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Julia Grotenhuis

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The education system should stop focusing primarily on the visual learners.

Most people are visual learners, which is why public and private education is geared towards visual instruction and creating a visual environment.” There is a much higher percentile of visual learners than there are auditory and kinesthetic.

Visual learners make up about 65% of the population, while auditory learners make up 30%, and kinesthetic learners a mere 5%. While this is all nice for the visual learners in a public or private school, the auditory and kinesthetic learners tend to be the ones struggling. While it is true that everybody is a “mix” of the auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learner, everybody has a tendency to lean heavily towards one of the three. For some people, they may be just as auditory as they are visual, and that is a wonderful thing. However, most of the time, this is not the case.

“Textbooks, blackboards, handouts, note-taking, research cards, and worksheets are all a visual learner’s best friend,” as one source says. These things are all resources you will find being used primarily in public and private schools. This means that, primarily, the visual learners benefit most. For the auditory or kinesthetic learner, it can be a pretty difficult struggle to learn from such things as textbooks, blackboards, handouts, note-taking, research cards, and worksheets.

I know from personal experience that being forced to adopt the visual way of learning is a huge hindrance for auditory or kinesthetic learners. As one source says, "Students appear to benefit most from mixed modality presentations, for instance using both auditory and visual techniques for all children".

Why do we not do this, then, if it would be most beneficial? Would it be more beneficial to keep the education system as it is - geared towards visual learners - or should action be taken to change this?

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  • Feb 7 2012: Great idea! Just a couple of things to add.
    Often teachers do try to do more than one type of learning, but it's not quite common yet.
    One of the main reasons, I think, is that change is too hard for education. The way it has been done, is the way is gong to be done... The idea of completely overhauling the education system is a rather daunting task, so I don't blame them.
    Nevertheless, this needs to be done. There are so many things that just don't work in the system, and studies have proved them.
    So, Julia, do you a specific thing (Technique or item) that could create a more audio and kinesthetic friendly atmosphere?
    • Feb 7 2012: Yes, it would be a rather large task. Little by little changes could be made, though. I think I have seen some schools (generally private) attempt this. As for a specific thing that could create a more all-three-friendly atmosphere, here's an interesting link with ideas: http://www.teflcorp.com/articles/107-tefl-other/319-a-diverse-classroom-teaching-to-all-students.htm

      I know it is possible to create an atmosphere because it is how my mother taught me when I was homeschooled. What's harder is figuring out what to do with higher grades. I know that discussion and reading out loud helps the auditory learner. Probably the number one thing is not to force the auditory learner to take detailed notes, but to let them listen and take fewer key notes. The problem is when it comes to such subjects as math or other subjects that are very "visual".

      It is harder to figure out how to incorporate teaching techniques for the kinesthetic learner. Having models of things, like a physical model of a cell, say, and allowing students to touch it and put something like that together could help a kinesthetic learner.

      The problem is, schools will have these auditory and kinesthetic activities - they just don't have them nearly as often as visual activities. We could slowly change that.
  • Feb 8 2012: Thank you for your response. I suspect that 'education' and 'systems' are mutually exclusive terms. My young son learns through play, imitation, observation, mimicry, discussion, reading, problem-solving and so on... this is the means by which information is passed on to him and his skills, knowledge and experiences permit him to grow and develop. None of the learning which he assimilates in the home environment, requires him to recite things by rote or sit any examinations.

    In his current school work, he is top in every one of his classes and he is playing music at a level of excellence which belies his years. I am not an expert in any of the subjects in which my son excels nor am I a musician. I have been able to assist him to wonder and to dream and as a corollary, to want to find out about the world in which he lives. He can speak a little French, some Japanese and English. He is just 12 years of age.

    I suspect that a standard school curriculum would fail him miserably because of his wide ranging interests. Clearly, a teacher in a class has a curriculum to teach and my son would be a constant distraction because one question in his mind always leads to another. I don't believe that schools can operate in this manner and I am certain that children cannot determine their own curriculum.

    My experience has been that if you can engage the interest of a child, they will be interested. How a teacher can do this for a class of pupils is beyond my understanding. I find it very challenging and emotionally draining to do it for one child. For me, the problem with education systems is that they are effectively a cookie cutter with a one size fits all mentality. Only adopting the required shape permits our children to climb whatever ladders they aspire to top. In my experience, educational systems remove far too much of the interest that humans have, in just finding out stuff.
    • Feb 9 2012: Jeff (perhaps I ought to say "Mr. Cable" considering you're probably a lot older than me), I can seriously sympathize with every word you've written there. I have a bit of a similar experience to your son, in a way.

      Always, when I use a standard school curriculum, I don't do as well as I feel I ought. When I was in public elementary school with my younger brother and older sister, they always got above average scores and qualified for the Gifted and Talented programs with their standardized test scores. But I usually just did... okay. And that always bothered me. Out of all three of us, I've always been the one who learns a tad bit differently. And I seem to be good at the things that society does not recognize as "important". Certainly not as important as, say, becoming a professor or something.

      You are right. The problem is, the education system is a cookie cutter thing. And what's funny is how all education systems say math and literature are the top two most important things and the arts are always, always on the bottom.

      It is frustrating to me. Sometimes I get annoyed simply because if I were to take standardized tests, I wouldn't stand out and my talents wouldn't show. It would appear as though I'm talentless - and sometimes I even feel talentless.
      • Feb 12 2012: Thanks you for this response, Julia. Some school subjects are clearly useful to pupils regardless of the subjects which interest them. Pre-school, without being didactic, speech is necessary. Children need to be able to communicate at some level, be it with parents, family members, siblings, other children or adults who are not family members. I refused to use any 'baby talk' to my son. And when he learned a new word, I would always give him several alternative means of expression using the concept contained in the newly learned word. By the time my son was five years of age, he could express himself well to any adult.

        Reading is top of my list of classroom skills required, initially, because it provides an access route to any information which the child may require during their early schooldays and throughout their life. Material which could be described as 'literature' in the sense of say... fine English literature, is not absolutely essential for children to grow into useful members of society. Literature may help children to develop their imaginative sense and to understand some of the factors which can enliven writing. My son read Lord of the Rings when he was seven years of age and he found it very descriptive and transporting. He recently read Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, Animal farm and 1984. Not essential reading for a 12 year old but capable of enriching his perceptions and providing enjoyment while passing some time.

        I can recommend two books to you which may be helpful in illuminating some of these issues for you.

        http://tinyurl.com/6upwpkz (This is the book about the school)
        http://www.summerhillschool.co.uk/pages/index.html (This is the school)

        http://www.amazon.co.uk/How-Children-Fail-John-Holt/dp/0140135561 (The work of an educationalist)
        • Feb 13 2012: Your son reminds me a bit of my brother. The joke in the family is that he read everything in the house when he was seven years old - and it is actually true 95% of the time. My mom often tells me the story of how she read him Shakespeare when he was three years old - and he laughed at all the appropriate parts, etc. My sister was also fairly quick when it came to speaking. I hummed before I could speak. I liked moving and I liked music.

          Reading is definitely something I treasure, even aside from it being necessary. My mom used to read me wonderful books out loud (sometimes she still does). It took me a while to actually want to learn how to read, but when I did, she said that I "took off". She also made sure not to "baby-talk" with us. I suppose she and you had similar thoughts. I am very grateful to her now.

          Wow... 1984 is fairly heavy duty for a twelve year old. Mostly because the content of that book can be, at times, a bit disturbing. That book frightened me when I first read it (which was just a few years ago, actually). Those are some amazing accomplishments, though. Your son sounds like a bright, very interested person!

          Thank you for the links. I will be sure to read them.
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    Feb 8 2012: Could you elaborate on what does work for you? I am homeschooling a 7 yr old who is an Auditory-Kinesthetic learner and would love to hear your ideas in order to provide a better learning environment. He struggles with writing. May I ask what homeschooling style you grew up with and how you felt it worked for you?
    • Feb 13 2012: This would take a long time to go into the details - perhaps I can email the little details to you.

      First of all, School House Rock? It is seriously an auditory learner's BEST FRIEND.

      The most important thing when it came to teaching me, my mom said, was that she kept my interests in mind, and always asked herself what she always had trouble with and what helped - she is an auditory learner like me, so this did help her think.

      My mom allowed me to learn at my own pace. She said she always payed attention to what I was interested in. When she found what I was interested in, she would incorporate that into helping me learn other subjects.

      I had a very hard time with reading, and to help me with that she found this curriculum (I can ask her for the name) that I could sing along with and learn to read with. It immediately helped me read. She also read out loud to me a lot so that I was always interested in literature, which I think greatly helped me as well. It has helped me come to love reading. Most importantly, she let me learn to read on my own schedule - not on my brother's or my sister's.

      As for writing, I remember what my mom said helped was she would take out this cookie sheet and put cornmeal in it. She would tell me to trace letters with my fingers into the cornmeal. This helped me learn how to write in many ways.

      As for math, my mom found a CD where it would sing the multiplication tables, etc, and would sing with it. Saying the math out loud always helped. She also got these math cubes. They were something to the effect of this:

      http://teachers.scholarschoice.ca/images/products/25/Unifix-Cubes-100-Each-Of-10-Colours-N5140_XL.jpg

      Those helped me learn fractions as well as multiplication and addition.

      Now, this is mainly all from my memory, so if you want very detailed answers, I can talk to my mom and email you more on the subject. ^^
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        Feb 14 2012: Thanks so much, I would be very grateful to hear about what you felt worked best for you and your mother's opinions!! My email is learning inspire =at= gmail. My son reads beautifully (he's 7) but his comprehension isn't wonderful unless I read aloud to him. When I do read aloud, his memory is amazing. He has an amazing ability to figure out math he hasn't been taught yet as long as there isn't an operator in sight (in every day life he can easily figure out just about any math he needs, but put it on a worksheet and he freezes). His ability to grasp science is amazing as well, he asks tough questions that make me think and it's wonderful learning with him. Now, if I could just help him with the fear of writing that traditional school instilled, we'd likely be working at a much higher grade level.

        We are Relaxed Eclectic Homeschoolers (almost Unschooling) but I have quite a bit of curricula to use as a spine and to have the information we need on hand. Your mother must be amazing to have done this before the internet provided so many resources and prior to co-ops being available.
  • Feb 7 2012: Hi Julia, whenever I see the word "should" I start to become concerned. Nothing is set in stone. When I had to spend some time studying how to deliver learning to a mixed population, I was astonished to find that teaching (a profession) does not subscribe to a single body of knowledge upon which all agree. There were lots of theories but no substantive method to help the new teacher.

    Having read all about Maslow's hierarchy of needs and Gardiner's multiple intelligences, I caught a fleeting glimpse of why educationalists are in such confused states of mind. I guess that basic schooling for children from say the ages of 5 up until 18years of age needs to address how it will make the person self-sufficient for their whole life. We all want to see the younger members of society being able to contribute to it, regardless of their tender years.

    Learning is, in my opinion far too didactic an exercise. On the other hand, I can see how the imperative is to teach the syllabus and pass examinations as proof that the appropriate lessons have been assimilated. Nevertheless, I cannot help but be uneasy about the manner in which we put round pegs in square holes and teach to the lowest common denominator.

    It may be expedient but it must heighten any sense of failure when standard milestones are not achieved. My suggestion is to dispense with all of the psychobabble which riddles education theory and model lessons on how the environmental influences at home are part of the normal educational landscape. The over-professionalisation of learning which is undergone by every child is, in my opinion, detrimental to their ultimate welfare and integration into adult life.

    You may gather from the foregoing that I do not believe that targets and tests are what education with a large 'E' is about. I would prefer to see children encouraged to love learning, for its own sake.
    • Feb 8 2012: Very, very good point. You can probably see I live in the US - here there's definitely flaws in our education system. One being that we simply fail at teaching, and we constantly lower standards (a point I believe you brought up). I have to say that I have been public schooled, private schooled, home schooled, and now I am in an online school. Out of all of these, the online school has proven itself to be best. Not because it is online but because of what they teach and how they teach it. There is no lowering of standards, and while you could say the things being taught our "hard", they are also not "impossible" for students to reach.

      Past that point... I agree when you say to see children encouraged to love learning would be wonderful.

      I wasn't saying to "lower standards" again or try to disregard the REAL problem at hand in the education system. But on that subject, I would like to ask the question to you, "What is the real problem in your mind with the education system?"

      However, I am saying that what I have brought up is a legitimate issue. I have experienced this issue first hand. It will not fix the main problem the US is having (as for the UK, I do not know what problems you may be having, but I do know the whole world is geared towards visual learners), but I do know it would help learning become not only easier, but funner, for the auditory and kinesthetic learners.

      For me, from personal experience, I know that learning suddenly becomes a chore when being forced to learn something in a way that doesn't "work" for that student. It would help if the education system would adopt a system that was geared equally towards all types of learners. Of course, this is much more easily said than done. The question is, would it be worth it? For me, I'd say yes, it is. Or is it? Which is why I'm asking others their opinion.

      Dreadfully sorry here if I've misinterpreted what you've said and made absolutely no sense. ^^'
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    • Feb 7 2012: Haha. ^^ While listening to music on your ipod and playing the Wii are fine in moderation (-coughcough- something we fail at), they certainly don't help much in the education department, do they?
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        • Feb 7 2012: Interesting. It would be very cool to incorporate a Wii that had educational games on it to be used in a classroom setting. Undoubtedly that would be fun... and hopefully profitable. But that is not a certainty yet. It'd be cool to test that theory.

          The problem being we obviously don't have that in education today. And not all kids have Wiis, nor do all kids play the games that are supposed to help them in their education. So the problem of education still remains.