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Memorandum

 

To:            Donna Shea, Instructor, et all

From:        Philip Fournier

Date:        Sunday, August 14, 2005

Subject:   WR4: Learning Styles: Assessment and accommodation

 

Wow!  Lots to take in the reading of the information related to this particular assignment, but several things to come to mind regarding myself and also students that I have had in the past.  First, the results to the assessments for myself; 

On the multiple intelligence test, I scored as follows: Linguistic, 11; Interpersonal, 9; Intrapersonal, 6; Bodily/Kinesthetic, 6; Spatial, 4; Musical, 3; Logical-Mathematical, 2. 

On the ELSIE test, I scored zeros in Visual, Written, and Activity.  Only the Listening score was an unusually high +3.

I also took the perceptual modality test from the Learning Styles article and scored a similar almost dead even score of Visual 4, Auditory 3, and Tactile/Kinesthetic 3.

 

My conclusions about myself based on the assessments are that I have multiple ways of assimilating information.  Obviously, my Linguistic and Listening scores are unusually high, which probably explains why I latched onto and learned a foreign language with relative ease, and continue to expand my vocabulary, through means of both hearing and reading.  It also probably explains why I did well in high school, where the traditional classroom tends to reward auditory and listening learners more than visual or kinesthetic learners.  I suppose, but am not sure, that the reason I score evenly on a broad range of learning styles is that I have taken in so much training and instruction from such a wide variety of teachers over the years that I have learned to extract benefit, regardless of the method of instruction chosen.

 

I will attempt to take the various writings in the order in which they are listed in the assignment in hopes of tying the loose ends together, because I find it difficult to organize such a wide range of different research and ideas in a single paper. 

 

The perceptual modalities assessment attempts to determine through which avenue the student, either young person or adult, best takes in information.  This concept is fairly easy to grasp because of the narrowness of its scope.  There are only three possibilities to deal with: The visual, the auditory, and the tactile/kinesthetic learner.  As a student, I did well in all of these areas, which made school easy for me.  But one can see as a teacher how much trouble the kinesthetic learner would have learning from an instructor who had a dead-pan personality and did nothing but lecture.  The question I have is, in the context of a purely lecture type classroom, how would the instructor effectively communicate with the kinesthetic learner?  Because I teach a vocational subject with hands-on lab, I have opportunity within my subject material to touch on all three types of perceptual modalities, and therefore have an excellent chance to meet the learning needs of multiple types of students.  But, as I hope to get a minor in Spanish and may someday aspire to teach the language, I would like to learn ways to adapt foreign language instruction to the kinesthetic learner.

 

In the article on Peer Assistance and Review, much of what was said seemed to me to be intuitive.  For example, “The content model, which is usually used with children, relies on one individual (a teacher) who determines what knowledge or skills need to be learned. Conversely, the process model relies on a collaborative environment whereby learners acquire the necessary resources to obtain information and skills that meet their individual needs.”  This seems almost simplistic and sort of “goes without saying”.  Children are lacking in all the basic skills when they begin school and have no life experience on which to draw.  They are more or less and blank slate on which the teacher begins to draw.  Adults, on the other hand, have a slate full of stuff, so much so that often there is the feeling of “I can’t absorb much more, so whatever you have to teach me, it better be relevant and not useless information.”  I did find some usefulness in the study of the four different learning styles suggested by Kolb; Convergers, Divergers, Assimilators, and Accomodators.   I am a converger, and it is my belief that convergers make the best diagnosticians because they can “acquire knowledge by thinking/analyzing and then practically applying the new ideas and/or concepts.”  This sort of approach is desperately needed within the context of a rapidly advancing, highly technical industry where there simply isn’t time to learn every system.  There must be critical thinking and application of concepts in order to properly diagnose systems in which one has limited knowledge and exposure.  The style of the accommodator is common, but also disastrous.   Accommodators function in an “intuitive, trial-and-error manner and they obtain information from other people rather than through their own analytic abilities.”  There is little room for guesswork, and though there is nothing wrong with getting information from other people, very often that resource is simply not available.

 

One more comment on this article:  The statement is made towards the very end in generalizing adult learners: “Adults prefer face-to-face learning rather than learning through the use of video or audio communications.”  Depending on how universally this is true, it may limit the effectiveness of distance learning for adults.

 

I still have difficulty understand the ELSIE test matrix scoring, perhaps because my Logical-Mathematical learning showed up as a bottom-of-the-barrel 2!  But the concepts of visual, written, listening, and activity are substantially the same as the visual, auditory, and tactile categories from the perceptual modalities assessment.  Only the written category is extra.  The examples given are good, in that is shows how the information could be used in the context of a language class to tailor the instruction methods used in order to raise the average test scores.

 

I have some trouble in doing practical applications of this information in the classroom setting.  I have a distinct advantage, as I have mentioned already, in that I teach automotive vocational education which lends itself to a wide range of methods.  I also realize that some of my controlled curriculum needs to be given more flexibility to apply to students with different learning strengths.  The use of controlled notes, for example, where the student is called upon to fill in blanks in a book, supposes the students are tactile learners and will recall information better if they write it in.  But, if instead they are auditory learners, stopping to write in the information might result in simply distracting them from what they do best; listening.  I need to advise my students to fill in the notes only if they have found in the past that doing so helps them to better recall the information at a later date.  If not, they are better off to copy the information off a fellow student after the instruction is completed.

 

I was helped by the knowledge that teachers tend to deliver information in the manner that suits THEM best.  In other words, they tend to teach to their own learning preference, rather than trying to accommodate their teaching style to the assessed needs of their students.  I have never tried the assessment of my students in this fashion before, but in the future I intend to find one of these assessment tools that will work for me in the context of the vocational subjects that I teach.