I’m going to tie everything that I have found about learning styles together to show some of the main conclusions that I’ve reached, I’ll be throwing in some additional research to find further explanations too. Sorry it’s so long, there was too much I wanted to say!
Research suggests that the type of activities and the teaching styles used in classrooms are important, and the wrong type of teaching method can really affect the way a student learns (Wentzel, 2002). It is considered that some students have a particular learning style ‘built into them’ and they are unable to learn in another way (Dunn, 1990). For example, if a child learns well using a visual learning style; they will struggle to learn in any other way. However, Pashler et al. (2008). argue against this, suggesting that all people have the ability to learn in any learning style! But they do agree that people can have learning styles that they prefer. I wanted to point this out to explain that I don’t think we HAVE to use a particular learning style, I just think some are more effective than others.
The most effective type of learning style that kept popping up whilst I was studying this area was active learning (Jang, 2008; Sivan et al., 2000). This style of learning is so varied and can appear in many different forms such as; technology, group work, field trips, role playing and games.
There are many reasons to suggest why active learning is an effective learning style. One suggestion is because it’s an engaging learning style; it is considered that the work has more of a personal importance to the student (Jang, 2008). Research has shown that if something is considered important to you, then you are more likely going to be motivated to achieve the goal (Deci et al. 1991). So in terms of education, if students learn in this active engaging way, they consider the task more personally important to them so in theory they will be more motivated to work harder to complete the task.
One popular opinion for why it works so well is because it is an entertaining way of learning so keeps learners interested (Brown & Atkins, 1998; Poudel et al., 2005). The entertainment factor comes across in a number of ways; it can be as simple as having the information delivered in a performance based approach (Brown & Atkins, 1998). It was found that this method actually made students retain and understand the information more than a ‘boring’ approach (Short & Martin, 2011). In addition, Ferdig and Trammel (2004) and Lai (1999) suggest that some learning methods are considered to be a motivating tool because they are deemed interesting due to the novelty of the task; they are a little different to the usual ways we are assessed. For whichever reason it may be, I think it’s important for something to be entertaining because it keeps students enthusiastic about the learning, and a lack of enthusiasm towards something is one of the main influences towards failure (Sasson, 2001).
Another suggestion as to why active learning can be so effective is because active learning activities usually require quite informal learning techniques (Hofstien & Rosenfeld, 1996; Feher, 1990). Although the research I found suggesting this was investigating field trips, I think it can also be related to active learning techniques such as games, as these are also informal. It could also be considered that active learning in terms of games and other informal learning experiences are successful due to their playfulness. Brown (1998) explains how playing can be beneficial for children and also working adults because play lowers stress levels, boosts optimism and motivation, and improves concentration. So by introducing playful informal activities into classrooms this could encourage students to produce better work as they will be more focused on learning.
Critics suggest that active learning isn’t all great though! One of the main concerns is that these novel and active ways of learning can cause anxiety for students (Kagan & Fasan, 1988; Russel, 2008). Although, this can be resolved if the students are well prepared for the activity (Hofstein & Rosenfeld, 1996) and even by making teachers aware of the impact anxiety was having on the learning is thought to help reduce the anxiety (Russel, 2008). Another negative thing about active methods of learning was that faculties were concerned about these active approaches not covering a sufficient amount of information. But Faust and Paulson (1998) argue that even though students won’t be able to cover AS much information, they will be able to retain more because it’s more entertaining. One final criticism is that students can sometimes see the activity as a fun thing and drift their attention on to the fun rather than the learning (Falk, Martin & Balling, 1978). Baring this in mind, it is probably wise to only use these methods as an additional tool to learning rather than a method of its own.
To conclude, research gathered suggests that different learning styles can affect the way students learn, although it is important to remember that this is just a preference and not an innate learning style. Despite this, one of the most effective learning styles that I came across is active learning, as there are a range of methods that this style uses that other learning styles cannot use. These methods are effective in a number of ways; they get students engaged in the task which leads to a sense of personal value to the activity, they are a bit different to other methods so are considered more fun and interesting and also, the informal-playful learning experience can help with motivation towards learning. Despite there being criticisms on this learning style, research has shown ways to overcome these!! Also, it is important to remember that not all students may prefer this learning style and it can be distracting if used ALL the time, so it should only be used as an addition to learning along with traditional methods (Felder, 1993).
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