Teaching to how Students Learn

Without some intervention, most of us teach as we have been taught and/or how we prefer to learn. One impact of increasing DNA testing and "genetic fingerprinting" has been to sensitize us to ways in which individual human beings are so different from each other. In recent years, a great deal of research has been generated to help us understand the impact of individual differences on learning.

One interesting approach, called "brain-based" research, seeks to understand learning in terms of in which hemisphere of the brain it is processed. It suggests there are "right brain" learners, who are intuitive, imaginative, and impulsive, and "left brain" learners, who are analytical, rational, and objective. Right brain learners learn best by seeing and doing in a busy, informal setting, while left brain learners learn best in a structured, inductive manner. Right brain learners prefer group discussion, simulation, role-playing, while left brain learners respond best to lecture, demonstrations, and assigned reading. Females tend to be right brain learners and males left brain, a fact that could have huge implications on the selection of your teaching methods.

A related, but somewhat different approach to learning styles categorizes learners by their perceptual preferences. It yields "tactile learners," who respond best to touching and handing physical objects, "visual learners," who facilitate learning through reading, as well as charts, graphs, etc., "auditory learner," who respond more effectively to the spoken word, and "kinesthetic learners," who prefer to learn as they stand and move. A self-assessment often tells professors that they are teaching overwhelmingly to only one- or two of these learning styles, making learning for the remainder of the students problematic.

A third body of research has found the following facts about human beings retention of material:

  • 10% of what they read
  • 20% of what they hear
  • 30% of what they see
  • 50% of what they both see and hear
  • 70% of what is discussed with other people
  • 80% of what they personally experience
  • 90% of what they teach to someone else

This interesting and exciting research has huge implications for structuring learning activities in a different way that maximize the full potential of each of your students to learn. For more information on how to integrate this component into your teaching, through individual assessment of students' learning styles and related strategies, look into the work of Rita and Kenneth Dunn.

Shop on line at Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble to get your copy of Dr. Lyons' book, The Adjunct Professor's Guide to Success: Surviving and Thriving in the College Classroom.

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