Learning Styles and Tutoring

Learning Styles and Tutoring
February 10, 2016
Marilyn Brydges

An interesting modern innovation in teaching has been the identification and categorisation of ‘learning styles’. Pupils are assessed and conclusions drawn about which learning style suits them best. The list of learning styles has changed over time, but the ones most commonly mentioned are:

Visual learners: these are pupils who learn through seeing. They tend to learn well through seeing things demonstrated and they often think in pictures.

Auditory learners: these are pupils who learn through hearing and listening. They learn best by participating in discussions and talking things through. It helps them to have things described and explained to them.

Kinaesthetic learners: these are sometimes known as ‘active learners’ – pupils who learn best through moving and doing. They like to touch and manipulate objects and learn well through doing experiments or other physical activities.

The first thing to note is not to panic if your child does not appear to fall neatly into any of these categories! Many children learn well in more than one of the ways above, and they may not show a particular preference. The learning styles, then, should be seen as a broad indication of how a child might learn best, rather than a prescriptive formula.

Teachers nowadays are taught to diversify their lessons by making sure they appeal to children with a variety of different learning styles. This is in some ways a very positive development: historical approaches to teaching, with children lined up in rows being lectured by a teacher, did not accommodate the learning styles of many children, particularly kinaesthetic learners, and made it difficult for them to progress academically. However, for some children, especially those who learn well in traditional ways, this new approach may not be so positive. I remember sitting through Chemistry and Physics lessons, bored half to death during the various experiments and demonstrations conducted by the teachers. I learn well in an extremely traditional way: I actually like sitting at a desk, listening to a teacher talking about a subject, and making notes. So the bits of lessons aimed at kinaesthetic learners did absolutely nothing for me, and for me the time was wasted.

This is where tutoring comes in. During their first few lessons with your child, a tutor can assess not only their strengths and weaknesses in terms of subject knowledge and skills; they can also assess their preferred learning styles. As discussed above, this isn’t a rigid categorisation of your child as preferring one, and only one, of the styles listed above; it is a more holistic understanding of your child as a learner, and the various learning strategies which may or may not work well for them. So for me, a tutor would figure out pretty quickly that ‘hands-on learning’ wouldn’t progress my knowledge at all; but a conversation about a subject, led by the tutor, would always help. The tutor can then focus entirely on the approaches that work well for me, rather than needing to diversify their approach to cater to an entire class.

If your child feels that the learning strategies adopted by the teachers are not working well for them, and they feel like they are wasting time in lessons, try private tuition. Our tutors will adapt to the particular learning styles and approaches which work best for your child, in order to help them make rapid progress.