Within one audience, you’ll find a variety of people, each of whom prefers to absorb material in a slightly different way. Below, Dr. Clayton Austin discusses the various types of learners and offers some tips for honing your courses to accommodate them.
I walked into the sandwich shop, quite damp from the rain outside. Working through the crowd, I stepped into line and opened my umbrella. Among the strange looks, pointing fingers and whispers, I kept my gaze straight forward. But inside, my stomach was churning. Would I actually be able to eat after this?
This was my experience as an undergraduate student, asked to explore the concept of “social conventions” by breaking one and journaling about it. This was not my style of learning. I much preferred to sit in the back of the room, listen to a discussion, and contribute when I was good and ready. However, of all the lessons I received, even in my “preferred style,” few have made a long-lasting and deep impression like this one.
Now as a professor, I try to be aware of my teaching style and my students’ learning styles. My goal is to both match and mismatch all my students’ preferences during the term. I want my students to use their preferred learning styles, but also explore new ways of learning.
One day I may start with a short lecture to introduce new concepts, while another day I may present a case study or video for students to draw out the concepts. I may have an open discussion with the whole class one day, but another time I may ask them to write their questions on an index card to share with me or their classmates. Students appreciate working inside and outside their preferences too; whenever I ask which of these varied methods they like best, they always respond, “All of them!”