Monday, March 21, 2005

Taking Learning Styles to the Next Level

If you have a few seconds, please vote in our free poll we put in the sidebar. If you find it difficult to answer, reply to this post about why (add a comment). When it comes to "Learning Styles", the most common route to figure this out is supposed to be a 'poll'-type inventory - but there are many problems inherent in this.

We would think that people who read blogs might be more strongly oriented toward words - but even this is murky area. There may be differences in the ways you prefer to take information in, different ways you prefer to generate possibilities, and different ways you ultimately decide on answers. Some people get such strong imagery from reading (words), they can't stand to watch movies after reading books because it doesn't match with the images they have already seen. What is that? Words and Imagery. But think of the implications- these people may be overloaded by lots of graphics or visual material when they're learning. They may prefer anything visually bland or text, even though they are high-visual imagery learners. A little paradoxical.

The learning styles arena were benefit from an infusion of ideas from people of very different backgrounds who share an interest in thinking \ about how they really think. There are insights from brain studies as well.

Sometimes we see people who seem to fit the 'visual thinker' profile very strongly (by checklist), but then find they have terrible visual memory. If we look more closely, we find they may be powerful visualizers (imagery) or outstanding with visual problem solving, but not remember exact details of what they see.

There are also some situations where all modes seem mixed. One of us (Fernette) played classical piano since she was 3, and as a result, she can't listen to music without having some proprioceptive and visual imagery associated with it. The visual imagery - is also a bit subconscious, so that only really reflecting on it afterwards can she think about specific images called to mind.

The educational process needs to take into account learning differences to take learning onto the next level. But we also need a firm foundation. To get handle on the wide range of different styles of learning, we need to ask more questions, rather than handing out pre-determined surveys. Maybe the blogosphere is ideal for this.


  1. "How do you solve problems" is pretty broad.

    When my problems are computers, my tools are symbols. When my problems are people, my tools are words. But those are the tools I use to interface with my environment; not necessarily, you might say, what I use to process the problem internally.

    Sometimes I work out how things fit together with a sort of spatial sense; not visualizing the appearance of things so much as their sizes and relative locations and joints.

    I'm better at writing than speaking, I prefer books to movies, and I'm rather poor at following along with "Imagine yourself on a mountaintop" type imagery exercises.

  2. Thanks for posting. Solving problems is pretty broad. The ones who are strongly visual usually don't have any trouble identifying that they use pictures or visual imagery to put together new ideas. Word problem solvers talk things over in their head or write to get out their ideas and choose between them.

    But you're right, we shift styles depending on the problem. I think imagery may fit into many types of problem solving - and at its core it may be multisensory. Maybe this also involved with symbolic? Too vague to be described as clearly visual, auditory, or proprioceptive.