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01 Sep Five Ways That Students Learn

Most college students do not realize that they have a primary learning style. It is the way they learn best. Because there is also a hierarchy of learning styles, wise students identify the various ways they learn and work hard to put themselves in a position to use their most effective learning styles.

Although we can all learn five ways, we usually have one or two learning styles that are the most effective for each of us. How do you learn? Learning styles include:

1. Visual Learning – For many, seeing is believing. Many of students prefer this method of learning. Books, pictures, drawings, videos, computer screens, demonstrations and personal observations fall into this category. Books, handouts, articles and research all provide opportunities for students to read about the concept that is being taught. Reading frequently provides the opportunity to go over the material more than one time. That is important.

2. Auditory Learning – Every student attends classes where the Professor lectures about a topic. Presentations, explanations, asking and answering questions and discussions all provide the opportunity to learn with our hearing. Some Professors have the ability to tell stories about the topic being taught. Stories usually make the topic more interesting and easier to remember. Auditory learning is critical to student success.

3. Kinesthetic Learning – Our physical experiences, including our feelings, touch, taste and smell all hep us learn. Many college subjects cannot easily incorporate this type of learning. Therefore, this method is not often purposely used. However, most of us recognize that we can be physically moved (fear, laughter or tears etc.) by powerful emotions, actions, words, images and sounds.

4. Doing – Personally performing a sequence of actions is a great way to learn. We all learn by doing. That is how we learn to ride a bike. Furthermore, practice is a great way to improve a physical skill. Athletes do this all of the time.

5. Teaching – Anyone who teaches, tutors or coaches others will learn more about the subject and the processes being taught. That is because teaching requires knowledge, concentration and clear thinking. When you are having trouble learning a concept, try to teach that concept to someone else. You will either learn the concept or understand where your understanding has broken down.

Visual and auditory learning are the primary learning methods for most of us. In the classroom, students are usually expected to use their listening skills to absorb the information that is being communicated. However, some students learn best when they see how something is done. Demonstrations and examples can help with that.

When College Professors want students to understand a difficult concept, they come at it from more than one direction and use a variety of teaching styles. First they thoroughly discuss the topic in class and respond to questions. Whenever possible, they find a way to demonstrate the concept, so students can see it. Then they have students read about the concept. The best Professors also ask students to explain or demonstrate the concept to others, ask and answer questions about it, provide examples, show pictures, use memorable quotes, bring in experts or visitors who have first hand experience and tell interesting or humorous stories. They know that using multiple approaches will greatly enhance the learning process.

Of course, some topics do dot easily lend themselves to multiple teaching/learning styles. That may cause a Professor to use fewer teaching techniques or even utilize a single style that is comfortable for him/her but not good for most students. That will cause the Professor and his/her students to be frustrated and out of sync. That will also make it difficult for students to learn. Fortunately, that does not happen often.

Importantly, the most determined students do not give up. They reread the difficult concept over and over again, seek out a new information sources, discuss the issue with friends who may understand it or ask for extra help from the Professor or an upper class student. Additionally, they try to find someone who can explain the concept using a teaching style that is compatible with their own learning style.

Bob Roth

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