The days are long gone when all students were expected to learn in the same way. We recognise now that each of us progresses better with a specific learning style, and we're likely to struggle if forced into a style that doesn't suit us. Unfortunately, the requirements of large classes mean that there's little room to apply this in schools. However, if you're providing private tuition, you're likely to be teaching one to one, or at least in a very small group, allowing you to adapt your teaching style to the student's need. There's only one problem — you have to recognise the right style before you can apply it.
What Are the Learning Styles?
Learning styles have been broken down in various ways, but the three most fundamental are visual, auditory and kinaesthetic. Visual and auditory are reasonably self-explanatory, at least at a basic level, but kinaesthetic may require a little more explanation. Also known as tactile learning, it's the learning style based on physical activities, rather than looking or listening. However, other styles have been identified, most importantly verbal and logical. These represent respectively a preference for learning through processing language and a preference for learning through organising data, including maths.
How Do You Recognise Learning Styles?
Of course, even most adults won't be able to tell you "I'm a visual learner" or "I'm a kinaesthetic learner", and certainly children are unlikely to have any notion of their learning style. This means that you'll have to recognise the signs as they learn, so it's best to start with lessons, or parts of lessons, based on various styles, in order to find out which the student responds best to.
Applying Learning Styles to Your Lessons
If you have a one-to-one student, once you've identified their learning style, as much as possible of your lessons should play to their strengths. If you have a kinaesthetic student, for instance, you may not be able to entirely do away verbal teaching, but lessons should be built around practical tasks and hands-on problems to solve. An auditory learner, on the other hand, will be happier to listen for longer, and problems can often be worked out through dialogue.
Of course, if you're teaching a group, there's no guarantee they'll all have the same learning style. On the other hand, if it's a small group, it shouldn't be too difficult to establish a balance between your students' needs. Make sure at least some of every lesson covers each of the preferred styles, and if possible devise problems and tasks that can be approached in a variety of ways. Do you need more information about approaching your students' needs? Register with TutorExtra for access to our extensive range of resources.