Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/Acknowledgment/Multiple Perspectives

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How can we encourage students and teachers to consider multiple perspectives?
Instruction begins when you, the teacher, learn from the learner. Put yourself in his place so that you may understand what he learns and the way he understands it.


Webster’s New World Dictionary defines perspective as being “a specific point of view in understanding or judging things or events.” Synonyms for perspective include perception, viewpoint, standpoint, point of view, and outlook.

What does perspective have to do with effective teaching? Without consideration of the various perspectives students may have, a teacher will be greatly disadvantaged. It’s important to understand a student’s perspective, or the way they learn, in order to most effectively teach them and empower them to learn on their own.

This article will examine learning styles and why it’s important to recognize differences among students. There are numerous learning style theories; this paper will focus on two of the most well known.

What are Learning Styles?[edit]

At-home Activity to Investigate Learning Style

Ask yourself and your child, roommate, friend or parent what comes to mind when you hear the word dog. Some people see a picture of the animal or hear a bark, while others visualize the dog. Those who see a picture of a dog in their minds's eye or see the letters "dog" are probably visual. While those who hear the bark are probably auditory learners. Those who feel the soft fur of a dog are probably kinesthetic. University of Illinois Extension

In basic terminology, learning styles are simply different approaches or ways of learning. It is not what a person learns, but how a person learns. Learning style can be described as the different ways in which children and adults think and learn. Everyone has a preferred and consistent set of approaches to learning. (Ron)

Why Are Learning Styles Important?[edit]

A teacher’s basic understanding of learning styles can lead to:

  • Reduction of teacher and student frustration
  • Higher student achievement and improved self-concept
  • Accommodation of a variety of learners in a classroom
  • The versatility that is crucial to learning
  • Improved communication with parents, administrators and other staff. (Reiff)
The county advocates that teachers teach to all learning styles and use a variety of teaching strategies to meet the needs of all students. Certainly each teacher also has their own style also and they are allowed in Fauquier County to vary their instructional methods depending on the student’s needs.

—Wendy Wilcox, Vice Principal, Coleman Elementary School, Marshall, VA

Each child's brain processes information differently, resulting in different ways of learning and acquiring knowledge. A teacher must be aware of the various perspectives, or learning styles, their students have in order to develop effective teaching strategies and lesson plans. No matter which learning style theory a teacher follows, the important thing is to recognize that there are differences among children and that one teaching method may not successfully reach all students. Teachers must employ a variety of strategies to ensure that all student perspectives are accommodated for.

As Judith Reiff, explains “An understanding about individual differences and learning styles will provide teachers with the theory and knowledge upon which to base decisions. If teachers can determine why a student responds in a certain way, then they can make more intelligent decisions.” Teachers can not be expected to have a different lesson plan for every child’s preferred learning style. However, their lessons can reflect an understanding of individual differences by incorporating a variety of styles.

In addition, teachers can talk to students about their preferred learning methods and encourage them to be aware of the different learning styles that their classmates may have. This can help students understand how they learn and also make them aware of the teacher’s different instructional methods, some of which may be geared more to other students than to them, and vice versa.

However, a student’s awareness of their preferred learning style shouldn’t keep them from working to acquire those styles which they do not yet possess. Students can often develop the ability to adapt to other learning styles. Although there are characteristics of learning style that are quite stable in students across different learning tasks and contexts, there can still be variation in the same learner. (Smith,Dalton)

Learning Style Theories[edit]

Dunn & Dunn Theory[edit]

The Dunn and Dunn Model, developed by Dr. Rita Dunn in 1967, has a great deal of history and research behind it. According to Dunn, learning style is the way in which each learner begins to concentrate on, process, absorb and retain new and difficult information or skills.

The Dunn model identifies three learning styles:

Auditory learners prefer to use their voices and ears to learn. They remember what they hear and what they themselves say aloud. They learn best through verbal lectures, discussions, talking things through and listening to what others have to say. They seem to thrive on working and talking with others. These learners often benefit from reading text aloud and using a tape recorder.

Visual learners prefer to process information by seeing it. They like to receive information from pictures, graphs and visual media. These learners frequently close their eyes to reassemble a picture of what they are trying to remember. During a lecture or classroom discussion, visual learners often prefer to take detailed notes to absorb the information.

Tactile/Kinesthetic learners want to be as active as they can. They tend to learn better when they have the opportunity to touch or manipulate in some way. Role play, field trips, and movement activities can accommodate kinesthetic learners. These students may find it hard to sit still for long periods and may become distracted by their need for activity and exploration. (Wallace)

Gardner Multiple Intelligence Theory[edit]

Howard Gardner identified seven distinct intelligences. According to Gardner, his theory "documents the extent to which students possess different kinds of minds and therefore learn, remember, perform, and understand in different ways." He argues that "students learn in ways that are identifiably distinctive. The broad spectrum of students - and perhaps the society as a whole - would be better served if disciplines could be presented in a numbers of ways and learning could be assessed through a variety of means." (Lane)

Gardner's seven learning styles:

Bodily-Kinesthetic learners like physical movement, making things and touching. They learn well when involved in physical activity, hands-on learning and in forms of expression like dance, mime, drama, or role playing.

Interpersonal learners engage in verbal and nonverbal communication with others. They learn best when working cooperatively in groups, reacting to others' moods and feelings, and understanding the perspective of others.

Intrapersonal learners focus on situations that require them to reflect upon themselves. They like higher-order thinking and reasoning, self-reflection, spirituality, and the awareness and expression of feelings. They learn best through independent study and introspection.

Linguistic learners relate to language in both its written and spoken form. They have highly developed auditory skills and often think in words. They learn best through poetry, reading, playing word games, storytelling, abstract reasoning, metaphors, similes, etc.

Logical-mathematical learners focus on different types of reasoning, calculating and logic. They think conceptually and like to make observations, draw conclusions, make judgments, formulate hypotheses and experiment.

Musical learners have the capacity to recognize rhythm and tone patterns, and have sensitivity to sounds from the human voice and musical instruments. They like to interact with music and can be taught by turning lessons into lyrics or tapping out a tune.

Visual-Spatial learners think in terms of physical space and like to deal with visualization and imagery. They learn well through painting, drawing, sculpture, designs, doing puzzles, and text with charts and graphs.

Myers-Briggs Theory[edit]

The Myers-Briggs Theory has evolved from the work of Carl Jung in the 1940s. It tests 4 areas and puts you into one of two categories. At the end of the test you are given a letter acronym that describes your learning style. This description can help you to understand yourself and how you learn best. Knowing about the different learning styles will help you to effectively teach students with differing learning styles from your own.

Extroversion versus Introversion
Extraverted people tend to have high energy and cherish interaction. They like to be involved with many types of relationships and are always building new ones. Introverted people are the interactors. They rarely start the interaction and are generally "on-the-fly thinkers." (Brightman)
Sensing versus Intuition
Sensing people are usually detail oriented and very trustworthy. They want the basic facts needed to accomplish a task. Intuitive people usually work within patterns and relationships. They like to look at the "big picture" (Brightman).
Thinking versus Feeling
Thinkers tend to value fairness and make decisions impersonally based on facts. Feelers value harmony and focus their lives of human values (Brightman).
Judging versus Perceptive
Judging people are decisive and take action quickly. They are focused on completing the task at hand. They "plan their work and work their plan." Perceptive people are curious and adaptable. They are spontaneous and believe that "deadlines are meant to be stretched" (Brightman).

Putting Learning Style Theory to Work in the Classroom[edit]

Butler offers these suggestions for incorporating a learning style philosophy into the classroom:

  • Observe the students
  • Build on strengths
  • Help students to be flexible
  • Have students think about their own thinking
  • Offer choices
  • Examine the curriculum (Reiff)

When developing lesson plans and teaching strategies, teachers must keep in mind the varying learning styles of their students and how they can best incorporate methods that appeal to all students. Since each student may have several different learning styles that work best for them, it’s important to provide a variety of activities. In that way, teachers can help to develop other learning styles in their students.

Learning styles can be used both to teach and reinforce concepts. Teachers can use one approach to teach a concept, and then use a different approach to reinforce it. For example, teachers might use a linguistic approach, such as a story, to teach the idea of an animal community, and then have students draw a picture that reflects that concept in art.

Research shows that the highest achieving students tend to be the ones who learn most easily by listening or by reading, thus they are typically auditory or visual. (Wallace) In addition, research shows that many students who are not doing well in school are tactile or kinesthetic learners. Hard to reach and hard to teach students are more successful when taught with different teaching strategies representing the differing learning styles. (Reiff)


A basic understanding of learning styles is important for all teachers to enable them to tailor lesson plans, teaching strategies and methods to meet the needs of all students. Teachers can experiment with various strategies to determine which best meets the learning style needs of students.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that students should not be labeled according to their learning style since this can change, and the student can adapt to different styles simply by being exposed to them. If teachers allow students to develop their preferences and style by exposing them to different styles, they will be able to engage in a wider set of learning experiences. (Smith,Dalton)

There are probably as many ways to "teach" as there are to learn. Perhaps the most important thing is to be aware that people do not all see the world in the same way. (Ron) The challenge for teachers is to provide for all types of learning style in a balanced way during class. By doing this, teachers can help improve the learning outcomes of all students.

Multiple Choice Questions[edit]

Click to reveal the answer.

Tracy Smith loves to be active and is having trouble sitting still in her second grade class. Taking into consideration learning styles theory, what type of activities should her teacher use to help Tracy learn?
A. Worksheets
B. Singing
C. Movement activities
D. Listening to lectures

C. Movement activities

In the question above, what type of learner is Tracy Smith?
A. Visual/Spatial
B. Bodily/Kinesthetic
C. Auditory
D. Logical/Mathematical

B. Bodily/Kinesthetic

According to Gardner’s Theory, what type of student would learn best through worksheets, lectures and class discussions?
A. Intrapersonal
B. Logical/Mathematical
C. Musical
D. Linguistic

D. Linguistic

Why is it important for teachers to consider different learning styles among their students?
A. So the teacher can make more money.
B. The No Child Left Behind Act mandates it.
C. To more effectively teach all students.
D. So students can have more recess time.

C. To more effectively teach all students.

What are learning styles?
A. The various ways a person learns.
B. The worksheets teachers give students.
C. A special education program.
D. A discipline plan for classrooms.

A. The various ways a person learns.

If Mrs. Cove has a student who is an ISFJ, what do those letters stand for?
A. Insecure, Selfish, Foolish, Jumping
B. Introversion, Sensing, Feeler, Judging
C. Insensitive, Smelly, Fantastic, Jock
D. Those letters don't mean anything.

B. Introversion, Sensing, Feeler, Judging

The Myers-Briggs Test helps us to understand our _____________.
A. Self-worth
B. Ego
C. Learning style
D. Parents

C. Learning style

You learn that you are a visual learner, how can you make sure your teaching to all types of learning and not just your own?
A. Learn about each learning style and create activities that reach different styles.
B. Why should you care?
C. Everyone learns the same way.
D. They will learn whatever you teach anyway.

A. Learn about each learning style and create activities that reach different styles.

Essay Question[edit]

Click to reveal sample responses.

Why is it important for teachers to recognize that their students may have a variety of different learning styles and how can teachers accommodate for these differences in class?

Teachers need to be cognizant of their students varied learning styles so they can ensure that all students are learning and understanding the lessons being taught. Some students learn better through written lessons, while others prefer more active, hands-on learning methods. A teacher must be sure to use a variety of teaching strategies to reach all students.

For example if you follow the Dunn Learning Styles Theory when teaching mathematical concepts, a teacher could address multiple learning styles by developing a lesson plan that includes: oral explanation (for auditory learners); written explanation on the blackboard and through worksheets (for visual learners); and hands-on manipulatives and movement exercises (for tactile/kinesthetic learners).

Following the Gardener Learning Styles Theory, a teacher could teach math concepts by singing number songs for musical learners; telling stories in which numbers figure prominently for linguistic learners; using social activities such as cooking from a recipe to address interpersonal learners; and developing math puzzles or art projects for visual-spatial learners.

It is extremely important for teachers to recognize that teach of their students may have a variety of different learning styles because all students learn differently. Because of this, to be a successful educator, it is vital that you need to know several different ways to teach every student. The Dunn and Dunn Theory lists’ the three most popular learning styles among students as Auditory learners, Visual learners, and Kinesthetic learners. Accommodating all three of these learning styles into ones classroom is simply. When teaching a group of students, everything must be stated three times. The first time, for the auditory learners’, just saying it out loud is probably enough. The second time, for the Visual learners, draws a diagram, or shows a picture that relates to what you are trying to teach. And the third time, for the kinesthetic learners, do an exercise to represent the task. Have students get up. By using these three simple steps, not only would teachers be able to reach all three learning styles, but class would be entertaining and enjoyable for everyone. Every educator has the ability to aid all of their students in the correct manner without having to take the times to individually teach each student.


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