It is now recognized that individuals learn in different ways -- they perceive and process information in various ways. The learning styles theory suggests that the way that children acquire information has more to do with whether the educational experience is slanted toward their specific style of learning than their intelligence.
The foundation of the learning styles methodology is based in the classification of psychological types. The research demonstrates that, due to heredity factors, upbringing, and present circumstantial demands, different students have an inclination to both perceive and process information differently. These different ways of learning consist of: 1) concrete or abstract perceivers, where concrete perceivers acquire information through direct experience of doing, sensing, and feeling, and abstract perceivers, instead accept new ideas through analyzing, observing and thinking; 2) active or reflective processors -- active processors understand a new experience by immediately utilizing new information, and reflective processors analyze an experience by reflecting on it. Traditional schooling prefers abstract perceiving and reflective processing, and the kinds of learning is not rewarded and reflected in curriculum, instruction, and assessment nearly as much.
The classroom setting can also have a big effect on the amount of learning that occurs. Here again, people are different and have different environmental preferences. Some of the common learning styles and environmental factors that should be considered when attempting to create the best learning conditions include (Moore, 1992):
1) Structure: The majority of learners does best when the instruction offers a logical, ordered and strictly defined lesson that offers the goal and specific steps to complete it. This structure benefits those students who use rubrics so they can better follow instruction and assignments. However, there are some students who do not do well with structure and want to have choices and be innovative.
2) Social: Some children benefit significantly from team activities and being paired with another student when possible. However, individuals who are self-learners should not frequently be forced into this type of joint learning environment. Although collaborative learning is an important learning tool, especially for future work situations, some more introverted students could have trouble taking part in group assignments.
3)Audible: Children's senses respond differently in learning situations. Some students learn mostly through listening and doing well with lectures and class discussions. Although educators are finding that the traditional lecture approach may be the least effective approach to teaching, some learners find it best to simply listen. The hearing of these students may also be heightened to external sounds and be distracted when the class has a lot of commotion.
4) Ocular: Similarly, some students do better with ocular stimulation. They like when information uses color for distinction and images along with written information. They enjoy reading instructions by themselves to enhance their own learning. These students find it best when they use different color highlighters when reading and taking notes. However, they may be more sensitive to visual stimuli.
5) Tactile: Hands-on activities normally are productive for students. Yet some find such work more useful than others. Some learners actually increase their learning potential when given the opportunity to do something alone; particularly in a science or math classroom, many opportunities of learning by doing exist.
6) Formal vs. Informal: In a formal environment, there is the traditional desk and chair with or without a table, and in an informal setting there are alternative places to sit and study, such as the floor, a couch or a beanbag chair. Students study and learn differently depending on their posture. If a student is slouching in a chair, it may be because he or she feels more comfortable learning this way.
7) Noise in classroom: This goes hand-in-hand with the structure and audible factors. Some pupils cannot learn when there are other sounds, while others find it calming and will do their homework easily with music and headphones. The availability of different study areas can be quite helpful; one room is a quiet study room where the noise is kept to a minimum, and the other one is where there is background sound.
8) Temperature: People always feel differently with the temperature of the room, some liking it warm and others on the cooler side. The temperature also impacts learning ability. If a pupil is feeling uncomfortable from being too hot or cold, it is more difficult for him or her to concentrate on the work on hand. Teachers are suggested to keep the rooms as cool as practical; those who are cool can put on another layer of clothing.
9) Amount of Light: Some students' eyes are more sensitive than others, and they will react differently to the amount and type of light in the room. There are pupils who would do better if they have more light, like an individual reading lamp. Others find that they would rather have it darker, and get a headache if the light is too bright. In this case, a compromise can be found, or some students may sit closer to the windows if there are some in the room.
10) Movement: When watching students, some will keep very still and others will continually move around in their seat. It is best for all children to take breaks every half hour or so and stretch. Research shows that the brain only takes 30 seconds to rest and recharge.
In order to fit different learning styles into the curriculum, educators have to place an emphasis on intuition, feeling and imagination, as well as the traditional skills of analysis, reason and sequential problem solving. As students get older, they also will be more aware of their best learning style. Educators must place emphasis on intuition, feeling, sensing, and imagination, in addition to the traditional skills of analysis, reason, and sequential problem solving. In addition, teachers should design their form of instruction to enhance the different learning styles and to use various combinations of experiencing, thinking, conceptualizing, and experimenting. Instructors can introduce a wide variety of experiential elements into the classroom, such as sound, music, visuals, movement, experience, and discussions. Similarly, the type of assessments should emphasize the development of whole brain capacity and all the different learning styles.
Closely aligned to different learning styles is the fact that students have varying forms of intelligence. Gardner (1983) developed the theory of human intelligence that suggests there are at least seven ways that people perceive and understand the world. He labels each a distinct "intelligence" or a set of skills that allow people to find and resolve genuine problems they face. Gardner defines an "intelligence" as a group of abilities with: 1) somewhat autonomous from other human capacities; 2) a core set of information-processing operations; 3) a distinct history in stages of development passed through and 4) plausible roots in evolutionary history.
Although suggesting his list of intelligences may not be all inclusive, Gardner identifies the following seven: 1) Verbal-Linguistic -- the ability to use words and language; 2) Logical-Mathematical -- the capacity for inductive and deductive thinking and reasoning, as well as the use of numbers and the recognition of abstract patterns;
3) Visual-Spatial -- the ability to visualize objects and spatial dimensions, and create internal images and pictures;4) Body-Kinesthetic -- the wisdom of the body and the ability to control physical motion; 5) Musical-Rhythmic -- the ability to recognize tonal patterns and sounds, as well as a sensitivity to rhythms and beats; 6) Interpersonal -- the capacity for person-to-person communications and relationships; 7) Intrapersonal -- the spiritual, inner states of being, self-reflection, and awareness;
In order to use Gardner's approach in a curriculum, it is necessary to alter the traditional schooling approach that heavily favors the verbal-linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences. He recommends a more balanced curriculum that includes the arts, self-awareness, communication, and physical education. The instructional approach would include methods appealing to all the intelligences, such as storytelling, reflection, team learning and role playing. Students would be assessed based on the diversity of intelligences, as well as self-assessment tools that help students understand their intelligences.
With the emergence and growth of the global economy, more countries are analyzing international comparisons to assess how well their education is relatively performing. According to the International Center for Education Statistics' 2007 Comparative Indicators, such comparisons shed light on a number of issues, from access to education to equity of the resources devoted to educational achievement. They provide the opportunity of comparing various areas of the countries' education systems, assess these systems' performance, and identify potential strategies for student improvement. For example, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) assessed students in fourth and eighth grade in mathematics and science in 2003. TIMSS presents the percentage of fourth grade students reaching the four international benchmarks (low, intermediate, high, and advanced) that were established in each of the two subject areas. On the TIMSS 2003 fourth-grade mathematics assessment, students in Japan outperformed students in all G-8 countries (U.S., U.K.,…