Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Peculiarities of Learning Foreign Languages: Learning Styles

Student learning charasterictics
Student learning characteristics (Wikipedia)
by Elena V Zhdanova

Learning styles are various approaches or ways of learning. They involve education methods, particular to an individual that are presumed to allow that individual to learn best.

Most people prefer an identifiable method of interacting with, taking in, and processing stimuli or information.

Based on this concept, the idea of individualized "learning styles" originated in the 1970s, and acquired "enormous popularity".

Today we can speak about different styles of learning, which depend on our personality and psychological qualities. What we should take into account defining our learning styles is the following:

1) interest, attitudes and sources of energy
- extroversion (orientation towards the external world)
- introversion (orientation towards inner world)

2) preferences for gathering information
- sensing (obtaining information from sensory input)
- intuition (gathering information by going beyond the immediate experiences of life to consider possibilities, probabilities and other aspects that are not immediately available to our senses).

3) how judgements and decisions are made
- thinking (becoming objective, logical, personal, looking for causes of events, and pros and cons of every situation)
- feelings (subjective and personal judging of the situation)

4) lifestyle orientations
- judgement
- perception

Based on this information different widely used models of learning styles were appeared. One of them is the Index of learning Styles developed by Richard Felder and Linda Silverman in 1980s.

According to this model four dimensions of learning styles are apparent:

Having read the information about all these dimensions it was difficult for me to define my prevailing learning style. But the special questionnaire helped me solve this problem. It was suggested to visit the special site and to answer a number of questions about my own attitude to these or those tasks in learning practice.

My result was quite good from my point of view. Almost all dimensions are in balance, only in one dimension visual-verbal I had a score 5-7 (a moderate preference for the dimension Verbal).

Having done this questionnaire I came to the conclusion that it's essential to be a balanced learner e.g. not to have a prevailing learning style, but to have abilities to acquire different types of information: visual, verbal, through our senses etc.

So I had to think over how to provide my students with a balanced learning experience. And I understood that it's necessary to use this questionnaire for them in order to point out their preferences in learning. And after that I should use different types of presenting information and also different kinds of tasks and projects thinking about the prevailing learning styles of my students.

For instance, if I present a new topic it's better use visual presentation which students can see while I am speaking. Visual learners can summarize this information using Mind Maps. Verbal learners should present a short summary or rendering of this information.

For those who like facts and details (sensory learners) we may give a task to analyze additional information at home and prepare a short report of important facts concerning this topic. For sequential learners you may give a problem-solving task (state a problem and give them some time to find alternative decisions).

And after that it's good to use Round table tasks or Debates concerning the problem of this topic (doing this task active learners can demonstrate their abilities and at the same time reflective learners can take part in decision-making).

Summing it up I would like to underline that it's important to have a personalized approach to every student paying attention to his demands and expectations. That is why teachers should be creative in teaching and use a wide range of tasks and activities in order to help students with different learning styles.

Elena Zhdanova

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Elena_V_Zhdanova

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