Understanding VARK Learning Preferences, Part 2
Teachers who learn to tap into those strengths and learning preferences will help their students to be more successful and have a deeper understanding of material than if the teacher does not take the time to know his students and teach to their needs.
No 'Cookie Cutter' Learning— Not Everyone Learns the Same Way
Every teacher has a worldview and a preferred teaching style. Warnock (1988) as cited in Van Brummelen (2002) comments that “teachers will always go beyond teaching facts, they shirk their duty if they do not give their own views and opinions” (p. 3). Effective teachers do not merely teach from the textbook, they take into account curriculum deficiencies, current events, and the learning needs and preferences of their students. Steiner (n.d.) as cited in Fleming (2006) notes “Children will be affected in some way by whatever is taught and by the way in which it is presented” (p. 23). Teaching methods matter, because the method helps determine how a student will process and therefore learn.
Don't just teach, help your students learn.
While using one primary teaching technique is not necessarily bad, Block, Parris and Whitely (2008) suggest that teachers should utilize more than one mode of learning, because it “reinforces comprehension for all students” (p. 460). Block et al. also assert that when students actively receive information through a variety of methods they are likely to retain information at a more significant level than through passive learning experiences (p. 461). Elementary teachers often employ more than one method at a time when teaching poetry or music. Combining the spoken word with motions allows students to make connections and learn actively stimulating more than one area of the brain at a time.
Teachers should also consider the nature and learning level of the student when creating lesson plans. For example, younger student who have an active nature than adults may need more hands-on or kinesthetic activities to leave a lasting educational impact. While some subjects lend themselves naturally to one teaching technique, the effective teacher must learn to employ varied techniques to reach students of varied learning preferences. Fleming (2006) notes that “the modes are always mixed and it would be almost impossible to use only one mode for any teaching segment” (p. 23).
Vondracek (2009) warns the teacher to not plan his lesson too much around the learning preferences of his students, noting: "Some research shows that it is more important that the method of instruction is appropriate to the nature of the content than tailored to meet individual learning styles. For example, when students were confronted with instruction outside their preferred learning style, they perceived the task to be more difficult, and worked harder and learned more as a result (Olson 2006; Salomon 1984 as cited in Vondracek, p. 38-39)." Consider the findings of the Interactive Teaching Methods (2011) report that suggests multiple methods allows for “individual attention without individual interaction” (p. 18).
Helps for Identifying Your Learning Style
Instead of being fully focusing on one student or one learning preference at a time, Carson (2009) suggests that teachers thoughtfully construct learning activities that allow the largest number of students to learn best at one time (p. 100-111). Understanding the overall class preferences may require the teacher to conduct formal learning preference tests or may require the teacher to ask the “directions” question previously explained in this paper, or ask about the "lumper" and splitter preferences and ask for a raising of hands to indicate a student’s answer.'
While teaching methods matter, Vondracek (2009) suggests that teachers should match the method of instruction to the nature of the content, rather than trying to match the method to the preferred learning style (p. 38). When “students were confronted with instruction outside their preferred learning style they perceived the task to be more difficult, and worked harder and learned more as a result” notes Olson (2006) as cited in Vondracek (2009, p. 39).
Teachers should not rely upon the banking-method of teaching, varying teaching techniques allows students the opportunity to learn by themselves. Calik, Avas and Coll (2010) suggest letting students reapply their “newly acquired learning experience to other similar situation[s]” (p. 33). Consider for example, the Socratic lines of questions and discussion prompts, which allow students to connect theory to practice often. Allowing students to connect that they previously know to what they are learning often may yield a well-rounded group of students who grasp the content in entirety. For example, teachers should not just allow students to experience something; teachers should reinforce the lesson to help solidify comprehension.
Article Series Information
Block, C., Parris, S. R., & Whiteley, C. S. (2008). CPMs: A kinesthetic comprehension strategy. Reading Teacher, 61(6), 460-470. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Carson, D. (2009). Is style everything? Teaching that achieves its objectives. Cinema Journal, 48(3), 95-101. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Fleming, N. (2009). 55 Strategies for Teaching. Retrieved from http://www.vark-learn.com/english/page.asp?p=products_B04&back=education
Fleming, N. (2006). Teaching and learning styles: VARK strategies. The Digital Print and Copy Centre: New Zealand.
Interactive Teaching Methods. (2011). Science Teacher, 78(5), 17-18. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Van Brummelen, H. (2002). Steppingstones to curriculum. Colorado Springs, Co: Purposeful Design Publications.
VARK: A guide to learning styles. (2011). The VARK Helpsheets. Retrieved on September 14 from http://www.vark-learn.com/english/page.asp?p=helpsheets
Vondracek, M. (2009). Teaching with multiple methods in mind. Science Teacher, 76(3), 38-41. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.