For years, it has been believed by scientists and educators that individuals have two divergent learning styles. Some individuals, it was thought, absorbed information most effectively through visual stimulation, while others absorbed information best through auditory stimulation. This widely-held belief translated into the teaching method used in many classrooms of displaying information visually, such as on slides or a whiteboard, while simultaneously speaking information aloud.
While this dual method of teaching does have its benefits, it may not be the effective method of teaching that educators once believed. Recent research conducted by psychologists found we share more commonalities when it comes to learning than originally thought, and students don’t necessarily absorb or comprehend information more effectively based on how that information is delivered.
As psychologist Doug Rohrer told NPR in an interview, determining what our brains have in common when it comes to learning may prove more effective in increasing absorption of information than trying to teach to different learning styles. Rohrer and his team of researchers are currently trying to determine what learning style works most effectively across the board, though the visual-auditory teaching technique does provide some insight.
The reason the use of both visual and auditory stimulation in a classroom has shown to be more effective than just visual or just auditory stimulation alone may have less to do with different learning styles and more to do with variety. Mixing it up and keeping things fresh may prove the most beneficial teaching method for all learners. When it comes to absorbing new information, the one thing that all our brains have in common is their love of diversity. Using a variety of teaching methods in the classroom can keep students interested in the lessons being taught to them, especially when working with younger students.
Science classes have been using a more action-based style of learning for years with labs, such as dissection in biology and experiments in chemistry and physics. These types of actionable tasks can prove useful in other classrooms as well. Since our brains become bored with monotony, changing up activities in the classroom helps us retain focus and absorb information more readily. The use of physical activities–such as games, art and projects–in the midst of book learning keeps students interested in the information being taught.
Variety in the classroom also pertains to the way in which information is delivered, such as with supplemental materials. Some students may work best with physical handouts of graphs or charts, for instance, while others may learn more effectively from computer-based versions. By providing a wide selection of visual aids, teachers can ensure enough variance to give all their students a better chance of learning effectively.
While scientists are still trying to determine which teaching method has the most benefit for all students, teachers can incorporate what has already been proven. Keep things fresh, keep things varied, and students will stay more interested and retain more of the lesson.
Lindsey Harper Mac writes on behalf of Colorado Technical University.