Is the tool you are using to measure Learning Styles giving you a complete picture of a young person’s learning needs? Probably not, unless it is a full, professional Learning Style Profile.
When I tell people that I work with learning styles, everyone I talk to who has heard of learning styles thinks it’s all about whether information is processed best by seeing, hearing, or touching/moving. Parents often say something like, Oh, yes, my son needs to move and my daughter needs to see things. Teachers will often tell me, We do learning styles at my school, and, what they mean by that is that they find out whether students are visual, auditory, or tactile/kinesthetic learners. This is called processing modality, and it is by no means ALL of what learning styles is about. It is, in fact, only 1/5 of a much bigger picture.
There are lots of tools on the market to measure learning styles. They are called quizzes, surveys, inventories, or assessments. They are usually free. They are not professional instruments, and they are generic, which means that the results can’t help to customize curriculum or study strategies in meaningful ways.
For example, one of these non-professional learning style quizzes or inventories might tell you that your child is a visual learner (processes best by seeing information). Parents and/or teachers take that to mean that flash cards will be the most effective way for the child to learn math facts or spelling words. After all, flash cards with words or numbers printed on them are visual, aren’t they? Yes, they are; there is more to the story, though. The next question is, Is the child visual-print or visual-picture? If the child is visual-print, flash cards will work. If a child is visual-picture though (which most learners are) s/he needs pictures, illustrations, drawings, and/or charts to help process information effectively. Flash cards with words and numbers aren’t going to work to help your child enjoy, comprehend, memorize, or file information in long term memory.
The same holds true for kids who are auditory learners (process best by hearing) and tactile/kinesthetic learners (process best by touching and moving). There is always much more to the story than these learning style surveys can tell you. Your auditory child might process by hearing the sound of her own voice rather than someone else’s. Your tactile/kinesthetic child might need to draw and other kids with the same processing modality may need to write, take things apart, or make models, etc. Minimal learning style assessments just don’t go into the depth necessary to improve a young person’s learning, communication, and confidence.
If you want the other 4/5 of the story look for a learning style profile. A complete, professional profile specifically for an individual child will tell you a child’s:
1. Learning Modality (auditory, visual, or tactile/kinesthetic), plus the specific kind of visual, auditory, or tactile/kinesthetic, as in visual-picture or visual-print, auditory-listening or auditory-verbal, etc.
2. Learning Disposition or learning personality. This is a summary statement about what your child thrives on. For example, is it Performing, Producing, Inventing, Relating-Inspiring, or Thinking-Creating? Each of these Dispositions has specific needs and if you don’t know what your child’s are you are unable to bring out his/her best.
3. Talents or Intelligences. These are your child’s natural strengths and for success in learning and relationships can be consciously developed.
4. Interests. Interests are the greatest motivators of all and can be used in many ways to take students to deeper depths of learning or even into areas they would otherwise avoid.
5. Optimal Learning Environment. Light, temperature, body position, groupings, noise level, and time of day all play an important part in a young person’s willingness and ability to maintain focus, study, read, etc. Knowing your child’s needs allows you to boost your child’s success and confidence levels.
Learning style results can give parents and teachers a new view of a child and provide strategies and solutions for stubborn learning, studying, and communication challenges.
And, it’s important to know that a thorough learning style profile will offer you a range of valuable supplemental materials and services to help you understand and work with profile results.