Every student is different. You have the honor roll in the front listening raptly to the lesson, the daydreamers by the window lost to fantasy worlds, the average learners in the middle trying to keep up, and the noisy troublemakers chewing gum at the back. Having a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching is not enough to get the attention of the myriad of personalities in your classroom. However, you can increase your chances of sustaining engagement by being aware of their different learning styles and preferences and then incorporating a range of methods and activities in your lesson plan.
The VARK Model
VARK, as introduced by New Zealand educator Neil Fleming, stands for Visual, Aural (Auditory), Read/write, and Kinesthetic sensory modalities used for processing and retaining information. Every person has their preferences. Fleming, though, reiterates the VARK model is designed as a starting place to explore different kinds of learning and not as a strict rule to label students. It is possible to have overlaps between learning styles as everyday life forces one to be flexible and switch from one mode to another. Below are the four primary learning styles and ways in which you can accommodate your students.
Visual: Flashcards and Flow Charts
When it comes to visual learning, individuals learn best by seeing and observing things. Using colorful flashcards and flow charts allow the visual learner to envision complex ideas and connections and aid in knowledge retention. Supporting your presentation with diagrams, pictures, and videos can help reinforce key learnings and take-aways.
Aural/ Auditory: Podcasts and Group Discussions
These learners like to hear information rather than read it or see it visually presented. With the emphasis on spoken word, it is essential to speak clearly and repeat key pieces of information. Group discussions, podcasts, and conversations are important to auditory learners. Getting them to engage verbally will help retain information and stimulate learning.
Read/Write: Journals and Book Clubs
These people tend to learn best through reading and writing text as the written word is their preferred way to absorb information. They respond well to lists, benefit from reading materials, and like to receive handouts. Getting them to create written work through journaling will help them learn more effectively. Book clubs with a recommended reading list are a great way for them to continue their studies outside of the classroom.
Kinesthetic: Role-Plays and Real-World Lasers
Kinesthetic learners are the do-ers – individuals who need to perform an action physically. The focus needs to be on the physical and have hands-on experience. Practical activities like laser marking on stainless steel can foster design thinking as students can design and create objects, they can use right after the class. Some form of role-playing can also be highly beneficial to make them grasp a concept or skill. The key is the reality or the concrete nature of the exercise.
Knowing how to adapt to the learning needs of your students is a vital step in creating meaningful classroom experiences and helping them retain their lessons. Remember the VARK model if you’re out of ideas.