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How Do Teachers Learn?

12/03/2015

Matt Stevens from Talentlens UK looks at how the Learning Style Questionnaire could be adopted within the UK school system to help teachers understand each other better and ultimately, improve teamwork.   

Least surprising news flash of the year so far: Teachers are under a lot of pressure.

They are expected to fulfil many different roles as part of the job.

It is the teacher’s job to facilitate; guide, prompt and elicit progress from the young people that surround them. They manage to do this through a variety of methods that are often adapted by individual practitioners to suit their preferred teaching style and groups of pupils.

Teachers are expected to differentiate their approach, according to the needs of their learners. The path often taken in the UK is to place emphasis on teachers understanding pupils’ preferred learning styles, in order to be able to vary one's planning according to their needs.

 

Divide and teach

Getting to know the nuances of individual class members takes time, hence the adoption of models such as VARK (Visual, Auditory or Kinaesthetic) to help teachers to group pupils as per their preferred learning style and ensure that their schemes of work cater for everyone.

However, very little emphasis placed upon the preferred learning styles of the teachers, which seems to present a slight gap, in terms of not maximising the intended effectiveness of a school’s approach. 

This disparity can result in misunderstandings / conflict, which with some extra information about each other could be avoided.

Fig 1 - Honey and Mumford's Learning Styles

 

How we learn is a key life skill

The workplace disagreements we have with colleagues are often due to a lack of understanding about each other as people. From an individual perspective, being aware of how you prefer to learn is essential if you want to progress and enhance your contribution to a company.

From an organisational standpoint, by discovering how your employees learn (their learning style) you are able to ascertain how they might interact with other employees, thus boosting the potential for effective collaboration within teams and ultimately, success.

In terms of the education sector, if teachers were aware of their preferred style of learning (and this information was shared within departments), it could enhance team working and ultimately, the service provided to the pupils. Indeed, paraphrasing Peter Honey - how we learn is a key (perhaps even the key) life skill.

 

It's your choice

Although embraced on a global scale, there are varying levels of acceptance about learning styles as a concept. The Honey & Mumford Learning Style Questionnaire has been used extensively within both private and public sectors for the last 30 years - the creator of the tool, Dr Peter Honey, asserts that the LSQ is simply a model to which people can pin their colours to or not. It success owes much to its accessibility and the self directed learning it encourages.

 

The Learning Style Questionnaire 

Based upon the work of David Kolb, who proposed the concept of the Learning Cycle (Fig 2, right), Honey & Mumford’s Learning Style Questionnaire offers a slightly different approach to the finite, static results the VARK system provides, in that the LSQ is centred around the concept of fluidity or continuous improvement. 

The LSQ is an online or paper based questionnaire, which takes about 10 mins to complete.  

It's purpose is to identify one’s most and least preferred style. Via a report issued to the candidate, it also provides guidance about improving under developed styles.   

The ultimate aim is to highlight individuals’ perceived areas of strength and weakness, encouraging concentration on any areas requiring development.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Always Learning

Being closely aligned with the learning cycle, the central theme underpinning the LSQ is fluidity. As teachers will have doubtless experienced, the temptation to attach oneself to the results of the VARK is great, with pupils expressing that they can’t take information in visually or kinaesthetically.

Seeking a sense of security, people like to be defined, which in itself is not particularly unhealthy. However, the definition can become a permanent feature on one’s self identification landscape and indeed obscure the desire to explore areas of deficiency, the result being one of self developmental gridlock.

In relation to this, the LSQ seeks to promote continuous improvement - whilst propounding the notion that regardless of whether you are engaged in its formal or non formal form, you are always learning.

 

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Learning Styles