Oh, goodness, I’m finally emerging from a deep pile of projects, assignments, reading and last-minute schoolwork. On the plus side, I have lots of ideas that have been percolating in the back of my brain that I finally have time to think through and write about.
One that’s come up repeatedly over the last few weeks is alternative learning styles. As part of my program, I’m taking several education classes, and as part of those classes, I’ve had to do a lot of experimenting with different learning styles and teaching methods.
This was extremely hard for me at first. I realized as I went through this process that I am a very traditional type of learner: I do best with a teacher lecturing in front of me and me taking notes. A thick stack of reading? Just hand me a highlighter. Nice clean-edged, formal, organized assignments, with defined rubrics and clear paths to the end. And when I was in school, that was fine – that’s the way things were taught.
But as my teachers exposed me to new methods and techniques, I became increasingly frustrated. Open-ended discussions, Socratic questioning, drawing concept maps and making graphic organizers; I was lost. Pushed out of my comfort zone, I grew stubborn, and I confess to wondering what the point of all this was. Traditional methods had worked just fine when I was in school, all this loosey-goosey stuff was just coddling kids!
But as I read the literature about different learning styles, I came to realize that, well, not everyone thinks like me. And when I thought about how frustrated I was trying to wrap my mind around something like Prezi, I tried to imagine I was an auditory learner, facing a that pile of reading. Or an interpersonal learner looking for a way to make a connection to a geometry proof.
What I realized (after, I confess, much stubbornness on my part) is that I was very lucky; my learning style matched up perfectly with the teaching methods used by my instructors. But what if it hadn’t? As an educator, I realized, it will be my job to make sure that I reach all the kids, not just the ones who think the way I think, and reason the way I reason. And if that means I have to move outside my comfort zone, well, I better get cracking.