Week One Reflection – What Kind of Learner Am I?



 I must apologize for this being late.  I find the subject of Learning Styles to be both fascinating and frustrating.   I have seen that people have different styles of learning or approaches to learning and understanding things.  In fact, I have seen people who struggle because their learning styles have not matched a ‘school-y’ style of learning (read in a book, do the exercise, etc.). As learning disabilities are relatively new in their mainstream diagnosis, I can only guess, from stories of people in my generation and the previous generation, as to who had dyslexia and ADHD or ADD.  Along the continuum of learning styles and learning disabilities, I’m not sure where the borders between one and the other are.  I just hate to see smart, capable people struggle unnecessarily.  I’ve been involved with a tutoring program for the last 5 and a half years at our public library and I’m trying to understand that continuum.  We have learners who seem to have different learning styles.  We once had a man with dyslexia. Also, we have always had learners with developmental disabilities.  With help from an education student, and a lot of trial and error, we found that keeping things visually uncluttered and using a lot of kinesthetic activities does help when they are struggling to learn reading.  A multisensory approach seems to work well with dyslexia as well.

That, along with the finding from neuroscience that people in general learn better when introduced to something via all the senses (though vision will overrule the other senses) makes me happy.  I love music, the arts, dance, games, movement…my TESOL certificate teacher tagged me as kinesthetic in 2011.  However, when I took the online quiz, I came out as strongly visual.  Perhaps because I’m terrible at sports and mechanical things. This is one reason, however, that I’ve become a bit disillusioned with a system that divides people into 4 categories.  It is true that, unless I’m concentrating hard, if someone tells me something (like directions) and doesn’t provide backup, like a map, and doesn’t give me time to absorb them, the directions are just gone from my head.  In a similar way, I find demonstration helpful, but in special circumstances.  For something like learning a new knitting stitch or something new on the guitar, a video or someone showing me does help, but I generally need to have it repeated, and try it out myself during one of those repetitions.  Sometimes, my need for context gets in the way. 

I liked Gardiner’s multiple intelligences and the article on the Iranian students and teachers.  When I took the online test of multiple intelligences, I came out very strongly verbal and musical.   Most of the other categories were around 50%.  I also had to laugh at the oligarchical category – likes to do lots of things at once, but has trouble setting priorities.  That’s me, my mom, my sister…..and a lot of other women, I suspect.  I’m not crazy about imposed structures.  I like to create my own, which tend to be a network of interrelated things (big pieces of paper are my friendJ).  I’m drawn to philosophies like ecology, chaos theory (though I can’t do the math).  Being asked to do something without knowing the context or rationale drives me crazy sometimes.  I love to abstract and spend ages on theory, but have difficulty moving on to the practical side of things.  Deadlines and imposed structures do help me focus.  Though I like music, movement and the multisensory, if I want to concentrate on something like this essay, peace, quiet, and space really help.

Finally, I am very word oriented, and in some ways very detailed oriented.  I tune into the nuances of language, emotionally ‘loaded’ language, tones of voice and body language (and I’m decent at distinguishing notes from one another, and telling if a note is on pitch).  Hard to say what comes from a lifetime of exposure and what I was born with, as I am a total bookworm, love playing with language, and had music lessons early.  There’s another theory in neuroscience that we each have a neurological fingerprint, built from our experiences, and it shapes how we perceive new information and experiences.  Things that we connect to past experiences are learned more easily. 

Learning and learning styles is a vast subject, always being updated, never still, but then, I love a good mystery.