Wednesday, August 18, 2004

The Way They Learn...

I recently finished reading The Way They Learn, by Cynthia Tobias. It's a book which discusses how people have various styles of learning and how understanding the characteristics of these styles helps one to become a better student and teacher. I found it to be particularly helpful with regards to homeschooling. One of the major advantages of homeschooling is that each of the children in the family can be given individualized attention at a level not found in the more traditional modes of schooling. Tobias relies on a learning style model developed by Dr. Anthony Gregorc. Troy, a reader of this blog, e-mailed me with the link to Gregorc's website. Essentially, Gregorc looks at how the mind perceives and understands information. He categorizes two points of view: Perception and Ordering. Within Perception (i.e., how we take in information) there are two styles: Concrete and Abstract. A Concrete style means that we take in information strictly through our five senses. There are no hidden meanings with this style. An Abstract style, on the other hand, allows us to visualize what we see and use our intuition or our imagination. While everyone uses both of these styles, we typically gravitate towards one or the other. Within Ordering (how we use or process the information) there are two styles: Sequential and Random. The Sequential style orders information in a step-by-step, linear manner. For this style, process is important. The Random style lets our minds order the information in pieces, with no particular adherence to sequence. For this style, just getting the job done is important. So we have four possible combinations between Perception and Ordering: Concrete Sequential, Abstract Sequential, Concrete Random, and Abstract Random. Understanding not only which style(s) you fall into but which style(s) your children fall into is essential if you intend on being able to instruct them properly. For instance, a CS child may tend to be a perfectionist who follows the letter of the law. Being aware of this will help you understand how such a child can become frustrated, and how you can teach the child how to approach and overcome such frustrations. An AR child, on the other hand, is not concerned with the sequence as much as the feeling involved. Such a child would tend to become frustrated at the same structured order that the CS child adores. Helping the AR child to find the meaning behind the order helps to alleviate the frustration they may be having. Of course, the caveat is that we are far too complex to categorize into just a few styles. Yet while the process of seeing where we and our children come from is difficult, it is worth the effort. Tobias also discusses the various methods which we use to concentrate. For example, some people need to have something to munch on while concentrating, while others would find it a distraction. She also touches on the various methods we use to remember, such as Auditory, Visual, and Kinesthetic. Knowing that your child may remember best through the use of movement (i.e., kinesthetic) vs. how you learn best (e.g., auditory) could help you avoid a lot of frustration. Finishing up the book Tobias writes about the various types of knowledge we possess such as, Linguistic, Logical-Mathematical, Spatial, Musical, Bodily-Kinesthetic, Interpersonal, and Intrapersonal. She notes that while the traditional school environment emphasizes the Logical-Mathematical type of knowledge in a Concrete-Sequential style, we need to understand that other forms of knowledge and learning styles exist and are just as important. All in all, a very good, if not quick, explanation of how better to accomplish the noble task of teaching your children.

No comments: