The purpose of studying learning styles is to help us teachers offer alternative methods of engaging with students. Implementing these new, non-traditional methods and attitudes allow students to learn in ways other than the traditional ways. Some of these new methods include incorporating sensory activities into traditional ones that allow students to use touch, sound, vision, taste, and smell. Another method that teachers are encouraged to use is to allow students to work more in groups because some students learn a lot from each other.
One new way of doing things is to, at appropriate times, allow a noisy environment in the classroom because some students learn better when there is noise around them. Another new attitude is to allow some students to move, stand, and even walk around while listening to their teacher.
Some teachers probably do not like the loss of control over their classroom environment; and, of course, anything can be taken too far. However, I have tried embracing some of these new ideas this year, and it has worked just fine. One student, in particular, is so cute. He will stand and struggle for several minutes to figure out new words if I will pause after about 10 words and allow him to walk fast to the back of the classroom and to return while carrying a flag that flaps behind him. Other students have loved getting out of their seats to paint, make bulletin boards, and pop out of their seats to play games.
Although a man named Anthony F. Gregorc wasn’t the first to coin the term “learning styles,” he possessed some interesting theories. Every human, he says, has many styles of learning, and all of us have patterns of learning that are more dominant than others.
Two of the learning styles relate to how we take in information. These are concrete learners or abstract learners. Those who are concrete learners use all five senses and deal with things they way they are. They experience and accept life. Those who are abstract learners understand that the best things are not even visible. These learners use intuition and read between the lines when perceiving new things. Abstract learners believe that life is usually not what it seems.
Two of the styles of learning relate how we use information. Many learners are sequential in how they apply what they have taken in. These learners follow logical, linear, step-by-step methods of thinking. They like to follow plans, and they rarely act quickly when making decisions. The others of us, Gregorc taught, look at a goal and shoot for it by skipping logical steps. Order is this group’s weak point, so they are usually spontaneous and impulsive. They desire to achieve, move on, and think about happiness and such.
The fun part of this process is identifying how each of us fits into the four combinations of these four styles. That is, are you concrete sequential, abstract sequential, abstract random, or concrete random?
As I read these four categories in the book “The Way They Learn” by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias, I was surprised to learn how dominant I was in the category of abstract random (AR). I, like most ARs, am friendly, listen to others, focus on the feelings of others and my own, and think in intangible terms. I lead with my heart. My dislikes are that I do not like competition, details are not important to me, and I think in several directions at the same time.
I was happy and relieved to know that I am not the only person who is like this. For instance, last year when my principal told us teachers to give awards of our choice to only a few students, I could not bear to skip even one class member. I made up an award for each student, and I told the teacher who took the lists from me to trim it because I could not bear to do it. It is no wonder that I dislike making and sticking to a list of chores; that I would rather sit on a curb with a friend than go to an amusement park with someone I barely know; and why, when I am stressed, I go in my mind to happy, intangible places.
My learning more about myself has helped me appreciate the characteristics of others. Also, I have a bond with fellow ARs. As a frog named Kermit once said, “It isn’t easy being green.”
If you want to learn more about your own characteristics regarding Gregorc’s learning-style categories, visit http://web.cortland.edu/andersmd/learning/gregorc.htm.
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