When I started university, one of my first courses was on educational psychology… and it was hard. However, after the initial freak out over the 50+ pages of reading and critical responses I had to do every week I started to really enjoy it. The reason for this enjoyment was that I was learning about the learning processes and stage of cognitive development that I had been going through my whole life and I had some major epiphanies! I wouldn’t say at all that my learning style is unique but I had always been a little bit different in the way I learnt it seemed. I am a passionately independent and driven learner, determined to conquer new knowledge and information. I love to discover new information for myself and to process it in steps so I understand every stage and link. However, the way some teachers taught me meant I did not get it for ages and until I was left to my own devices I remained confused. I remember distinctively being in Maths lessons where the teacher would explain a mathematical problem and formula a number of times and then turn to me and go “So do you get it yet Kristina?”. I seemed slow yes, but when I went home I went through my homework in great detail and what ever I got wrong I made sure I redid and understood where I went wrong. I was top of my Maths class.
I may have learnt this way but when I became a teacher, could I teach in a way that would cater for other learning styles? Thinking about it now, it’s a wonder I learnt to teach other learning types because I was very much an individual constructivist in my learning. However, my passion for education and the learning style that I have has been a benefit I believe. I am an avid reader and researcher and so I read constantly about teacher techniques and strategies for all students and embraced different ways to do so. Yes, I was greatly influenced by those teachers of mine who I really learnt from at school too but I also discovered ways to engage all students through other means. I did not always do a very good job of engaging the ‘darling’ teenagers I taught but I did my best.
So how did my learning style impact on the way I taught? I always tried to give students in my classes the opportunity to find new information and meaning for themselves whenever appropriate. I allowed students time to go over the new knowledge and process it individually but also to process it socially. I embraced the opportunities to be creative in my teaching, which was relatively easy when the subject, music, was a creative one to teach. Girls learn predominantly through social interaction according to much research and boys learn a lot through practical application and hands on interaction with the material so these opportunities were given. When I say that I didn’t always engage them, I really mean it (getting them to sit down was hard sometimes) but also, I think my interpretation of what engagement is might be skewed as well. What is engagement to my learning style is not going to be engagement to another learning style? How I develop a deep knowledge and understanding of new information is not how other will.
I’ve appreciated reflecting on this area of learning styles and how we address it in our teaching through the readings in the MOOC Instructional Ideas and Technology Tools for Online Success. The R2D2 Model addresses different learning styles in simple activity levels of Reading, Reflecting, Displaying and Doing. I identify with this model and if I identify with it personally it makes it all the more possible to integrate and apply.