Teaching Styles and Learning Styles

When I was in college, there was a professor in my major who used to write the key points of his lecture in outline form on the blackboard while he talked.  Besides being a wonderfully nice guy (he was my academic adviser), he was an excellent teacher in my opinion. I learned so much in his classes (I took everything he taught that I could fit into my schedule).  One semester a friend of mine from another department took one of this professor’s classes to fulfill a humanities course requirement.  We would sometimes study together, especially since he knew that I was familiar with this professor’s testing style.  My friend admitted that he wasn’t really enjoying the class.  I think he found all of the notes on the board distracting.  While I ate up the way this beloved professor taught (audio-visual), my friend who was probably a kinesthetic learner starved.

This was the first time it really hit home to me how different teaching styles and learning styles can be important.  Knowing about teaching styles and learning styles is basic for being a homeschooler.  This doesn’t mean that you have to study each type or take a personality quiz (although there are books for this if you want).  It basically comes down to what makes you and your child comfortable or uncomfortable in the educational process.

For instance, I realized early on that just the thoughts of spontaneity and hands-on learning make me sick to my stomach.  As a result, I plan almost everything and avoid craft and science projects like the plague.  My oldest daughter doesn’t have the focus for abstract auditory learning; she’d rather just do it than hear about how to do it.  To appease her, we don’t go through the abstract explanations in her math text book; we go straight to the workbook.

The other day I was working on my science plans for grades 5-8.  (Yes, I know she is just finishing up 2nd grade, but I told you that I am a compulsive planner!)  We’ll be using The Usborne Encyclopedia of Science as our text, but I was trying to figure out exactly how we are going to use it.  I decided to go through and make a list of important words to define or key concepts for each two-page topical spread.  For instance, on the topic of Teeth (p. 352-353) she should list the “Four Main Types of Teeth”.  I figure that after using the study guides made by me for two years (5th and 6th grade) I would have her take notes for herself from written text in 7th grade.  Besides learning about science, she would also be learning an important school and life skill: discerning key points from the written word.

Then I started thinking about she really needs to be prepared to handle different types of teaching styles that she might come across in college.  The teaching methods might vary a lot from class to class, even with the same professor, depending on the purpose or content of the course.  Some professors have highly organized notes that they write out on the board (or in these days on Power Point) for students to copy.  Others rely heavily on class discussion.  Subjects like music or chemistry usually require more hands-on learning.  And some professors only write down the harder to spell or unique words from their lecture, requiring the ability to discern what information is important from an oral presentation with little visual guidance.

I know that I will have to push myself outside my comfort zone some to offer more hands-one learning experiences, especially when it comes to science.  But it occurs to me that I will need to prepare Bailey especially to handle this last style of teaching that she might encounter in college.  We just don’t do much strict lecture in our homeschool environment.  (The closest thing to it is when we go over history pages twice a week, but my goal for history at this point is just planting mental seeds not memorization of the material.)

Now do I think we need to devote all of our time to this?  No.  I don’t subscribe to the educational theory that people should be repeatedly subjected to unpleasant things just to condition them into numb acceptance of the depressing inevitability of it (pointless repetitive work).  But I believe that you can prepare someone to handle unpleasant things with grace and competency when they arise.

I’ve not yet decided how I want to handle this.  And I really don’t think it would be productive until at least 7th or 8th grade after Bailey has had more experience with note-taking from written sources.  I suspect that a subject will arise that will offer the best opportunity.  This is just something that I wanted to tuck into the back of my mind (or blog, as the case may be) for now.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Homeschooling/Education, Philosophy

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