When I impulsively fill in the blank my response is, I am a visual learner. Then I step back and realize that that isn’t true. The learning style that I thought described me, well, just doesn’t exist. How can I be a visual learner without the audio? Stepping back farther, what am I learning? If I am learning to cook, then I need to smell and taste, if I am learning about a poet I need to read and visualize. When I think about all of the things that I love to do and how I learned them I realize that I learned a lot of different information in a lot of different ways. Why would I quickly reply visual learner? How many others respond to visual?
This summer I was introduced to the article “The Myth of Learning Styles” by Cedar Riener and Daniel Willingham. The article clearly points out the learning styles lack credible evidence and that the differences we see in learners is based on genetics, interests, experiences and abilities. So when I characterize myself as a visual learner is that what interests me? I love to experience audio and visual presentations. One of my favorite resources is Ted Talks. It is not a glitzy produced video on ideas, but a matter of fact talk on ideas worth sharing. I love listening to podcasts such as On Point, and This American Life. I love going to workshops and seminars to experience presenters and topics of interests. When I start to dig into what it is in learning that grabs me and engages me it is social interactions. It is sharing ideas, discussing perspectives and learning from others that ignites my passion for learning. I think of what all of my learning experiences have in common, and it is that I want to connect. I want to share,show teach, tell, discuss, or explain. I want to engage and socially connect what I am learning with others.
So how do we figure this out? How do we understand our learners? I can look to theory and pedagogy to inform my teaching practices, but that alone will not work. I need to understand and make decisions of my educational practice based on constant evaluation. Willingham discusses boundary conditions, must have principles, and could do principles when observing the educational process. These all align with an analogy of teaching that doesn’t fit particular learning styles, but fundamental principles. The principles of teaching are to know your students, know your conditions and understand best practice. I need to have the space to know my students and their goals. I need to have the resources and the tools to connect. It is constant construction where we are not always aware of the final product with out the input of our families and students. The analogy of teaching, by Willingham, to architect is brilliant. There are certain rules and fundamental skills that we must apply in construction of our teaching, but the variables of ability, interest, resources and experiences will shape our final product. We must work together on a common goal of educating our students
So now when I fill in the blank, I will leave the blank there and just say I am a learner, who want to connect and learn more.