The Importance of Finding Your Child's Learning Style
When I confront a situation that seems insurmountable, I love finding the one missing piece that is causing the problem.This happens frequently with children who are struggling too hard to learn, it happens in relationships, it even happens when building something or plumbing a sink. Often, the smallest thing in the world can bring us to our knees in defeat and yet once that missing piece drops into place, the problem is easily solved.
I believe in these miracles. I believe in 180 degree turnabouts. I believe in radical transformations. I didn’t always. It used to be commonly accepted that children are either “smart” in school or they aren’t. I thought about myself, “Either I am ‘good at math’ or I’m not.” (I wasn’t, trust me). I've since realized that the ability to learn or not is not a black and white issue. I’ve seen so many children who “couldn’t learn” transformed into children who COULD learn successfully.
When a child misses out on learning basic skills, the results can be devastating to their progress in school. It is critical to know and understand the child before you begin to teach them so that your teaching will be effective. It is important to identify missing skills, yes, but equally important is identifying how a child takes in information and understanding how they use that information. It is what we can call “learning style.” Does it take time to know a child? Yes, but the payoffs are huge.
Children Are All Different
“If you are a parent with more than one child, you’ve already discovered that even children growing up in very similar circumstances and environments can have dramatically dissimilar approaches to life. You begin to realize that people are fundamentally different. The individual bents that cause each person to be unique often bring an overwhelming challenge to parents. It is not enough to simply decide how children should be reared and then apply the same techniques to each child. Parents need to get to know their children, and no two will be the same!”
In The Way They Learn by Cynthia Tobias, the author states:
It is a challenge for parents to teach their children to communicate and lead multiple children successfully. Thus it is vital to take some steps that will help you understand your children better. Time will be invested, but the rewards will be unmatched.
In my own experience, taking the time to study learning styles in this context transformed my understanding of my own family members, transformed my communication with them, and revolutionized the way we related to each other.
Start by Learning the Child
Spend time with the child individually
Let the child choose what they want to play. During the time set aside for each child, try not to direct what they do or give directions. Watch them play, engage with them, and follow their lead. You are there to observe what they do, how they do it, what they pay attention to, what they prefer, and to listen to what they say.
I recommend taking notes on what you see and hear. It is amazing what you will learn about the child when you go back later to read over your notes. Over time, a new picture of your child will emerge that will provide you with a lot of insight.
Questions to Guide Your Observation
- What is your child doing when they are most able to focus? (especially pertinent if you have an active child)
- What type of activity seems to capture their attention the most?
- What do they spend the most time doing when they're allowed to freely choose an activity?
- If conflict arises between you and your child or between your child and a peer or sibling, what is the conflict about, and does the same type of conflict occur frequently?
- What type of activity least interests your child?
- What is going on when your child becomes frustrated? (In other words, what type of activity are they doing when they become frustrated?)
Looking at Various Learning Profiles
According to Dr. Anthony Gregorc, there are two primary ways in which people take in information from their world:
- Abstract – perceiving via intellect, imagination, and intuition.
- Concrete – perceiving directly through the senses. No inference; no supposition.
There are two primary ways people order or use the information they take in:
- Random – organizing information
- Sequential – ordering information linearly and in a sequence; creating steps.
Gregorc’s four primary learning styles are combinations of how we perceive (take in information) and how we order that information. Although each child is unique, there are 4 main learning styles. Click through to learn more about each one: