Learning Styles: A teachers perspective
By Henry S. Tenedero
BUT how do you make the lessons stick? Retention is
another major challenge for teachers: how to help
students remember their lessons. A little creativity and
ingenuity is of help here.
Brain research shows that there are different retention rates
for different activities. Thus: reading - 10%; hearing - 20%;
seeing - 30%; saying/doing - 70%. In other words, we retain
or remember only 10% of what we read, 20% of what we
hear, 30% of what we see, and 70% of what we say and/or
This is why audiovisual presentations are more effective:
because the new information is acquired through at least two
modes - reading and hearing (30% total retention rate), or
hearing and seeing (50% total retention rate).
Most classroom instruction is conducted in lecture mode,
that is, verbal or spoken, thus requiring students to learn
through hearing. This is the least effective teaching mode,
because children are seldom auditory in their perceptual
In short, they rarely remember more than 25% of what they
hear. Writing on the blackboard will, of course, help retention
-so as long as the handwriting is clear and legible. Graphics,
such as drawings and pictures, especially if colored, will be a
bigger help. We humans are visual animals: for many of us, to
see is to remember.
There are four kinds of perceptual strengths: auditory
(hearing), visual (seeing) tactile (touching) and kinesthetic
(doing). This means that some students learn new
information best when it is presented to them through their
ears, their eyes, their hands, or through bodily movement.
Auditory learners are keen on spoken instructions, tone of
voice, music. Visual learners prefer to see, read and watch;
they are sensitive to written words, illustrations, colors, and
visual aids. Tactile learners are notetakers and doodles; you
will often catch them moving their fingers, twirling their
pencils, doing any manner of sketches on their notebooks or
on any available piece of paper. Kinesthetic learners enjoy
physical movement while learning - roleplaying, walking, and
moving their legs or their feet while seated.
I am sure that all teachers have encountered living examples
of each of these perceptual preferences, but I am just as
sure that few, if at all, recognized and treated them as such.
Chances are that a teacher, upon catching a kinesthetic
learner in the act, would probably command the student to
sit up straight and stop fooling around. Or, upon catching a
tactile learner redhanded, would probably snatch the
doodle-filled paper from the student and order him or her to
pay attention. Hardly realizing that is probably what the
students were doing precisely: paying attention in their own
way, according to their individual learning style.
The key for teachers and parents is recognition: knowing
when a student is exhibiting a personal learning style, and
supporting the student appropriately - without prejudicing
the contrary learning styles of other students. TV is the new
mindset that the LS theory requires of teachers: to
appreciate each student as a unique individual, instead of
trying to force all students into one fixed, pre-set model.
Another physiological element is intake. Traditional policies
forbid students to take in any kind of food while listening,
reading or studying - regardless if the student is actually
hungry, acutely thirsty, or acutely an intake learner who
learns best while munching on a piece of candy or chewing
gum or some snack.
Is this idea preposterous? I have no doubt that some people
will insist so. And yet, corporate meetings are held over
breakfast, lunch or dinner. Countless people eat while
watching TV or movie. Many office workers drink coffee or
have pizza while getting their job done at the computer table
or on their desk. Which is the real hindrance to learning: the
intake itself, or the oppressive thinking that prohibits it on
the basis of unproven principles?
Mobility presently shares the same burden as intake:
generally disallowed, generally perceived as disruptive to the
learning process. However, research shows that a child tends
to become fidgety after sitting for 20 minutes listening to a
lecture - because 75% of his or her body weight is supported
only by 4 square inches of bones and flesh in the buttocks.
The resulting discomfort actually draws the childs attention
away form the lesson being given!
It is no myth that some people prefer to do some pacing on
the floor while deep in thought, or to walk while trying to
write or memorize a poem. This is mobility alive and will as
learning style. What do we lose by disallowing it? Better yet,
what do we gain by allowing it?
And last but not least, there is the element called time of
day. Different people are at their productive best at different
times: early evening, late night, early morning, and late
How can schools provide for this element? One way is by
looking at the schedule of highenergy activities. I am sure
that schools will find various other ways - if they put their
collective creative minds to it.
(E-mail the author at firstname.lastname@example.org for more questions
about learning styles)