What Learning Style Profile Data says for 23,701 Students
For over a decade the LearningSuccess™ Institute has been collecting learning style information from thousands of adults and students from all around the United States. Studying the data from 23,701 students who have taken the Learning Success Learning Style Profile we see that, at most, 5% of them have the combination of strengths needed to succeed in traditional public and private schools.
The Four Basic Skills Schools Expect of Students
What it takes for students to succeed in public schools isn’t a mystery; it’s the three BASICS plus one skill that is rarely mentioned:
- listening (to teachers explain how to do the other three)
These basics correspond to the following learning style Modalities: visual-print, tactile-writing, auditory-listening, and the math-logic Talent.
1. Listening Skills
In just a very short time observing in a classroom it’s obvious that listening skills are the foundation for successful learning in that setting. Once when I was observing a ten-minute 3rd-grade social studies lesson a teacher stopped 13 times to remind students to be quiet and listen.
Inability to sit still and listen is probably the number one source of teacher aggravation, the number one reason students get in trouble, and the number one deficit reported by educational therapists. Listening is called auditory processing and according to the learning style data we have collected, 81% of students have a “problem” with it. Or, said another way, 81% of our students process information best by doing something other than listening. They need to draw; to discuss; to see pictures, charts graphs, etc.; to read; or to write.
What does it mean about the effectiveness of our teaching methods when 85% of the time during a school day we expect students to listen and only 19% of them have the skills to get information that way? It means that a lot of students are struggling to keep up or catch up, and a lot of struggling students mean that some of them are bound to give up, which they do. Current drop out rates in many parts of the country are as high as 33% for the general population of high school students and 50% for minorities.
2. Reading Skills
Although reading is another primary way students are expected to get information, only 14% process well through the Visual-Print Modality. More students would succeed more of the time if they were provided with videos, graphic organizers, photographs, illustrations, graphs, and charts rather than text-based resources. No wonder in the last twenty years textbook companies have been including more of these desirable visuals.
3. Writing Skills
Writing is tied with math as the most feared, hated, and/or dreaded school subject. I have seen students burst into tears hearing that they are expected to write a paragraph. Although this is rare, it is just as rare to see a student who is excited to be given a writing assignment. According to our learning style data only 5% of learners have a strong Tactile-Writing Modality.
To reduce the fear of writing and to increase enjoyment and confidence students need various ways to communicate information on paper, such as, to draw a graphic organizer or make a poster rather than write a report, to draw pictures of a sequence of events rather than write a paragraph, etc.
4. Math Skills
23% of students who took our profile identify as having a Talent for math. Given how important math competency is for students to succeed in school, 23% is low. It means that 77% of students do not see themselves as having skill or proficiency in math, which is going to negatively affect their interest and ability to stick with math related lessons and activities.
To reduce the fear of math, encourage enjoyment, and increase student desire to become proficient in math novel approaches to learning are needed that incorporate student strengths, talents, and needs. Some student do best when they draw their story problems or work with partners, some memorize facts best when bouncing a ball or shooting baskets, etc.
There are as many effective ways to learn as there are learners. And, when we approach weaknesses through strengths students are able to stay with the learning process longer, to enjoy it more, and to feel successful more of the time.
What Does It All Mean?
Looking at the learning style strengths of the majority of students who have taken our learning style profile and the four competencies that schools require—reading, writing, math, and listening—we see that at most only 5% of the students we surveyed have ALL FOUR of the Modality and Talent Strengths needed to do well in school.
Accentuating the positive we can say that our schools are set up to easily graduate 5% of our students. But the shocking truth is that we are set up for 95% of our students to struggle their way through school and for many more of them to drop out than any of us would like.
Three Basic Skills for Teachers to Expect of Themselves
There was a time when students who didn’t do well in the BASICS were called dumb, then we called them lazy, and now we give them by a more professional sounding label: A.D.D., A.D.H.D, dyslexic, L.D., etc. When will we realize that we are still missing the point—that each student learns in a unique way, and it is up to us to develop our skills as teachers to:
- Give our students important, interesting, relevant things to learn
- Discover how they learn best and teaching them that way
- Guide, mentor, coach students to have appropriately challenging and successful learning experiences throughout their school lives.
It’s hard to imagine students struggling for years on end or dropping out of such a school.