And the answer to that is to understand how your child learns will help you find the most constructive ways to help him learn most effectively.
It’s frustrating getting them to sit still and get their spellings right, correct? It’s probably because we aren’t aware of our children’s learning styles. Since the 1970s, educators have recognised that children learn in different ways and have clear preferences in how they absorb and process new information. As a parent, understanding what your child’s learning style is will help them continue their learning beyond the classroom and in a manner that comes more naturally to them by customising activities to suit their learning style.
3 Main Learning Styles
In a nutshell, here are three broad styles as classified by educational psychologist Neil Fleming: Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetically.
Visual learners learn best through pictures and other graphical representations. Auditory learners learn best by listening, and thus prefer songs, recordings and lectures. Kinesthetic learners on the other hand, learn best through movement – working with their hands, physical interaction and role-playing.
As a parent, you would probably have a good idea of your child’s learning style simply by observing how he plays and what kinds of stimuli tend to hold his attention the longest.
If your child displays a strong fascination for books with lots of pictures from an early age and a love for drawing, this suggests a learning towards the visual learning style. For children who seem to pay the most attention whenever you read out stories to them, or show a preference of reciting the sounds of the alphabet repeatedly to themselves, they probably have an auditory bent. A kinaesthetic learner is active and less able to sit still for lengthy periods, thus might initially seem slow to pick up reading or language. They learn best through action and experience rather than perception.
Expose Them To All Styles Purposefully
Once you’ve identified your child’s learning style, take advantage of his strengths and help him to learn better. However, this doesn’t mean you should only use one mode of learning, as most people are not extremes, but somewhere in the middle. So, just because your child seems to be a visual learner, it is inadvisable to teach him through visual media alone.
Alan Pritchard, a prominent teacher-researcher advises in his book, Ways of Learning, that “learning styles are not fixed traits. Learners are able to adopt different styles in different contexts. An inability or reluctance to adopt any particular style has the potential to hamper our ability to learn effectively”. Hence, sticking too much to one learning style, even if it’s your child’s preferred mode, might be counter-productive after a point. Instead, you should challenge him to grow in the other learning styles, as he will likely have to learn in all kinds of environments when he grows older.
Making The Best Of It
Give your child the opportunity to use the different learning styles so they can develop to their full capabilities, such as allowing them to use their preferred style when learning critical information and practicing other styles for other things. Keep in mind too that the style and preference of learning also changes over time and with maturity. And above all, remember to inject fun into the learning that you do with him, as this is the best way to keep your kids engaged and motivated.
Originally published in “Different Child, Different Learning Style”, written by Kwa Chia Rhun, in Singapore’s Child January 2013.