and diagrams, auditory learners prefer to hear and kinesthetic learners prefer to feel and move.

The APA states that learners vary from each other based on natural ability, background knowledge and motivation. Therefore, teachers are discouraged from using the same methods of teaching for all students and using the same combination of visual, auditory and kinesthetic activities.

“When teachers plan lessons, the equitable access to the lesson content is carefully considered,” said Anthony Reibel, Director of Assessment, Research and Evaluation.

A well-designed class, according to the APA, includes videos, lectures, movement and hands-on activities because switching between modes of teaching helps everyone connect with the material. This ensures that no student is left behind in the learning process if he or she learns differently.

“Generally, we see a more self-directed, generative learning,” Reibel said. “Curricula are not necessarily giving a checklist of all the concepts you need to know anymore. Instead, they’re outlining performance skills and competencies that the student needs to display.”

Reibel said that a curriculum based on learning a certain number of concepts is different from the competency-based curriculum that Stevenson is moving towards. While one is an attainment model where students learn specific details of given topics, the other is a competency-based model where students have to demonstrate that they know how to consolidate learned details into knowledge and perform learned concepts into performable skills.

Students of all learning styles are not gravitating to one activity anymore because the integration of iPads into the curriculum allows students to use various methods to understand a topic, Reibel said. Now, with added technology students can look up phrases a teacher uses during a lecture if they struggle to stay engaged.

“Teachers could lecture or conduct a lab activity, but [the mode of instruction] doesn’t have as big of an influence today because students can use technology to make direct instruction more engaging for them,” Reibel said.

Karen Whisler ’15 identifies herself as more of a visual learner. Whisler said she needs to draw pictures and make diagrams on the information she learns in her classes to understand it.

“Lectures are helpful for background information, but I also like more interactive activities debates because then you actually have to show what you learn,” Whisler said.

On the other hand, Emery Liu ’16 identifies himself as a kinesthetic learner. Liu said that he learns best through hands-on, self-discovery activities and learning from his mistakes.

“Group settings are more fun and engaging,” Liu said. “I have more incentive to understand a topic when doing an activity compared to listening to a lecture.”

Researchers at Purdue University conducted an experiment in which 126 eighth graders in 10 different science classes learned about the water purification process. Five classes were taught traditionally with readings and lectures, and the other five classes built a water purification device. At the end of the unit, students who built the water purification device had much higher scores and a better understanding than the students who were taught using the traditional method.

“When they model the curriculum in such a way that students are required to actually tackle a problem at hand, they’re forced to learn the topic instead of when they’re sitting in a lecture,” Liu said.

Reibel said that although the introduction of an iPad doesn’t always encourage students to learn more concepts, it does give students more opportunities to make use of the feedback teachers give them.

“Technology is lowering the reaction time to feedback while increasing its importance,” Reibel said. “Students can understand themselves as learners better, because now it doesn’t take weeks to receive feedback from their teachers. They’re using the feedback that teachers give them sometimes immediately after it’s given.”

Motivation is also a large factor in determining how well a student learns in a class, according to Reibel. If the topic is interesting or relatable, motivation increases. The competency models that schools are starting to use create incentive for students to learn a concept, Reibel said.

“Next-generation science and social studies curricula drive a different type of learning in which students are required to be motivated since they are more responsible for their own learning,” Reibel said.

Today’s curriculum models take the needs of visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners into consideration in order to create a more engaging classroom setting. However, traditional methods of teaching are not being abandoned.Learning-styles