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Understanding Different Types of Learners

Understanding Different Types of Learners

October 4, 2011

The job of an educator – changing brains – is a challenging one, particularly when you consider that every student has different learning strengths and weaknesses.

Fleming’s model of learning for example describes learners as visual, auditory, read-write or kinaesthetic, classifying learners by how they experience and process the world around them.

David Kolb described four types of learners:
i.) Convergers who develop abstract concepts and then actively experiment
ii.) Divergers who experience the world and then reflect on their observations
iii.) Assimilators who develop abstract concepts and then observe and reflect, and
iv.) Accommodators who experience the world and then actively experiment

Honey and Mumford labelled learners as activists, reflectors, theorists and pragmatists.

Anthony Gregorc described how people perceive the world in two ways (concrete and abstract) and order the world in two ways (random and sequential), and developed a model with four learner types based on the possible combinations of these qualities.

Howard Gardner described eight different “intelligences,” including linguistic, logical/mathematical, spatial, bodily/kinaesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalist.

The challenge for educators is how to get through to each individual student when what works for one student may not work for another. When learning to read for example, some students develop sound phonics skills with ease while other students, particularly those with auditory processing weaknesses, struggle to learn to read despite any amount of phonics instruction.

So how can educators get through to each student – with their different world views and brain wirings –to ensure that they achieve their greatest learning potential?

While it is not practical for educators to provide fully individualised instruction for every student in a classroom of 20 or 30, it is possible to help each student achieve their optimum learning potential.

Research shows that all students can become better learners by improving the same set of core, fundamental cognitive skills:

  • Memory (the ability to store information)
  • Attention (the ability to focus on tasks and filter out distractions)
  • Processing (how fast a student can perceive and manipulate information), and
  • Sequencing (how accurately a student can order information)

Regardless of each student’s preferred learning style, all students will benefit from improvements in memory, attention, processing speed and capacity, and sequencing ability. Click to find out how the Fast ForWord program develops these four cognitive skills.

For further reading:

Kolb, D. A. 1984. Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

Honey, P & Mumford, A, (1982). The Manual of Learning Styles. Maidenhead, UK: Peter Honey Publications.

Mills, D. W. (2002). Applying what we know: Student learning styles. Retrieved May 22, 2011.

Gardner, Howard (1983; 1993) Frames of Mind: The theory of multiple intelligences, New York: Basic Books. Second edition published in Britain by Fontana Press.

Thanks go to Terri Zezula and Scientific Learning

Interested in learning more about the Fast ForWord program? Have a question about learning, neuroscience and/or education? Contact the team of health and education professionals at Sonic Learning.

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