The Learning Spectrum


Because we desire to successfully reach all our students, we must understand how they take in, process, internalize, and remember new information. When we prioritize knowing children and how they learn, we will achieve our goal of reaching them all. Download the Chart of Learning Styles

The Learning Spectrum describes the learning strengths of children based on their natural wiring. It details what is easy for them and what happens when they are under stress. It is illuminating to look at the Learning Spectrum as it relates to children’s performance in school. [Data from Carla Hannaford, PhD. & Linda Silverman, PhD.]

The learning spectrum Children and how they learn

The Spectrum

The Learning Spectrum stretches from far left (logic, left-brained, auditory/sequential learners) to far right (gestalt, right-brained, visual/spatial learners). All children fall somewhere on this Spectrum. Children on the far left are strongly auditory/sequential in their learning strengths. Children on the far right are strongly visual/spatial. Children in the middle more easily access both hemispheres but prefer either logic or gestalt processing.

Learners on the Spectrum

25% of children are auditory/sequential dominant

Think in words
Like steps or sequences
Can work with symbols such as letters, words, and numbers
Work well with details
Are highly verbal and can talk about their work
Do well in school and on standardized tests
Benefit from repetition and drill
They might struggle to see the big picture or how elements in the whole affect each other
Access to gestalt function is limited when under stress
Schools teach this group successfully

12% of children prefer auditory/sequential

33% of children are visual/spatial dominant

Think in pictures
Need the big picture before they can process details within the global whole
Make connections within the global whole
Make their own steps for solving a problem
Intuitive solutions but may not be able to verbalize their thinking or their process
Need visuals (images, graphs, graphic organizers, maps) to take in information
Need hands-on experiences to solve problems
Learn kinesthetically through movement
Access to logic function is limited when they are under stress
Schools do not teach these students successfully

30% of children access both hemispheres but prefer a visual/spatial learning approach

To summarize, while 37% of children prefer or strongly prefer auditory/sequential approaches, 63% of children prefer or need visual/spatial approaches.

“Each hemisphere of the cerebrum develops and processes information in a specific way. …the logic hemisphere (usually the left) deals with details, the parts and processes of language, and linear patterns. By contrast, the gestalt (usually the right hemisphere) – meaning whole processing or global as compared to linear – deals with images, rhythm, emotion, and intuition.” Carla Hannaford, PhD. Neurophysiologist and educator. Smart Moves, page 78.

“Both hemispheres contain all functions until specialization starts to occur. This specialization develops at a different rate in each individual. However, on average the gestalt hemisphere exhibits a growth spurt of dendrites between ages four and seven and the logic hemisphere between seven and nine years. Under normal circumstances, complete hemispheric specialization is in place between nine and twelve years of age. The more that both hemispheres and all lobes are activated by use, the more dendritic connections form and extend across the corpus callosum and myelinate. The more myelination, the faster the processing between both hemispheres and the rest of the brain.” Dr. Hannaford, Smart Moves, page 79.

Teachers on the Spectrum

75% of teachers are auditory/sequential in their wiring. They tend to teach in the traditional auditory/sequential approach because it makes sense to them.

Schools are reaching 25% of children successfully. The rest of the children find school challenging.

Implications of the Learning Spectrum on educational systems

If 63% of children prefer/need right-brain elements to learn successfully, it would explain why around 63% of children continue to fail to reach reading proficiency within our current educational system.

Child1st is focused on creating whole brain experiences for children so the 63% have access to the same learning opportunities as their auditory/sequential counterparts.