Ways of Learning: Learning Theories and Learning Styles in the Classroom
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Learning styles theories have not panned out, and it is our responsibility to ensure that students know that. Second, a preference for how one studies is not a learning style. Most so-called learning styles are based on types; they classify people into distinct groups. The assumption that people cluster into distinct groups, however, receives very little support from objective studies.
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Finally, nearly all studies that report evidence for learning styles fail to satisfy just about all of the key criteria for scientific validity. There are many learning style models, e. Coffield et al. The authors of this critical report identify five major families:.
Acharaya suggests that many theories of learning styles can be condensed and examined in four dimensions as follows:. Curry , , categorized different research approaches with an onion metaphor, working from the center outwards from the most to the least stable :. Rayner and Riding , in Cassidy define three categories from which to approach learning styles:. An extensive taxonomy of many of the learning style models described here and some others was put together by Cassidy To conclude provisionally we think that an educational technologist should make a distinction between 1 models that are based on serious research on personality differences including "stable" cognitive styles , 2 models that describe behavior patterns and subjective preferences that can be measured in a given educational context and are often related to intention and motivation, and 3 models popular with practitioners that allow to think about pedagogic strategies and that are somehow related to various learning levels and learning types.
In a series of experiments in the 70's, Pask observed the way students worked complex acedemic subject matter. He observered that learners tended to use one of two approaches to greater or lesser extents. Pask in from Ford, categorized learners as. David Kolb's taxonomy is grounded in his experiential learning theory and it is based on the idea that a given learning style is shaped by the transaction between people and their environment e.
According to Susan Santo  , Kolb states that learners have two preferred ways to deal with information:. However, Kolb also states that the learning process itself always engages these 4 components in a cyclical fashion. In other words, he argues that all people apply these four processes but some people tend to engage in some learning modes more than in others.
His learning styles typology  is based on a combination of these learning modes according to 2 dimensions. The figure summarizes:. Based on Kolb's experiential learning model, Honey and Mumford proposed a similar categorization of individual learning styles and which seems to be popular in management education:.
According to various practionners' websites e. According to Felder , this model classifies students according to their preferences on scales derived from psychologist Carl Jung's theory of psychological types. Students may be:. The MBTI type preferences can be combined to form 16 different learning style types.
Myer-Briggs types do have similar practical implications for education to the Honey-Mumford approach. Jonassen and Grabowski provide the following criteria - grouped in two families - to identify a learning style. They tend to seek out external referents for processingand structuring their information, are better at learning material with human con-tent, are more readily influenced by the opinions of others, and are affected by the approval or disapproval of authority figures Witkinet al, Entwistle is known for a relatively clear concept of quality distinction in student learning styles. Opportunities for creative thinking can be reduced or even lost if the focus of learning moves towards assessment and attainment is measured only against stated performance criteria.
What can emerge is a student who seeks to please staff by judging what is the preferred design style or practical outcome required.
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In this learning framework students are unlikely to engage their minds deeply in an active, yet considered, reflective exploration for new ways of doing things: they will stay within the guidelines of what output is required to satisfy the instructor and the stated assessment criteria. In the search for more effective design and technology teaching, assessment strategies that encourage students towards the opposite of this characteristic, namely a deep approach to learning, can offer considerable gains in learning.
In later research, Entwistle also created more sophisticated constructs. Anthony Gregorc's learning styles are based on brain hemisphere research. One's learning style can be measured through the use of the Gregorc Style Delineator that places ones learning style on a continuum of polar extremes.
There are two dimensions of learning preferences:. Sadler-Smith identify three instructional style preferences individual's preference for particular instructional methods, techniques and materials :. There are a number of approaches to acknowledging and accommodating individual differences in preference and style:. Papanikoloaou et al. The literature on learning styles suggests that an instructional design should look at several issues related to cognitive styles, learning styles, etc.
Of particular interest is the question on how to match or not to match cognitive and instructional styles. However, learning style should be considered in selecting instructional style and adjusting the parameters of a given instructional strategy.
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Finally, content-by-strategy interactions take precedence over learning-style-by-strategy interactions regardless of the instructional style or philosophy of the instructional situation. As an example on how to take into account learning styles, Merril presents some possible learning-style-by-strategy interactions. However, he insists that each type of learner always should engage with various strategies and content types.
Felder then presents a list of strategies that ensure that a course appeals to a wide range of learning styles. These suggestions are based on the Felder-Silverman model. See the Felder design model.
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According to Becta, also Sadler-Smith and Smith offer the following recommendations for accommodating learners' cognitive styles:. Entwistle argues that teachers should: take account of the range of learning styles their students will inevitably exhibit, recognise that their own learning style is likely to be reflected in their teaching and acknowledge the dangers of allowing one particular approach to teaching to exclude the voice of others.
Cognitive constructivist learning. Multiple intelligences and learning styles. Difficulties with learning. The impact of neuroeducational research.
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Other theories ideas and people to know about. What can we learn from. Appendix Comparing and contrasting Piaget and Vygotsky. Lists of figures and tables.