More Visual Learning or How To Avoid Failure in the First Grade

Most professionals working with school aged children know that some grades are more challenging than others. First grade is one of them, especially for boys - for various reasons, delays (compared to girls) in writing and often the need to be more physically active. Now there's a third reason - auditory working memory.

As we look at the higher rates of boys being referred for attention deficit disorder and learning disabilities, we have to come to grips with the reality that many traditional early elementary school classrooms may be 'out-of-sync' with the developmental and learning styles of boys. Are there really up to 9 times as many boys with a diagnosis of ADD, or are they victims of a classroom model that is not designed for them?

Check out the link below. It's a Finnish study of 'normal' school aged children from a high socioeconomic are. At ages 6-8, both boys and girls had an easier time keeping visual information in mind compared to auditory, but boys had much higher error rates than girls.

This study found that in normal unselected 6-8 year old boys visual working memory was much more reliable than auditory. With time (up to age 13)and no specific intervention, these differences tended to diminish, so the authors conclude that boys just tend to mature auditory memory pathways a little later than girls. In fact, visual teaching looked like it could be a more efficient strategy for instruction than auditory even by age 11-13. In fact, the authors noted that "children aged 11-13 yrs performed visual 1-back and 2-back tasks almost at the level reported previously for adults," although "the corresponding auditory tasks clearly below the adult level."

We have seen this general trend in our clinical population. It might also explain the reported paradoxical 'hyperfocus' of ADD children, which usually occurs in the setting of visual activities like computer games. The second link below is to a previous post which showed that children used their visual cortex to keep words in mind in contrast to adults who use their frontal regions.

Perhaps our ideas for education have been biased by perceptual differences in how many of us grownups prefer to learn.

Auditory Learning Takes Longer to Mature - pdf file
Visual Learning as Kaleidoscope

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