Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences

Instructors have presented information by lecture since Socrates to the benefit only of linguistic learners. If you're visual or hands-on you've been teacher disabled. Helping students learn according to their learning styles and multiple intelligence (LS/MI) preference is finally becoming accepted as an instructional strategy.

Many students intuitively learn how to learn when they realize they learn better from one resource or strategy over another. For many learners, this concept is too sophisticated or it flies in the face of the teacher authority. Young children like to learn with hands-on methods, but the system quickly moves them to learn by listening. Parents try to help by pointing to "smart" students and suggesting that their offspring emulate the learning strategies that work for others. Following the path set by others won't work.

In fact, we all learn differently. It's a wise parent and facilitative instructor who realizes this and helps the student identify their LS/MI and resources/strategies to meet it. A variety of materials on the TEC Web will help determine LS/MI including an online authentic assessment that will assess the earner's LS/MI (all ages).

As we work extensively in technology, we see that learners now have access to a variety of instructional strategies/resources. In many cases, the learner selects the path to the strategy. The search for knowledge becomes the learner's intrinsic reward, rather than an extrinsic reward provided by external authority. This may make the learner more motivated because they find it easier to learn.

Research in learning technologies may eventually show us that students learn more quickly and deeply so that they apply the information and solve problems. A school can be in the worst neighborhood, but a satellite dish on the roof and fast Internet access on ten classroom computers, positively impacts learning. It could be that we're saving generations of children.

Many learning style models exist; my favorite is Albert Canfield's. It has a strong research base, uses clear language, reports in percentiles, and helps students and their instructors understand learning preferences. Teachers who take the Canfield frequently have an "ah haaaa" experience as they realize why they haven't connected with students - their teaching style is out of phase with their students' learning styles.

Canfield divides learning styles into useful applications for distance/distributed learning. Some (not all) are level of independence, working with others, content (numeric, qualitative, inanimate), and mode (listening, reading, iconic, direct experience.

Multiple intelligences were identified by Dr. Howard Gardner of Harvard. Intelligences include visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, inter- and intrapersonal, linguistic, logical-mathematical, naturalistic, and spiritual. It's tempting to equate learning styles and intelligences because there are similarities, but until we have a much better understanding of both; avoid that.

An LS/MI instructional design matrix was designed by TEC to ensure the right mix of media to reach learner audiences with every LS/MI. It's a new way to help you design for what we know about how the brain learns.

from "Prism on the Future," Teleconference Magazine, August 9, 1999, by Carla Lane, Ed.D.