Student Learning

Learning Styles & Online Learning

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How can students become independent online learners?

We learned during the 2020 pandemic that remote online learning is possible and even preferred by some students. Independent students with strong study skills were able to stay on top of their online school work self-sufficiently — but many students struggled to take such an active role in their learning process.

Students’ unique personalities influence the way they process and use information. This is why teachers strive to differentiate learning activities for students. As students take on more responsibility for their learning, they can benefit from understanding their personal learning style (or styles). Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences has led to the development of 8 different learning styles under which students generally can be classified.

The 8 Learning Styles

Visual or spatial: Learners prefer information to be presented visually. They benefit from tables, graphs, pictures, and information that is organised visually.

Auditory: Learners respond well to sounds. Group discussions and lessons that involve listening and speaking are great ways for the auditory learner to take in new information.

Kinesthetic or Physical: Activities that involve physical efforts are suitable for physical/kinesthetic learners. Learners like to experience things “hands-on.”

Verbal or Linguistic: These learners utilise spoken and written information, using language to rhyme or do wordplay. For the linguistic learner, having opportunities to use language is vital for understanding.

Logical or Mathematical: Learners look for connections and patterns in new information. The logical/mathematical learner will thrive when given the opportunity to solve problems based on facts and data.

Social or interpersonal: Activities that involve group participation work well for these learners. They enjoy role-playing and group discussions.

Solitary or intrapersonal: Unlike the previous learner, solitary/intrapersonal learners prefer to work alone. They thrive in tasks that require journaling and independent problem-solving.

Naturalistic: Learners prefer to learn from nature. Bringing the class outside for a lesson or using nature as an example are great ways to appeal to naturalistic learners.

After reviewing the different learning styles and deciding which one is the most relatable, students can use their strengths to their advantage. Naturalistic learners might decide to do their work outside for a refreshing change of setting. Social interpersonal learners might try to connect with other students and form a study group. Kinesthetic physical learners might design an experiment to explore a new topic.

Understanding one’s learning style is essential because it is a tool for learning more effectively. For example, if an auditory learner struggles to grasp a new concept, they might realise that the information is only being shared in a visual format. By identifying their need for an audible format, they can ask their teacher to record a reading of the text for them.

Online learning has put more responsibility on students to be active participants in their learning process. Even as schools begin to reopen, many students will continue their education remotely. As students learn more about their unique learning styles, they better prepare themselves to be successful online learners.

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