'Students' learning rather than teachers’ teaching is increasingly seen to be at the crux of the education process; the emphasis has moved from inputs to outcomes’ (Bryson, 1998).
Research into learning styles is confusing because there is no classification of styles. There is however evidence that:
- there is a significant difference in the way learners approach learning
- all learners can benefit from experiencing different approaches.
Practices or strategies for teaching and learning are many and varied and depend on the area of the curriculum being addressed and the learning and teaching styles of the pupils and teacher.
Because of the pressure to cover the wide content of the national curriculum and examination syllabi, teachers tend to use reading writing and listening as an economic way of covering the content. This makes no allowance for the different types of learner in the classroom and can therefore disadvantage them.
Different types of learner are the:
- visual learners prefer to see information and they can be sub-divided into those who prefer to see diagrams and pictures and those who like to read text
- auditory learners: who prefers to hear information
- kinaesthetic learners prefer to learn by touching, manipulating and doing (this type of learner is greatly disadvantaged in an environment which does not allow them to engage physically with the work).
Teachers also have a preferred style of teaching and it is important that they make a conscious effort to accommodate the different learning styles in their class.
Although children have a preferred style of learning they should be encouraged to develop a range of approaches. The teacher should provide a variety of activities within a session to better accommodate different styles of learning. It is also important to provide breaks in the lesson in order to sustain the attention of the class.
Because they have been successful in a particular mode, teachers also have a preferred style of teaching and it is important that they make a conscious effort to accommodate the different learning styles in their class by using a variety of approaches in their teaching.
Some areas of the curriculum can promote and develop particular learning styles:
- art and design could promote visual perception
- PE could promote kinaesthetic learning
- auditory learning could be developed through discussion of science investigations
- researching a topic using ICT could provide a vehicle for all three types of learning.
Discussion before writing is essential for children with English as an additional language and special educational needs but it is motivating for all pupils and also helps improve their writing.
Children working in groups
In many classrooms children work in groups of different sizes. The teacher must decide on what type of grouping to use. This will be defined by the nature of the task and the needs of the children.
- Group children of similar ability when you want to target them for support or assessment.
- If appropriate pair children with differing abilities so one can support the other.
- A group may have the support of a language support teacher or a teaching assistant. If there are other adults involved in the children's learning, they must have a clear brief and a copy of the lesson plan.
Children learn best when they understand what they have to do, and grasp the purpose of the activity and are actively engaged.
Within the groups children may:
- work independently on the same task
- work independently on different tasks
- work independently on the same task but come together to a shared solution
- work jointly on the same task.
When children work collaboratively they develop many skills including co-operation, listening and decision–making. This will only be successful however if the children understand the purpose and parameters of their working brief.
It is vital for the beginning teacher to explore and experiment with different pedagogies. In order to inform understanding of different teaching strategies, it would be beneficial to know more about how children learn. The research can help refine the views of the teacher and understand more fully which methods work best for different types of learning. These learning theories include:
- behaviourism, leading to social and cognitive learning
- constructivism and socio-constructivist theory
- zone of proximal development (Vygotsky)
- Howard Gardner’s theories of multiple intelligences.
Recommended further reading
- DfES (2004) Primary National Strategy. Excellence and Enjoyment: learning and teaching in the primary years/ Classroom community, collaborative and personalised learning
- Smith A. (2001) Accelerated Learning in Practice Network Educational Press. Stafford
- Pollard A. (2003) Reflective Teaching Continuum, London
Ready, steady, teach!
Knowing where to turn for help and advice before you start your student placement and first teaching job will assist you to thrive, not just survive. This handy booklet - new for 2013 - not only includes tips on things like finding your first teaching job, settling in during the first few weeks, parents' evenings and writing reports, but also answers commonly asked questions and explains how ATL can help and support you. This edition replaces two previous ATL publications, Into the Classroom and Ready, steady, teach!, which were specifically for student teachers and newly qualified teachers respectively.
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