Should Instruction be Matched to Student Learning Style?
Should Instruction be Matched to Student Learning Style?
What makes a good teacher? This is a question which every teacher must be fully considered. A great deal has been said of teaching as one of the most important professions from the standpoint of human welfare. Properly understood, however, it is also one of the most technical, difficult, and challenging professions.
To know what makes a good teacher, one must know the task of a teacher. Experiences of successful teachers have shown that the teacher’s job is not confined solely to the instruction or transmission of knowledge and information (Lorince, 2003). Some modern technological devices such as teaching machines, television, film, and computers can do that. What is more important is the teacher’s personal influence in promoting the development of basic skills, understanding, work habits, desirable attitudes, values, judgments, and adequate personal adjustment of the learners (Connell, 1998). It can be said that the teaching instruction is effective to the extent that the teacher acts in ways that are favorable to the development of the desirable personality of the learner.
From this, we may say that teaching profession is important in molding and shaping not only the intellectual capacities of an individual but also his/her behavior. With respect to the above discussion, this paper discusses issues concerning instructions in accordance to learning styles.
Background Information of Learning Styles
In order to provide effective teaching-learning process, the educational system must be able to know first the learning strategies of each student. Students have different learning strategies and personalities for acquiring and practicing knowledge. Herein, it can be said that students can have different learning strategies to improve on a specific learning tasks (Young, 2005). In order for students to enhance their academic skills there are three common strategies and technique or learning styles.
Self-regulation strategies or self study. One of the most important strategies that students used to improve their learning skills is the self-regulated approach or through studying by themselves. Consequently, self-regulated learning encompass the learning technique as well as the mental processes that individual learners deliberately involve to help themselves learned perform better in terms of academic needs. Similarly, it is also noted that the self-regulation learning approach is also required for successful engagement in a large number of activities, whether they are intrinsically motivated or extrinsically motivated (Gremli, 1996). Different authors have stated that self-regulated learner is known to be empowered and able to make sense of the learning and writing task, to generate goals and strategies, and to implement actions to meet such goals within a learning context (Young, 2005). Whenever students have a free time, they tried to study by themselves by reading different books about how to write efficiently. They also try to enhance their learning skills by knowing the importance of subject matter. By self-monitoring, they knew if they were progressing or not.
Studying With other people. Another important learning strategy to improve the student learning capabilities is through collaboration with other people or by studying with other people. Being able to be with some someone who can understand the student’s weakness and strength in learning the subject matter really helps them to learn more. Through this, they were able to know if they are doing the right thing or if they still need improvement (Reimer, 2001). Through the help of other people, they can be with someone who can given me tips and important information on how to learning the subject matter efficiently and appropriately. When student(s) is/are with his/her friends, they try to have some brainstorming to know if they did right or not.
Practicing and Familiarization. Another learning approach used to improve learning the subject matter is through practice and familiarity. In order to enhance students’ learning capabilities reviewing the subject matter and familiarity helps in learning a success. For instance, students have been able to learn writing academic English by starting a diary, in which they make a note on everything that is appealing and interesting for them or anything that happens to me. By writing more and more, they can see that their grammar and sentence making are also improving (Young, 2005). Accordingly, keeping a diary is noted to be one of the best ways in enhancing writing skills in foreign language. In addition, learning mathematics or even science was normally appreciated by students that keep on practicing and solving various mathematical or science problems.
From this, it is true enough to say that there is no single approach in improving Academic learning skills. Each student have a unique learning strategies and the role of the educational system is to determine these strategies and create instructions that would enhanced this innate learning strategies of these students.
Advocates of Learning Styles and Case Studies
In many ways, the application of learning theories and styles can bring about changes in the learner. In fact, advocates of learning styles, school administration and teachers worldwide had made used of these theories to teach and learn effectively. There is Maslow’s humanistic theory, B.F. Skinner’s operant conditioning, Vygotsky’s socio-cultural theory to cite a few. With our example of learning the English language, two theories will be related and analyzed with it: the Behaviorism Theory and the Socio-cultural Theory.
In the behaviorism theory, it states that animal and human learning is focused on objectively observable behaviors and discounts mental activities. Thus, theorists define learning as nothing more than the acquisition of new behavior. In the experiments done by the behaviorists, conditioning is identified as a universal learning process. Ivan Pavlov and John B. Watson developed a framework which emphasized observable processes (environmental stimuli and behavioral responses). The result was a new approach, behaviorism, which grew in popularity for some fifty years, becoming the dominant framework for experimental research. Their emphasis on the environment as the stimuli in which the behavioral response is dependent makes their theory a good basis in looking at student learning. That is, the student’s behavior towards learning is also determined by the environmental stimuli. The environmental stimuli may be the classroom, the society and all the materials used for teaching.
Relating this theory to our learning style example, McBride-Chang conducted a study among kindergarten Hong Kong students learning to read in English and found out that giving a stimulus to students learning to read enhances their learning capacities. In this study, it was concluded that young students, regardless of their educational and cultural background, appear to show a remarkable degree of linguistic insight when dealing with printed words. Similar insights have been found among older readers of Chinese (Chan & Nunes, 1998; Ho & Bryant, 1997; and Shu & Anderson, 1997).Studies of the acquisition of spoken and signed languages provide further evidence of students’s ability to learn and create structure in language (e.g., Bickerton, 1984; and Senghas & Coppola, 2001). The results suggest that second language learners of English are remarkably similar to native English learners in their acquisition of the alphabetic principle, despite great differences in curricula and language exposure. This is in the same way as the theory of behaviorism specifically classical conditioning, wherein the printed words served as the stimuli for the students to read.
I have mentioned earlier that learning the English language takes much skill as there is a great difference between western and eastern cultures. Thus, it is appropriate to relate this learning example to Vygotsky’s socio-cultural theory as well. The socio-cultural view of learning explains educational success and failure in a social context. You succeed or fail in educational institutions depending upon your upbringing, your cultural frame of reference. The importance of social and cultural influences upon learning cannot be underestimated. It is hard to separate the learning outcomes of an individual from their learning environment. Some theorists consider the learner as inseparable from their learning environment – particularly in the social and cultural context in which learning occurs.
Vygotsky believed that this life long process of development was dependent on social interaction and that social learning actually leads to cognitive development. This phenomenon is called the Zone of Proximal Development. Vygotsky describes it as "the distance between the actual development level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers" (Vygotsky, 1978). In other words, a student can perform a task under adult guidance or with peer collaboration that could not be achieved alone. The Zone of Proximal Development bridges that gap between what is known and what can be known. Vygotsky claimed that learning occurred in this zone.
Present Other Possible Instructional Pedagogy for Effective Learning other than Learning Styles and Case Studies
The term direct instruction as defined by Slavin is used to describe lessons in which the teacher is in control of the transfer of research-supported knowledge directly to students, structuring class rime to reach a clearly defined set of objectives as efficiently as possible (Pearson Education, Inc., 2005). Student-centered instruction or the constructivist approach is a kind of instruction wherein the teacher is seen as the facilitator of learning by delivering lessons in a manner that makes information meaningful and relevant to the students and giving them the opportunity to discover and apply ideas on their own (Pearson Education, Inc., 2005).
As for the other possible instructional pedagogy for effective learning other than learning styles and case studies, direct instruction requires a high degree of teacher direction and a focus on academic tasks. Teacher presentation, demonstration, drill and practice, posing of numerous factual questions, and immediate feedback and correction are all key elements. Advocates of the student-centered approach claims that students learn more on experiences than theory. This kind of instruction consists of hands-on activities like projects, group work, and field trips. It is an approach that view academic content as inherently dull while advancing cooperative learning which is regarded as an effective way to learning since students are given a chance to interact with each other thereby making the flow and sharing of knowledge vital (Schug, 2006).
In a direct instruction lesson the teacher usually spends some time lecturing a well-defined body of knowledge and skills for the students to master (University of Saskatchewan, 2006 and Pearson Education, Inc., 2005). Afterwards, the teacher guides the students through a complex problem, with the problem broken down into simple steps; then the students are given, one by one, the simple steps to carry out on their own; finally, the students are given one or many sample problems to accomplish on their own (University of Saskatchewan, 2006). Student-centered Instruction, on the other hand, is premised on the notion that students are not merely passive recipients of knowledge and information provided by the teacher to them. They are also capable of figuring out information and constructing their own pool of knowledge (Pearson Education, Inc., 2005). They are allowed to identify the paths they find most fruitful in constructing their knowledge based on what they know and what they need to know (Ridgeway, Titterington and McCann, 1999).
Student-centered approach to learning is deemed effective because of its ability to make students figure out what information they need to know and then learn from it. Pedersen & Williams (2004) claimed that the students have ownership of goals and activities. They are given freedom to choose their actions in order to meet their goals making the whole process meaningful and personal. This situation encourages depth of understanding and an intrinsic motivational orientation. Direct Instruction is a developmental-logical progression of learning where students are always prepared for the new learning in current lessons because of previous lessons and exercises and next lessons always teach students to use what they have recently learned. There is no inert knowledge; whatever students learn is relevant to their current and future activities (Kozloff & Bessellieu, 2000).
In the classroom, the procedure is much more detailed, and the teacher has to guide the student’s learning. Students will probably not be able to recognize the problem without the guidance of the teacher (Lorince, 2003). To raise the problem, the teacher must set the stage. The teacher should assist them by directing their observation to related data and recalling past experiences that have been bearing on the problem (Robertson, 2001). It will be better if the students were to state the problems of themselves.
The next step is working on the problem. This involves organization of facts, principle, and ideas pertinent to the problem, selecting a hypothesis and trying it out, gathering data through reading, observing, etc., evaluating the solution, and forming a conclusion (Robertson, 2001). Although the students do the work, the teacher directs it. He assists the students to learn procedures in selecting a hypothesis, gathering and organizing materials to be used in the solution, evaluating hypothesis or data used in solving the problem, and formulating conclusions or summarizing findings. Before the work begins, however, the teacher needs to motivate the class so that they will develop favorable attitudes.
The last step is checking or verifying results and applying these, if necessary. The teacher also aids the students in learning how to check or verify and summarize results. Exercises or problems must be provided by the teacher for practical application of the understanding gained. If the teacher has stimulated a desire on the part of the class to use the knowledge gained, the lesson is successful.
Present other Possible Challenges of Implementing Learning Styles across the school in Singapore
In Singapore, the student’s learning development is determined by a lot of different factors (Forss, 2007). One of the most important among them is the learning environment. The learning environment is not only limited in the classroom but it extends to the whole community in which the student interacts.
First let us start with the classroom. The structure and the design of the classroom must be made in such a way that the students feel comfortable and it must be conducive to learning. It is important to note the phrase conducive to learning to differentiate it from a classroom where the students feel like playing all the time. The classroom must be a place where students are valued as individuals and where their needs for attention, approval, and affection are supported (Yamashita, 2002). They are also places where students can be helped to acquire a strong foundation in the knowledge and skills needed for school success. Taking the example in certain primary school in Singapore (Pakir, 1999), the students should be into games and activities while learning their English lessons. The students’ learning capacity can be further enhanced through social involvement. Classroom activities and participation should be included in the learning process. This does not only develop the learners’ abilities but also make them more confident and independent. Their thinking skills will also be enhanced.
The student’s learning environment is not only confined in the four corners of the classroom (Pakir, 1999). It is necessary that the student’s resources for learning must be extended in the outside world. For example, Internet facilities may be made available for them. This suggestion needs to be verified since the internet has lot information to offer. It should be the responsibility of the teacher to guide the students in surfing the internet. There must be a guideline as to which sites are particularly helpful in the student’s learning and education. The students must also be encouraged to visit the library more often. The different library materials and references could extend the student’s learning resources to further horizons (Pakir, 1999). All this helps them learn more and more about their subjects of interest. It could also help the students decide on which particular field he may be interested in the future. This is vital in the proficiency development of the students in the English language (Pakir, 1999).
With this discussion, we now see the significance of learning and teaching strategies. Teachers must apply all the possible theories and concepts so that student learning is maximized. In other words, the students must learn as early as in the primary school the basic concepts and lessons that they need in order to grow and become part of the community. The teachers must also address the necessity of having the parents and the community involved in the learning process of the students. In the first place, it is in the student’s home where the learning process starts to take place. The school and the community are just secondary to the home. But it should not be the issue of whether who takes the responsibility first, each of them should have an effort of creating a better place for the student’s learning process.
In conclusion, learning should be taken in a holistic approach. All factors that should encompass learning such as the learning environment, the strategy, facilities and tools, parental support and motivation should be present. Thus, the application of instruction should be matched to student learning style, and should not work on its own. It is then recommended that the learning process should be taken into levels and steps. Class involvement and the fun in learning should also be taken into consideration.
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