Learning Styles and Student Differentiation

Unique Learning Styles

intelligence-1Howard Gardner coined the term Multiple Intelligences first in 1983 to describe the evident fact that there are many different ways that people learn. Some people learn from listening, some from watching and others from doing. People also have different ways to express what they have learned: verbally, kinaesthetically, artistically, etc.

As parents and educators, it is imperative that we recognize these unique learning styles in our children and allow them opportunities to engage in their learning through equally unique modes.

Differentiation

Differentiation is a popular term frequently used in educational circles to mean several different things. For some it can mean that lessons need to be different for each student, for others it just means to acknowledge students’ differences.

If we begin with the premise that all students are inherently unique and have different interests, learning styles, strengths and experiences, then it follows that they will require different instructional strategies to help them reach their potential as learners and beyond.

The most common strategies of differentiating learning in a classroom are:

  • Varied groupings of students
  • Alternate activities for teaching or assessment
  • Providing students more time for completion of activities
  • Providing choice for students to allow them to engage with their learning constructively

Developing Individual Intelligences in the Classroom

While it is important to allow students choices over how they learn and present their learning, it is equally important that they are exposed to all modes of learning to balance out their skills. It is impractical to present new material to students in only one way, and it is just as impractical to allow them to always choose an “easy” way of presenting their learning.

Below are some ways teachers seek to incorporate different learning modes in their classroom. For parents, this chart can be helpful when advocating for your child’s learning as well as when helping them with homework and studying skills.

 

Learner Type Teaching and Learning Ideas
Verbal / Linguistic
  • Language!
  • Provide opportunities for reading, writing and verbal responses.
  • Make connections between concepts using linguistic clues and word origins.
Mathematical / Logical
  • Using charts!
  • Asking students to summarize information using charts and lists.
  • Incorporating mathematics into other curriculum areas (it’s always possible!)
  • Activities that follow the Scientific Method.
Musical
  • Songs!
  • Memorize key terms using songs.
  • Ask students to change the words to a familiar song to make it about the concept being taught.
Visual / Spatial
  • Images and Graphic Organizers for new concepts!
  • Give students graphic organizers to summarize and present information.
  • Infographics are a great way to have students present their learning–many online tools are available to make awesome infographics.
Bodily / Kinesthetic
  • Hands-on!
  • Provide opportunities for students to get up and stretch frequently.
  • Give hands-on activities for learning–making dioramas, building models, cutting and pasting to match key terms with definitions.
Interpersonal
  • Group work! Mix and match students with different strength and provide opportunities for them all to share.
  • Discussions!
Intrapersonal
  • Reflect!
  • Ask students to reflect on their own learning, even just as a quick 2 minute activity–they can use such reflections to get to know themselves better as learners and to discover what they do well and what they find difficult.
Naturalist
  • Explore the world around us!
  • Use nature and environmental examples when possible and make connections to the world.
  • Provide opportunities to work outdoors.
Adapted from an original article by Kelly Farrell, published by Dialogue Online, 2014.