Question 2 (Jan 22, 2008)

Read the following article and answer the questions (20 points):

click on this link to go to the article…

Professor pans ‘learning style’ teaching method

1. What are some of important issues discussed in the article? (5 points)
2. Do you agree with the overall theme of the article? Why do you say so? (5 points)
3. Suggest an alternative viewpoint to tackle the issues discussed in the article. (10 points)

5 thoughts on “Question 2 (Jan 22, 2008)”

  1. 1) Some of the important issues discussed in this article are:
    › There is no scientific evidence to support VAK teaching as a method to improve educational achievement as it “personalises” learning
    › We, as educators, are doing a disservice to students if we cater to only 1 learning style
    › All students possess all learning styles and, while they may have a stronger disposition to one or the other, all need to be used together to achieve the best results
    › The brain works by interconnecting information and, therefore, needs more than one stimuli to work to its best

    2) I find that I can neither whole-heartedly agree nor disagree with the overall theme of the article. I agree that we are trying to educate the whole child and prepare them for life, and that life in the ‘real world’ is not one-dimensional, so they need to be able to work in different environments. However, from personal experience both as a learner and a teacher, I know that there are some learners (often those for whom accessing the curriculum is difficult) who need to be able to work in their preferred learning style or styles in order to understand and achieve success. Once they have achieved success and feel secure in their understanding, then other approaches to learning can be used as they will be have the confidence to experiment with their new skills. I appreciate that this professor has the scientific evidence to support her arguments, but I wonder how much time she has spent teaching in the mainstream classroom on a daily basis.

    3) From the point of view of the teacher, the main purpose of teaching is to see each student achieve to the best of their ability. Surely in striving to reach this goal, how the learner learns best must be taken into consideration. For example, I have experienced measurable improvements in learning when the kinaesthetic child who constantly fidgets is given an item to ‘fiddle’ with, and the auditory child who finds the daily hum-drum of the classroom too distracting to work in is provided with a sectioned off area to work in for selected activities. In allowing for these modifications in their educational programmes, both school and the classroom have become more relaxed and successful environments for the children to be in, and they have learned better and achieved more. It also diminishes the risk of poor behaviour which is the defence mechanism that many of these children use as a coping strategy. While these are only small adjustments to make, the long-term implications are great, and their individual learning styles are being met. I don’t believe there are many teachers who would dismiss these examples as “nonsense”. Having established this sense or security, it is then teacher’s job to encourage children experiment with other ways of learning. Encouraging and nurturing each child to develop with confidence and face each obstacle that is thrown at them in life with a variety of skills that have been developed during their school years – isn’t this the fine art that is teaching?

  2. In many schools, the trend of teaching style has been changed from traditional lecture style to students’ centered learning style. I, as a teacher, believe that each student has his own suitable learning style and teachers should try to prepare lessons by considering students’ needs and preferences.

    (1) The important issues discussed in this article are;
    1. The method of classifying students on the basis of their learning style, which is implemented universally, is nonsense and waste of time and resources.(By Baroness Greenfield)
    2. Since the senses of human beings work in unison through brain and each function of sense inside of human body can’t be used individually, the theory of Vak (visual, auditory, or kinesthetic) is nonsense. (By Susan Greenfield)
    3. There is no independent evidence that Vak or even other learning style inventory has direct educational benefit. (By Susan Greenfield)
    4. There is no scientific justification for the terms such as ‘activist’, ‘reflections’, ‘left brainers’, ‘right brainers’, which are extensively known well and mentioned frequently.(By Frank Coffield)
    5. Teachers do students serious disservice by implying that they have only one learning style rather than a flexible repertoire from which to choose depending on the context.(By Frank Coffield)

    (2) Basically, I agree, but some points I disagree.
    I agree with the point that teachers should not label the students only by their learning style. We should be more flexible to adjust our teaching and/or students’ learning style by the content of the study. On the other hand, I still believe that each student has their own suitable learning style. For example, some of my Y12 (16-17 years old) students can improve their learning through music. At the beginning, when I started teaching date in Japanese, most of them could not remember. However, after I used one Japanese song, they could memorize in a minute. Even, they tried to use other songs to memorize other vocabularies. I believe some of the students are very talented in music and they could remember new vocabularies with music easier. Also, I often use power point to introduce new theory and knowledge. For example, in Year 7 and Year 8 classes (11-13 years old), every Friday, they study news especially about social and political issues. Since most of them have never lived in Japan, they don’t have much knowledge about these issues of Japan. Previously, I just distributed the articles and explained the content verbally. However, since students seemed not to understand well, I visualized the topic with variety of photos, pictures, and map on the power point and discussed together with students. Some of the students whom I believe visual learners could understand well and develop their learning further. However, under this teaching style, students need to use at least three senses, visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.

    (3) As I mentioned at Question (2), I believe that each child has his own suitable learning style. If we, teachers, consider students’ preference and plan daily lesson, they can improve their learning more. For example, when I teach Japanese alphabet to Year 2 students (5-7 years old.), I often use Japanese card, called “Karuta”. Though this is very simple card game, since children compete the correctness and speed by taking cards which are on the floor, they need to use a lot of their physical energy, most of the children, especially who are kinesthetic learner, can remember the alphabet very quickly. Also, I had a Grade 8 American boy who was diagnosed as ADHD. He could not concentrate in the class and always argued with other students. Though he often messed the class, he had two things that he really loved, Japanese comics and Chinese characters. He could memorize Chinese characters very quickly. Since I had to teach other students in the same class, I decided to prepare completely different materials for him. I prepared various Chinese character sheets, computer games, and also comics in Japanese. After one year, he could learn to read Japanese comics without any of my support. Even though, he was labeled as ADHD kid, he could prove that with the suitable learning style and interest, he could develop his learning. Also, as we learned in this course, as a teacher, to prepare a comfortable learning environment is very important to enhance students’ learning. If the students feel that they are accepted by teachers and feel comfortable to ask questions, I believe students will learn more. It is very important for teachers to be flexible with children’s learning style and prepare comfortable learning environment.

  3. Q2
    Some issues discussed int his article were that Susan Greenfield has the view that pupils prefer to receive information either by sight sound or touch. She claims that the method of classifying pupils on the basis of learning styles is a waste of time. Chalk talk is deemed inadequate and this pupils are given questionnaires to see how they prefer to learn through either visual, auditory or kinesthetic.
    There is no empirical evidence to support thee rational that the vak learning styles works toward any direct educational benefits. So I agree with the that vak is weak for leaning.
    As stated in the article, we are committing a serious disservice to our students if we as teachers, cater to one learning style. All students learn at different levels thus leading to various level if understanding. We as teachers need to be trained through proper education to be able to identify these different types of students and cater to each individual needs.

  4. Answer to the question 2:
    1. The major point of this article is that children should be educated holistically in order to develop all their potential abilities. And the major issue discussed in this article is that some teachers harm students by implying that students have only one learning style, which includes the following sub-issues:
    a. it is waste of time overly focusing on the approaches of VAK (visual, auditory & kinesthetic) in education because there is no scientific evidence to support that VAK approaches improve students’ achievement;
    b. catering to only one learning style harms students; in other words, children should be educated holistically that teaching should address all kinds of student’s learning styles;
    c. varieties of learning styles, skills and abilities should be addressed, developed and enhanced in order to stimulate students to work best and to enhance their chances of succeeding in life.

    2. I agree with the idea of the article that child should be educated holistically. The reason is that today and tomorrow’s multicultural and rapidly changing world there is not and will not be an area that requires only one-dimension of our brain and ability. And in order to cope with the changing environments and to survive or succeed in today and tomorrow’s world, we need to be cleaver/flexible enough to be able to utilize our multi-intelligence, skills, styles, and abilities as much as possible.
    3. According to the article and my personal believe, children should be educated holistically that teaching should develop the students’ abilities to the best as much as possible. To do so, as a language teacher I suggest teacher to use variety of teaching approaches and practices based on the needs of students. In my language classes, there are varieties of student. Most of them like to play games, sing songs, watching visual things such as pictures, movies and video; some of them like reading and writing; and some others like drawing. Thus, for each class (one and half hours) I often focus on reading and listening skills in the beginning of class by lecturing with PowerPoint and handouts, pairing and grouping students with activities that enhances the their skills of reading and listening. After twenty or thirty minutes (based on the level of students motivation), when students start losing interests in the activities, I use more hands-on activities such as asking pairs or groups to draw a picture of their favorite thing, they discuss about the picture, and then they explain it to the class in the language that they are learning. At the end, I often individual creativity and writing skills by letting them to write paper or report about their presentations or other works. In general, I often use verities of activities, materials, and teaching approaches based on the students’ needs, which I found effective in developing student’s abilities holistically. Thus, I suggest teachers to use variety of teaching approaches and practices based on the needs of students.

  5. 1. What are some of important issues discussed in the article? (5 points)

    ›The first and key note about this article is that this is a scientist’s argument against educational systems, which is largely comprised of teachers.
    ›VAK teaching is becoming orthodox in the UK based upon its introduction in the US. (Julie Henry)
    ›”After more than 30 years of educational research in to learning styles there is no independent evidence that Vak…has any direct educational benefits.” Therefore she deduces the approach is “nonsense”(Baroness Greenfield)
    ›”It is when the senses are activated together … that brain cells fire more strongly than when stimuli are received apart.” (Baroness Greenfield)
    ›”[The] learning style … approach is theoretically incoherent and confused.” (Frank Coffield)
    ›The labels in learning styles have “no scientific justification for … [the] terms” (Frank Coffield)
    ›”We do students a serious disservice by implying they have only one learning style, rather than a flexible repertoire from which to choose…” (Frank Coffield)

    2. Do you agree with the overall theme of the article? Why do you say so? (5 points)

    No, I do not agree with the overall theme of the article. I also don’t agree with the biased tone or the way that it has been presented: as an editorial piece which does not fully support either side’s argument with enough facts. This article seems more as if it was written to raise emotion through tabloid style rather then present information.

    Turning to the meat of the article, while there are many good points the Baroness makes, her clear notion that ‘Learning Styles has no place in the educational system’ is too “cut and dry”. I feel that no rationale, whether completely on track or completely debunk should be analyzed and then dismissed, for it may be reflected upon or approached differently to create a new starting ground.

    It seems the Baroness has stated that since there is no empirical evidence containing any legitimate proof that a focus upon learning styles has any validity that it should completely be scrapped.

    While Gardner himself states the reasoning behind the lack of empirical evidence is because “it leads to labeling and stigmatization.”(http://www.infed.org/thinkers/gardner.htm)

    [Gardner] once thought it possible to create a set of tests of each intelligence – an intelligence-fair version to be sure – and then simply to determine the correlation between the scores on the several tests. [Gardner] now believe[s] that this can only be accomplished if someone developed several measures for each intelligence and then made sure that people were comfortable in dealing with the materials and methods used to measure each intelligence. (1999.)

    I see some sense with what Gardner is saying, but continue an argument about the data collection itself: What if the data collection for such an approach was fallible? What if there was an anomaly in the empirical evidence gathered which was creating skewed results? What if the amount of time for collection of data for the empirical evidence was not enough to prove results? What if this data collection was also done in certain confined area which may not have been appealing to a larger demographic where it could in fact prove very useful? (Asian Learning styles, versus African, versus American. etc.)

    John White asks, “[D]o all intelligences involve symbol systems; how the criteria to be applied; and why these particular criteria are relevant [?]” (1997.)

    It is for these continuing argumentative questions that I feel Greenfield’s quick dismissal should be dismissed. Her notions should not be taken lightly, but the lack of evidence for or against Learning Styles should only create more intrigue into the validity and value placed upon such an approach to education.

    Rather then close an interesting case; let us reflect upon new and innovative approaches that may prove through empirical evidence to work for the student and teachers favor, as
    “[s]even kinds of intelligence would allow seven ways to teach, rather than one. And powerful constraints that exist in the mind can be mobilized to introduce a particular concept (or whole system of thinking) in a way that children are most likely to learn it and least likely to distort it. Paradoxically, constraints can be suggestive and ultimately freeing.” (Gardner, 1993.)

    3. Suggest an alternative viewpoint to tackle the issues discussed in the article. (10 points)

    Since ‘Learning Style’ categories may be fallible in a sense that they may have left out a particular grouping that may suit a student better or may have bad categorization altogether (Gardner, 1999.), I would approach the Baroness’ ideas that no one specific learning style should be catered to specifically, which is also what Howard Gardner had in mind (http://www.infed.org/thinkers/gardner.htm) and add it to the idea that learner’s do in fact have an ideal approach that suits them best.

    When doing so I would make sure not to provide for a specific learning style with inappropriate attention. By this I mean that I would not use only verbal, auditory or kinesthetic teaching in my class for an entire year. But since it was also said that it is almost impossible to have a lesson that, in fact, only catered to one learning style specifically (Dr. Edward Roy Krishnan, 2008.) I would not worry too much about applying only to one sense exclusively.

    I would definitely argue against Greenfield that as teachers we should dismiss the notion that students prefer to receive information either by sight, sound or touch and I cite an example from my own teaching in a math class: Many times a student cannot understand a concept involving integer theory, but when this verbal / auditory experience becomes kinesthetic through the use of manipulatives, it becomes quite tangible to the student quickly. This in turn leads to quick comprehension of the theory I am trying to explain. Conversely, students in the same class may have real problems with the kinesthetic approach, but can rapidly understand through oral, visual and written explanation the same conjecture being presented.

    For the reasons which I am experiencing firsthand I cannot dismiss the fact that students demonstrate a preference for an explicit learning style at that moment in time, and on this basis I return to use whole brain approaches: clustering information; collaborating with others for curriculum overlap, allowing for student inquiry, providing multiple pathways and using a cognitive, affective and psychomotor approach conjunctively.

    Almost every approach that is taken will have a bias to one specific learning style, but when these learning style approaches are combined, or ‘when these senses are activated together’ this is where the connection of the synapses in the brain starts to fire more readily. (Susan Greenfield, 2007.)

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