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Learning Styles of Children

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Dec 8, 2010

One size (style) does not fit all. Effective teachers try to understand how individual children take in and process information. They realize that not all children learn the same way. Learning styles describe the ways in which individual children acquire information, evaluate it, and then examine their findings. Learning styles in general are applicable to all content areas and settings. Effective teachers try to present materials in ways that will interest children and help them to absorb the information. Understanding a child's learning style helps accomplish this.

Most theories of learning styles, beginning with the theory of Carl Jung in 1927, focus on the personality and motivation of the individual. Most learning style theories place individuals into four groups of learners, with approximate percentages for each group. The following model by Silver, Strong, and Perini (1997) is a good example.

  • Mastery Style Learners: Absorb information concretely step by step. They value practicality and clarity (35 percent).
  • Understanding Learners: Work with ideas and abstractions using methods of questioning and reasoning. They value logic and evidence (35 percent).
  • Self-Expressive Learners: Learn through feelings and seeing images in materials. They value originality (12 percent).
  • Interpersonal Learners: Work with others using concrete ideas. Results should be of social value. They are the future humanitarians or volunteers (18 percent).

Currently, most learning style theorists believe that individuals become more flexible in the ways they approach learning as they gain knowledge and experience. Eventually most individuals will have a favored learning style but will use other learning styles when necessary. Teachers can help children develop a profile of their preferred learning style but should also encourage them to utilize other ways to process information. This will give them more options in the future.

Multiple Intelligence Theory

Understanding what is meant by intelligence or trying to separate intelligent from unintelligent behavior is difficult. There are many different theories. According to Wechsler (1975), intelligence is the capacity to understand the world, think rationally, and use resources effectively when faced with challenges. Gardner (1993), a Harvard theorist, defines intelligence as "the ability to solve problems, or to fashion products that are of consequence in a particular setting or community." Gardner (1983) does not define intelligence as a single broad-based domain, but describes nine distinct intelligences: linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal. naturalist, and existential. The first seven are described and integrated with learning styles in the next section. Each of these intelligences is relatively independent, but can combine with any other intelligence depending on the activity (Gardner and Hatch, 1989). This theory is based on research in physiology, anthropology, and personal and cultural history (Silver, et al., 1997). Individuals show different aptitudes in each of these content areas but no one is highly gifted in all areas. It is often easy to identify someone who is gifted in one area such as music, sports, or writing, but many times it is not so obvious. Consulting with parents helps teachers find children's strengths.

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