Embracing The Learning Styles of Adolescent Learners

When designing a learning environment and academic activities for adolescents, we as teachers have to be sensitive to the individual divergence of our students. Students have a variety of ways that they prefer to learn.

There is a gigantic body of academic research on learning styles and developmental psychology, but for simplicity’sake I will touch upon Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory.

According to Dr. Gardner’s writings on multiple intelligences, people learn in different ways. Here is a list of the multiple intelligences he has defined:

  1. Linguistic
  2. Logical-mathematical
  3. Musical
  4. Spatial
  5. Bodily-Kinesthetic
  6. Intrapersonal
  7. Interpersonal

School, specifically mathematics, prefers people who learn best using logical-mathematical and spatial strategies. Number sense, algebra, calculus and statistics can be described as logical processes. Spatial skills can be developed through the study of geometry, engineering and mapping. It is in the mathematics classroom that these skills can be developed for those who prefer to learn in other ways.

However, it may be beneficial to incorporate other learning styles when designing mathematics activities.

Here are a few ways that the other five intelligences can be incorporated into mathematics instruction to ensure that diverse learners are engaged:

  • Linguistic – students can write a short story, persuasive speech or descriptive essay about mathematics or philosophy of mathematics
  • Intrapersonal – students can be asked to reflect on how they use mathematics each day or on their philosophies regarding the usefulness in studying mathematics
  • Interpersonal – students can work in groups to investigate mathematical problems, design new products/machines using mathematics, analyze existing models, etc.

Using all of these domains in mathematics instruction whenever possible will ensure that learners are having their preferences respected. Students will also have more opportunities to challenge their perceptions of their own learning styles by being directed to learn in a way that they are not used to. Think of the typical stereotype of a math genius. Perhaps he/she has superior logical skills, but they may develop better interpersonal skills during a group investigation. Incorporating multiple intelligence theory into activity design helps all learners.

 

Do you diversify your instruction to appeal to a variety of learning preferences? Please feel free to share in the comments.




Fun Assessment as a Daily OT: Kickball, Card Games and Math Bingo

 

As a daily supply teacher, I like to use subtle methods to see how the students are doing with fitness, oral communication, listening, self-advocacy, cognitive, prosocial (cooperative) and self-regulation skills.

I try to avoid detracting students away from their tasks by doing too many teacher-directed diagnostic assessments. I would be more likely to do formal surveys and inventories of the students if I was responsible for them for a full-year LTO or permanent position.

This does not mean that I avoid trying to get to know them, as I will most likely be working with them as time goes by.

For me, the easiest, least confrontational and most fun way to get to know the students is by playing games. In secondary school, I do not use these methods as often as most students appreciate the work period that they are given. So, for the purposes of this article, I will discuss games I facilitate for students at the elementary level.

Here are three games that I end up playing the most:

Kickball

In this game, most schools are equipped to play and everyone gets a turn. You can see a side to students who thrive by using their physical fitness as part of a team, and you get to see how people react to failure and success of self and peers.

Card Games

Card games such as Uno, Go-Fish, Crazy 8s and even Poker (no bets) require patience, turn-taking and accepting bad luck. You can gauge prosocial, self-regulation, oral communication, listening and self advocacy skills while playing card games with small groups.

Math Bingo

A classic, whole class game, math bingo (with student-generated math solutions as the “numbers”) is a good way to see how people handle luck, uncertainty, losing and winning. Students still need to listen, use cognitive skills and be cooperative with peers if they want to play.

I know that secondary school is a place where change is not as rapid as I discussed above. However, I believe these games can be modified to suit the interests of teens.

Do you like to use games as assessment tools? Please feel free to share your experiences below!