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Parent Education Program: Articles

Learning Styles & Learning Style Inventory

By Kerry Elfström, B.Ed., M.A.

Learning Styles
Learning Styles

Although all humans follow the same general process when engaged in learning, it is understood that learning is unique to the individual. More importantly, everyone has their own style of learning. Learning styles are people's preferred way of engaging in the learning process and manipulating information in preparation for and storage in memory. Learning styles also involve our preference for learning alone or in a group, reading, watching, solving a problem, playing a game or any number of other activities. An individual's learning style also has to do with how the person prefers to receive information - by listening, viewing pictures, walking around etc.

This accounts in part for why everyone engaged in a group learning situation does not "get it". There are lots of other reasons why an individual may not learn including lack of focus and attention, insufficient interest and desire to learn, the furnishings, décor and atmosphere control of the room in which learning occurs among many other things. One or more individuals not "getting it" may simply be that they are not engaging in their preferred learning style which, unknowingly, results in negative behavior or simply "tuning out".

Assuming that an individual wants to learn and is genuinely attempting to do so, if the information is not being presented in a manner that aligns with the person's preferred learning style, learning will be compromised. And if there is no opportunity to have the information adjusted to suit the individual's learning style, the person can become frustrated and choose to disengage.

The importance of learning style has largely been overlooked, especially in group learning settings like school. The dominant teaching style which features listening, reading, writing and conversation - all forms of using words - can result in some learners being confused, frustrated or otherwise acting out for attention. Unfortunately, this behaviour is often misinterpreted as disinterest, disrespect or disruption. The problem is that most people are unaware of their learning style so they cannot express why they are feeling frustrated, bored or disengaged. Unless the leader attempts to determine if the behaviour is the result of an inability to engage in a preferred learning style, the behaviour can continue and cause more problems and mistreatment.

Because learners are unaware of their learning style, it falls to the educator in a school, the leader in a group, parents who want to support their children at home or are home schooling their children, or the designer in a self directed learning course to ensure that there are a variety of opportunities to engage everyone. It's important to note that humans are capable of engaging in many learning styles. However, when the opportunity exists to engage in their preferred style, learners will not only behave positively, but also learn deeper, more comprehensively and faster.

Learning Style Inventory
Learning Style Inventory

Several learning professionals have made attempts to understand and classify learning styles and describe them in a learning style inventory. For example, David A. Kolb defined an inventory based on how information is reorganized after learning has occurred and in particular, how interacting with other people in the learning environment changes existing memories. Dr. Anthony F. Gregorc devised an inventory based on how natural or accidental learning occurs in social settings. Colin Rose, developed an inventory based on how the brain processes sensory information and how the brain codes and stores raw information in memory.

Rose's learning style inventory explains how perceptions are shaped predominantly by language and how the various parts of the brain, particularly the left and right hemispheres, respond to sensory stimulation when people are engaged in learning. His inventory consists of four learning style preferences based on our senses of sight, sound and touch. In the context of the dominant audio and visual stimuli that exists in the environment of the 21st century, Rose's inventory may be a valuable tool for educators, parents and students alike, especially in elementary grades.

Click here to view a free videos series describing learning styles and Colin Rose's learning style inventory.