BTR-TESOL Unit 5D - Language Learning Styles
A young teacher has been assigned to teach English to a class of 15 students. The teacher is from America and all the students are from Korean. The teacher has been teaching this class for weeks on prepositions. However after giving a test of the material they covered she finds that most of the students failed a particular section of the test. The teacher remembered that she had taught this section by having the students act out the parts of the content and did not give specifics on the rules of. She felt that the student would be able to learn the content and background of the prepositions for that section by going through the motions and acting out each preposition. Because of the distress the teacher decided to try a different approach. She instead wrote down all the rules and exceptions to the rules giving multiple examples and exceptions to the rules. She then retested the students later and found that they all did very well on the test. The teacher then continued to try more explicit instruction with activities that had the students analyzing and going over the rules behind the language along with her previous methods of teaching. She found that most of her class responded very well.
As you work through this unit, you will…
If you have learned well, your teaching style will be adaptable to your students’ learning styles while teaching in different cultures and situations.
Learning styles are also closely attached to learning strategies because a particular learning style learner will use specific learning strategies more than others because they fit their learning style better. Although there are many learning styles currently being researched, here are a few examples and definitions to help you understand learning styles:
Student does something active with information.
Student thinks about the information first.
Student likes learning facts, solving problems, are patient, more practical, like information that ahs a connection to real life.
Student likes discovering possibilities and relationships, innovative topics and dislike repetition, more comfortable with abstract concepts, don’t like memorization and routine calculations.
Student learns better with visual representations like graphs, pictures, videos, diagrams, etc.
Student learns more from written words and spoken information.
Learn knowledge step-by-step, follow logical paths to knowledge and solutions.
Learn in chunks without fully understanding how the information connects. Like to get the big picture.
(Richard M. Felder & Barbara A Soloman)
These are not the only categories and research has shown many other styles and definitions. It is important to understand as a teacher that your students will have different styles in how they learn the language. Using different techniques and tasks and you prepare lessons and focus on your students will help them learn the language more effectively.
Try the following links to analysis your method for learning. (Remember that these will give other information about different categories of learning styles that haven’t been mentioned here.)
Informal classroom observationThis is not the most effective method but probably the one you will find yourself doing the most. This is fairly easy, you're already doing much of it, and it requires less time than other methods of analyzing your classroom. You can make this a very informative observation of the entire class session or a quick reflection of your task. If you decide to make it a quick reflection of the task, follow these steps:
The reality of teaching styles is that you need to become familiar with your class and prepare multiple types of tasks and lessons that focus on different learning styles. You classroom will have many students who are different. Focusing on one type of task will quickly bore, frustrate, and alienate other students who have different ways of learning information.
What you need to know recapUse variation in your tasks. However if you find students are doing well with a particular task keep using it. Learn to integrate different approaches to learning. Also remember that using different strategies and helping students to learn new types of strategies will also help them gain new skills.
Many different areas impact how we learn. Some of these include, how we have been taught before, what we are used to doing in classroom, personality, familial influences, school rules, and others. Many of these categories are heavily influenced by culture and can cause severe problems if misunderstood.
What you need to know recapHow you teach and how your students learn are affected by your cultural background. This does not mean it is set in stone or that everyone is the same from a particular culture. However it does give you an idea of the impact culture has on learning. It is important to learn the culture and adjust your teaching to the needs of the students learning styles.
You should also teach them with multiple different strategies to help them gain more resources to help with their learning. Understand that they do have preferences and strong areas and weak areas of learning strategies. Create your lessons and activities with your students learning styles in mind.
Here are a few tips to help you get started and teach to your students’ strengths and weaknesses.
1. Prepare your lessons based on some analysis of your studentsAfter you have gained a feel for how your students learn and what works well with them begin to prepare your lessons with students’ learning styles in mind. Even though some activities and tasks help you learn something well doesn’t mean your students will respond the same way.
2. Vary your lessons and tasks based on the needs of your studentsYou will have many different students. Some students may come from similar backgrounds and cultures. Other classes may have a wide range of cultures and backgrounds. This can be a challenge for a teacher. You don’t have to use the same strategies and tasks every lesson. In fact you should alternate and use many strategies so as to help all styles of learning and help students gain new strategies for learning not normally used with their style.
3. Learn from the other native teachers techniques they are using to teach the studentsBy using other native teachers as a resource to observe and plan lessons and activities you can get an idea of what the students are used to in their regular classes. This doesn’t mean the style of teaching and strategies are the best for your class but it gives you an idea of where your students are coming from and how to integrate a few other types of tasks into your lessons.
4. Continue to monitor your students and ask for feedback from themContinuing to monitor your students is important to insure the tasks and strategies you are using target their needs. This also helps you to adjust your teaching to their styles of learning as you begin to see what tasks and strategies are working the best with students. Another idea is to ask your students or have them fill out surveys in response to particular strategies you are trying. This is usually best done at higher-level classes.
5. Evaluate your students after your tasks and lessonsAs mentioned before monitoring is important. This can also be done through evaluations directly after the tasks and lessons. After teaching a particular principle with a learning strategy have some way of having the students perform the tasks and use it as an evaluation. This could mean after teacher them several conversation skills using different strategies have the students role-play. Try and find out how well they did. This works particularly well if you are having trouble with a particular student and are insure what could be the problem. Remember not to alienate or make them feel behind the rest of the class. Apply the evaluation to the entire class with focus on a few struggling students.
6. Refer to the other lessons on Teaching Styles, Evaluation, and lesson planningOther units in this guide are directly linked to learning styles and play a role in the students learning habits. By referring to these other units you will be able to get a sense of other factors and more details on how you can be better prepared as a teacher.
What you need to know recapRemember each student is different and by using many different strategies and techniques to teaching different topics and concepts you can better target many different styles of learning found in your classroom. Remember that evaluation and observation are important tools for the improvement of your teaching and that of the instruction that students will receive. You ultimate goal is to help the students succeed. By understanding their learning styles and then teaching accordingly you will help them in their learning. They will be more motivated because of better progression, they will see, multiple different strategies that they can then gain to their style of learning, and many other benefits to them and you as a teacher.
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