Module 2: Ways of Learning

Introduction

Students come to the learning environment with different levels of ability and with different approaches to learning. These may derive from genetic or physical variables or from different experiences and conditioning. Additionally, the subjects we teach predispose us to value certain perspectives and methodologies and to subordinate others.

While it is not necessary or even possible to cater to each student's individual preferences, it is also neither necessary nor efficient to allow the curriculum to create an unintentional bias regarding sensory, social, or cognitive development.

As experts in learning, teachers need tools to diagnose impediments to learning and tools that help students become more effective learners.

Objectives

  1. By the end of this session, participants will recognize several different ways of categorizing learning styles.

  2. By the end of this session, participants will discover their own learning styles and describe ways their teaching may unintentionally favor those styles.
    Rationale: When we are unconscious of our learning style preferences, we commonly prioritize teaching methods which seem "natural" to us, and assume they are universal. The whole point to recognizing learning styles is to realize that not all teaching and learning methods are universal, and we may need to adjust our teaching for more effective learning.

Reading Assignment

Read Chapters 1 and 13 in McKeachie's Teaching Tips. You will quickly recognize that the chapters in this book are short and in some cases might be skimmed.

Activity

Learning theorists often position tests for learning styles independently of each other, but it may be helpful to organize the various learning styles into these categories:

  • Environmental Interaction Models. These deal with sensory preferences and how we acquire and construct knowledge via our physical interaction with the world.

  • Social Interaction Models. These focus on relational and role tendencies, and how we acquire and construct knowledge within group dynamics.

  • Information Processing Models. These focus on what the brain and consciousness do with knowledge.

  • Personality Models. These trace how individual affective characteristics shape learning.

Keep these categories in mind as you work your way through several learning style inventories, trying to slot each into a category as you go.

Open the Memletic Learning Styles Inventory file and take the inventory. Print out the Score Sheet and Styles Graph for your portfolio.

Print out the "Learning Styles Inventory" (.DOC) and bring the clean pages to class with you. We will fill out the various inventories during the class meeting.

OPTIONAL: if interested in still more Learning Styles, print the "Kolb Learning Style" (.PDF) article and the Kolb Learning Style Inventory (.PDF).

Quiz

Go to the Module 2 quiz and complete the quiz up to two times to obtain your highest score.

Discussion and Interaction

Go to the discussion board for Module 2 and post a new message that responds to one of these prompts:

a) Martha, a new Assistant Professor, teaches large undergraduate biology classes, and feels the class is too big to do anything other than lecture. On the first test, 40% of the students have non-passing grades, and she's worried about this result. What should she do?

b) James, one of the weakest students in your upper-division computer science class, approached you about his failing test scores and complained that your teaching style doesn't match his learning methods. How do you reply to James?

c) Winnifred teaches an art-history class and uses a lot of visuals and PowerPoint. A student has just emailed with a complaint that the tests do not incorporate the textbook content very well, which explains his poor grades. How should she respond?

d) Gil is a GTA in a chemistry course. The professor does a great job at lecture, but has no visuals in the lecture portion of the course. Gil runs a lab associated with the lecture, and he thinks students might benefit from additional teaching styles. What options does he have?

Clearly indicate in the subject line which topic you are addressing, and include your own name. Thus, your subject line might read "Faust - topic A." Also, to make it simple for your classmates to understand the context of your post, you should copy-paste the entire scenario you are reacting to, and then provide your own thoughts below it.

Then, read posts by several other students, and respond critically to two other postings, striving to respond substantively. Make it your goal in each discussion board posting to provide the original author something new to think about that she or he may not have considered before.

Presentation

Prepare a one-minute presentation to be delivered in class (you may want to write yourself an outline of what to say, and it is always a good idea to practice delivering it, out loud if possible). If you are new to making presentations, it's a good idea to read this 8-page document (PDF) that offers advice. Since you have only one minute, not all the advice in this document is applicable. (Note: if the PDF doesn't open in your browser, try using Internet Explorer instead).

Your topic will be: tell us about a significant and positive learning experience that you have had as a result of someone's effective teaching technique.