How to make learning more efficient
Do you believe that one size fits all? Are your priorities the same as your neighbours’?
How do you feel about tattoos? Do you like brussel sprouts?
Two of my three kids loved brussel sprouts and would microwave a huge bowl right after school, top them with butter and sit down to enjoy. The third kid would freak out at the just the smell. That made for some interesting family dynamics, I’ll tell you.
Increasingly, we are reading commentaries about how the math curricula or reading programs haven’t produced the skills that their promoters touted or that employers want and need. How can that be?
According to the research presented, these new approaches were supposed to meet everyone’s needs. Well, clearly, they didn’t.
The Conference Board of Canada now reports 48 per cent of adult Canadians between 18 and 65 are functionally illiterate, not that they cannot read the words on the page but rather they can’t use the information they read to plan or make decisions about some pretty simple things.
If you are about 40 to 45 today, you probably learned how to read using the whole language strategies. It’s not that that this approach doesn’t work at all; it’s that it doesn’t work for everyone.
Why? Because everyone learns differently. What works for five out of 10 learners may not work for the other five.
Even more interesting is the fact that when it comes to functional numeracy, the numbers are even more discouraging. The Conference Board of Canada reports that “55 per cent of Canadian adults have inadequate numeracy skills - a significant increase from a decade ago.”
Learning differences are not new. We all know people who like to learn by doing or writing things out or even just listening.
There are at least seven learning styles. People usually use a combination of these when they learn.
1. Aural - sound and music
2. Verbal – speech, reading and writing
3. Physical - “hands-on” approach
4. Visual - pictures and images
5. Logical - reasoning (tend to do well in math)
6. Solitary - self-paced studying
7. Social - like to learn in groups with others
The traditional style of classroom where the teacher stands at the front of the classroom to deliver a lesson and explain the topic works best for verbal learners.
Those who process information better with other learning styles may not get the full benefit of this kind of instruction.
Recently I’ve been reading about something called “differentiated learning.” In this kind of setting, learners work more independently and have more control over how they will go about “digesting” or internalizing the learning. Social learners may work in groups while solitary learners are best on their own with a work sheet. Physical learners may manage math best with blocks and other tangible objects.
Making these kinds of changes in basic educational methods wouldn’t be easy. Creating lesson plans for every learning style certainly isn’t possible for one teacher with 30 students.
Whatever the answer, it’s about time that we all start thinking and talking about how we can make the learning that takes place in our schools more effective for everyone. Then….. “just get ‘er done.”