Teaching to Diverse Learning Styles

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While questions as to the validity of learning style instruments can be asked, there is certainly no harm in considering the diverse learning styles of the students enrolled in your courses.  In fact, having a general awareness of learning styles can help you during the course planning and development stages.  For example, displaying bulleted PowerPoint slides does not appeal to the students who learn best visually through graphical representations, but the approach does appeal to students who learn best aurally and by reading.  The more inclusive approach would be to present a combination of text and graphics to meet the needs of more students with diverse learning styles enrolled in your course.

As we approach summer, a time when many faculty redesign and redevelop their course materials, consider how the Technology for Teaching & Learning team can help you adapt your content for the diverse learners in your classes.   Below are several technologies or technology-related ideas you might explore:

  • Inserting Graphics and Images into PPT:  Graphics can help to demonstrate key points and also provide visual interest in your presentation.
  • Digital Pen tools:  Using the Sympodium or Wacom displays installed in e-Classrooms allows you to mark up digital content on-the-fly during lecture. Students that process information visually and aurally best can watch you work through an equation, or annotate/highlight text-based content.  Additionally, using digital pen tools at the podium instead of the chalk board allows you to face your students so that you can gauge their engagement in the material just by glancing up quickly at their faces while lecturing.
  • Share Audio/Video or Simulations:  YouTube and other video or simulation respositories (e.g. MERLOT and Khan Academy) have a variety of content out there that can support your content.  Consider incorporating short video clips in your lecture to break up the content, while also demonstrating content that can be difficult to explain and/or understand.  Integrating this type of content meets the needs of kinesthetic learners, or those who learn through hands-on experiences, even if it is just reflecting/visualizing the experience.
  • Think-Pair-Share: Chrys Demetry has successfully used the Think-Pair-Share method in her own teaching to engage her students.  In this method, Chrys deploys a question to students using clickers, and the students work together to solve the question/problem before clicking back in as a group.  This approach encourages students to discuss the problem and employs peer instruction techniques that can support better retention of the material.
  • Lecture Capturing:  We recognize that it can be challenging to convert/present much of your course content into different formats.  Lecture Capturing would allow those students that are struggling with retaining content that cannot be presented in a way that appeals and engages them in the learning process during lecture.  However, it does offer them the opportunity to go back in and review the lecture on their own time, pausing and reflecting on the material where necessary.

These are just a few ways technology can be used to help you address the needs of your diverse students.  To discuss specific ideas with a member of the TTL team, send email to atc-ttc@wpi.edu or call 508-831-5220!

For reference, here are links to several popular Learning Style Inventories:

VARK Learn (A Guide to Learning Styles): http://vark-learn.com/english/index.asp
Index of Learning Styles Questionnaire: http://www.engr.ncsu.edu/learningstyles/ilsweb.html
A Learning Style Survey for College: http://www.metamath.com/multiple/multiple_choice_questions.html
Learning Style Inventory: http://www.personal.psu.edu/bxb11/LSI/LSI.htm
What’s YOUR Learning Style?: http://people.usd.edu/~bwjames/tut/learning-style/
Learning Style Inventory: http://ttc.coe.uga.edu/surveys/LearningStyleInv.html

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