Students learn in a variety of ways: by seeing and hearing, working alone and in groups, reasoning logically and intuitively, memorising and visualising and modelling.
Teaching methods also vary: some instructors lecture, others demonstrate or discuss; some focus on principles and others on applications; some emphasise memory and others understanding.
How much students learn in a class depends among other things on the match between their learning style preferences and the instructor’s teaching style. This interactive presentation defines different learning styles, explores the consequences of mismatches between learning and teaching styles, and offers ideas for reaching students with a wider variety of learning styles than are reached with traditional teaching methods.
Students have different levels of motivation, different attitudes about teaching and learning, and different responses to specific classroom environments and instructional practices. The more thoroughly instructors understand the differences, the better chance they have of meeting the diverse learning needs of all of their students.
Three categories of diversity that have been shown to have important implications for teaching and learning are differences in students’ learning styles (characteristic ways of taking in and processing information), approaches to learning (surface, deep, and strategic), and intellectual development levels (attitudes about the nature of knowledge and how it should be acquired and evaluated)
Learning styles are “characteristic cognitive, affective, and psychological behaviours that serve as relatively stable indicators of how learners perceive, interact with, and respond to the learning environment. The concept of learning styles has been applied to a wide variety of student attributes and differences.
Some students are comfortable with theories and abstractions; others feel much more at home with facts and observable phenomena; some prefer active learning and others lean toward introspection; some prefer a visual presentation of information and others prefer verbal explanations.
One learning style is neither preferable nor inferior to another, but is simply different, with different characteristic strengths and weaknesses. A goal of instruction should be to equip students with the skills associated with every learning style category, regardless of the students’ personal preferences, since they will need all of those skills to function effectively as professionals.