Learning Styles, Research, and Homeschool
Updated: Oct 22, 2019
Everyone talks about learning styles. This has been a hot topic in education for years, maybe decades. However, if you google learning styles, there are options for 4, 6, 7, etc. learning styles and much of the information is contradictory. It is my belief and contention that most people, educators and lay people alike, take a superficial view.
I began to understand learning styles in a deeper way when I discovered Linda Kreger Silverman’s book Upside-Down Brilliance about visual spatial learners (VSL). It is not just that children all learn differently, they actually think in different ways. Often in public school settings, different ways of thinking are considered deficient ways of thinking which need correcting. When we have our children at home, we can celebrate and cater to these differences.
Visual Spatial Learners provide an excellent example of a different type of thinking that is often misunderstood and determined to be a deficit. In addition to thinking in pictures rather than words, VSLs think about and understand the big concept first, then work into the smaller details which is the opposite of sequential teaching and learning. However, all students benefit from knowing upfront what they are going to learn about in order to engage their previous knowledge. This is why traditional textbooks now all emphasize essential questions which I consider to be another example of the superficial view. There’s nothing wrong with essential questions but if the teacher/facilitator doesn’t understand the research behind this idea complete with creating their own questions, the questions themselves are of limited value. If students have no idea about what they are learning, they have no way of knowing where to store the new information in their brains.
Brain research verifies this idea. Wolfe (2010) reported that the human brain functions through the act of using information in which it has already established a context. Therefore, if information is presented that does not match an established context in the brain; this information will be discarded as useless. This information regarding brain function increases the importance of parent educators knowing and understanding their children, so that differences can be accommodated rather than misunderstood.
According to Reigeluth & Beatty (2003):
Brain research shows that learning is developmental, that each brain is uniquely organized, and that children experience windows of opportunity for learning at different ages. This finding reports the need for performance-based progression through a curriculum, rather than the traditional time-based progression that currently predominates. (p. 27)
Silverman’s work with the Visual Spatial Identifier suggests that while at least 1/3 are visual spatial learners, only 25% are auditory sequential learners, with the rest working within both styles but most leaning toward visual spatial. It’s important to know this since most traditional school materials, even those used at home, are presented in a auditory sequential manner.
So it’s essential for mom or dad, in the homeschool setting, to think about what their children are learning, how they will learn it most effectively, and most importantly, why they are learning it. Yes, in every subject area. For every child. It’s not as hard as it sounds and it will probably clear up some lingering questions from everyone’s earlier education.
Reigeluth, C. & Beatty, B. (2003). Why children are left behind and what we can do about it.
Educational technology. September-October.
Silverman, L. (2002). Upside-Down Brilliance. Denver, CO: DeLeon Publishing.
Silverman, L. (2004). The Visual-spatial identifier. The Gifted Development Center.
Wolfe, P. (2010). Brain matters: Translating research into classroom practice. Alexandria, VA:
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.