Learning Styles 2.0: An Introduction To The Way We Learn
In all the years we have spent in the education industry, A Team Tuition and its team have absolutely never met the same student twice.
By that, we mean to say that every single student that we have worked with is absolutely different, and requires an individual, personalised structure to their learning. Some may show similarities, which in turn allow students to be sorted into a few different groups; however, it is simply absurd to treat all students as if they are the same.
And yet, our education industry does exactly that. Try as many, many teachers might to personalise their teaching for each individual in their class, it is near impossible to achieve. This is due to the tight constraints placed on teachers and schools by the Australian government to fulfil specific criteria and curriculum.
This is the primary reason we are so passionate about tutoring students. Our staff are trained to focus on each student individually. While we use a specific program (The Creating A Students program) to help guide students’ learning, all aspects of the program are customisable to each student.
Most importantly, the way we apply our program and tutoring style is specific according to the student themselves. To do so, we must take into account and discuss one of the most important aspects of a student’s learning journey: their learning language.
What Do We Mean By “Learning Language”?
The foundation for learning languages was proposed by Walter Burke Barbe, who identified three main types of learning that students tend to lean towards. Aptly named the VAK model, the acronym stands for Visual, Aural, and Kinaesthetic learning. They were each referred to as a ‘learning style’, and constricted individuals to fit one specific style.
At A Team Tuition, we prefer to call them ‘languages’ to highlight it is how a student ‘communicates’ their learning. The following example shows why:
Imagine you are a traditionally Spanish-speaking individual, with very little knowledge of English. You enter into a new atmosphere of a classroom, and suddenly, you are expected to completely conform to speaking solely English, learning in English, and having many people around you completely excel in doing so.
You are lost, and confused, and while you can grasp some elements of the learning due to your limited knowledge, you feel completely overwhelmed at the amount of effort it is taking you to do so. You have the choice of attempting to conform to the English-only environment around you; however, no one is attempting to help you bridge the gap between Spanish and English, or expand on your knowledge at all.
What choice do you have but to give up?
You may think that this is far-fetched, but students are actually experiencing this exact process daily. Classrooms typically only utilise one specific language of learning (in most cases, aural learning), and so other students drag behind, feeling confused, lost, and helpless. The most disappointing aspect of this is that the student themselves don’t understand why they don’t understand, and so are stuck in an endless cycle, forever believing themselves to be ‘dumb’ or ‘not smart enough’.
The solution is incredibly simple on paper, and should realistically be the primary goal when it comes to educating students effectively. It is also incredibly difficult to implement in classrooms due to the tight constraints of school curriculums.
To add fuel to the fire, the actual research behind the VAK method is incredibly under-developed. The practices they used to help teach students during their study were often ridiculous, and many people criticized the work for boxing students into a singular learning style.
Now, I can hear you asking why I mention this failure when our company uses this method. It’s an easy question to answer:
Just like we took education systems and developed them to actually effectively teach students, we took the bare bones of the VAK method and took it multiple steps it further. We not only work on developing a student’s dominant languages, but we help them grow in their weaker languages as well, allowing them to learn in ANY environment. The practices that our A Team Tuition tutors use to tailor learning to a learning language is not only effective, but genuinely aimed to be fun and exciting for students.
Learning Languages & The A Team Tuition Method
Now, stick with me for a bit. The science behind learning styles can seem quite confusing, but it’s genuinely very simple. It’s easy to understand if you think of it as the preferred way an individual (in our case, a student) absorbs and interacts with their environment.
Our brain uses our 5 senses to take in the world around us. These senses are connected to our brain through what is called a “neural pathway”; imagine a series of long tubes, carrying parcels of information from our senses to our brain. Just like a muscle, these pathways can be trained and strengthened.
We are rarely actively aware of our use of these pathways, and so they develop without us even realising. It’s for this reason that, as we grow up, certain pathways are more strengthened than others – however, all are used.
For this reason, people find that their area of learning isn’t easy to define. This is because it’s very rare to see someone be dominant in only one sense, and therefore in only one learning style.
We refer to this as ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ learning languages. Not to be confused with primary school and secondary school – rather, one’s primary learning language is their first learning language, and secondary is their, well, secondary learning language!
Take, for instance, a contrast example of two stereotypes. One is the “dumb jock”, and another is the “band geek”. Think of their skills and talents: an athlete possesses physical strength and motion awareness, while a musician has a trained ear and frequently practices writing sheet music, songs, or notations.
When they’re both put into a classroom environment, the differences between these two is obvious. It would be naturally harder for an athlete to sit still and focus on listening and writing, compared to someone who plays a musical instrument and is consistently taking down notes, sitting still, and so on!
BUT, if these roles were reversed, and the class was taught in a way that needed them to use their body, build something, or to experiment whilst learning on a topic, the musician would feel distracted or uncoordinated! Sure, the athlete would be in their element – they would be engaged, focused, and having fun.
The danger comes here is that the athlete still does not take in the information through a secondary learning language – so they remember the steps that taught the lesson, but they fail to recall the reason behind the steps.
Don’t get me wrong – change can and will come when a student is taught in the way that is best suited to them. They will be more engaged with their work, more focused, and thus more exposed to information.
However, the most impacting, true change comes when a student begins to strengthen their weaknesses. Schools are obligated to assess almost every aspect of a student’s performance. This means that students can’t avoid doing a written exam, nor can they avoid performing a speech, or handing in an assignment they created. There will come a time they have to do what they aren’t the best at.
But, if a student uses their dominant learning language proactively, they increase their understanding and engagement. Once this is done, they can focus on matching their work to their secondary learning languages – testing their understanding, by presenting it in an unfamiliar and uncomfortable context.
If a student is able to do this, they become more than become an A-standard student.
They become a superstar.
Every single A Team Tuition staff member and tutor is trained to find a student’s learning language (both dominant and secondary), and draw their talent and understanding out of them through tutoring and mentoring. We’d love to give you some insight into what exactly that entails, as we explain and expand on each learning language itself. See below for the links to each learning language: