There’s a famous quote that the Internet attributes to Albert Einstein. It goes something like this: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
It’s not entirely verified if Einstein actually said this, but there’s a valuable lesson in there, all the same. That lesson is that everyone learns differently, and everyone has a different set of skills and abilities that come into play when they are faced with a mental or physical challenge.
As parents and teachers, when we form uninformed expectations, or teach students in the way we like to teach rather than in a way they like to learn, learning often becomes a slow, frustrating process for everyone involved.
Identifying your child’s learning style, on the other hand, observing how they absorb knowledge and information and applying that to their homework, assignments and other school work, means that learning suddenly becomes fun – vital to spark a positive lifelong relationship with the process. This makes for ‘ever-learners’.
The challenge for teachers when they face a classroom full of students is that it’s almost always a mix of different types of learners. Students have different styles, approaches, attention levels and interest levels in different subjects. Add to that the cultural diversity of a classroom in the UAE, and teachers are faced with a thorough mix of young, eager minds.
It’s hard to adapt syllabi or teaching methods to accommodate so many different learning styles, but teachers certainly find it helpful to know their students’ strengths. Getting to know a student and how they like to learn can take a while.
As a parent, it’s your job to perhaps bring that information to a teacher’s or tutor’s notice, and discuss a few methods that can help your child make the most out of their classroom-time.
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How to identify your child’s learning style
A good place to start is observation. Does your child absorb new information better by associating with pictures, sounds or through practical, hands-on activities?
Observe how your children learn when they play – how do they best understand the rules of a game? If your children use iPads as learning devices, try and observe the apps or the mediums of content that they tend to gravitate towards – is it more video content? Or do they prefer problem-solving games, or written content supported by diagrams and images?
A test that you can use for a closer understanding of your child’s learning style (or even your own!) is the New Zealand-originated VARK questionnaire.
VARK stands for Visual, Aural, Read/Write and Kinesthetic. The test consists of a set of scenario-based questions to arrive at the respondent’s most comfortable learning styles.
The results show your scores for each of the four learning styles. For instance, a visual learner who learns through visual aids and real-life association would have a higher visual score than under the other categories. If your child is a visual learner, it is likely that they have a hard time remembering verbal instructions. Here are a few great tips and tricks to engage your child if he or she is a visual learner.
Someone with an auditory learning style, on the other hand, learns best through listening. They like to listen to discussions, lectures, music and speeches. For these learners, a textbook might be a difficult medium to learn from. If your child leans towards the aural learning style, it might be worthwhile trying to teach them with the help of videos or even conversations and discussions about their school subjects and topics. It definitely helps to let their teachers and private tutors know, too, so they can use these tools.
Kinesthetic learners learn best through their sense of touch. These children are immersive learners – they need to participate and ‘experience’ lessons. They learn best through practical, hands-on methods, and might again, find it hard to absorb information from a textbook, or even just a lecture. They need to ‘do’ in order to learn. ThoughtCo. has put down a list of study strategies for kinesthetic learners that sounds extremely promising!
Read and Write Learners
This is the easiest kind of learner to identify. Most schooling systems, and the brick and mortar classrooms that our children typically study are most conducive for this learning style. By default, we link successful learning to reading and writing and so, these learners, with their note-taking and avid reading are often perceived as high-achievers academically.
It is often beneficial to support the Read and Write learning style with visual, auditory and kinesthetic tools to enhance the learning experience.
Do learning styles affect your child’s performance?
Absolutely. Understanding how your child likes to learn helps to melt away some of the stress surrounding ‘studies’, for everyone – your child, for you as parents, and for their teachers and tutors.
It gives your child a confidence boost, and just that subtle shift to include a medium of information that they relate best with can make the hardest of subjects and topics a fun learning adventure. This can have an immediate positive impact on their academic performance.
Also, when a young student learns the way they like to learn, they are more motivated to devote time to it. You’ll notice a drastic change in their approach to their studies and their homework – they are motivated, energized and efficient.
Children also achieve more, become better at collaborating and learning alongside other children, and are able to shine through. A sense of self-reliance comes through as well – children feel comfortable and confident relying on their own minds and ability to take them through even the most challenging tasks.
As they make their way through school, they learn how to adapt to their learning style and access information in that way whenever possible, making it easier for them to excel.
Making 21,000 hours of education count
Although we only mentioned the VARK questionnaire, there are several other questionnaires and approaches that you can use to identify your child’s learning style. Speaking to their teachers and tutors might be a good idea, too. Teachers and tutors often make observations about aspects like learning styles. They might also be able to help you identify a good learning styles assessment option that they are familiar with.
Identifying your child’s learning style can open up a whole new dimension in terms of their performance, their relationship with learning and their approach to homework, assignments and exams – all tasks that are usually never thought of with a sense of excitement.
Turning this around, and creating a positive association with learning is as important for children as it is for us as grown-ups to like our jobs or our careers. All sorts of unhappiness springs from being uncomfortable or unconfident in these ‘work’ places.
Between the ages of 6 and 21, students studying in the UAE spend over 21,000 hours in a learning environment – through school and then at university. Learning a little more about how they like to learn, and what helps them learn best, will make these environments much easier to navigate and makes all the time spent learning actually count.
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