At Cengage Learning, in addition to our unwavering commitment to educators, we focus on the college student learning experience to determine first hand what it means to be a learner today.

In the video featured below, our CEO Michael Hansen discusses the vital importance of getting to know students personally to discover the many different segments of learners, each with unique goals, ideals, and skills.


In the above video, Michael Hansen explains, “You find very surprising things if you actually ask, and you listen, and you observe what students do. And in many cases, you realize that you have very different segments and types of students. There are significant segments of students that frankly want the educational experience for a very specific purpose.”

It’s vital to get to know your students to determine what motivates them the most, how they prefer to think and learn, and what they hope to get out of their time spent in your classroom. This will allow you to customize their learning experience to help them get the most out of your time together.

Unique minds

For another perspective on students’ unique thinking styles, consider what types of thinkers you have coming into your classroom and what areas they may need the most help developing. In his book, Those Who Can, Teach, 14th Edition, author Kevin Ryan describes Howard Gardner’s theories about thinking:

[Gardner] argues that because the future is so unpredictable and changing, everyone needs to cultivate five different ways of thinking:
1. The disciplined mind has mastered at least one way of thinking—a distinctive mode of cognition that characterizes a specific scholarly discipline, craft, or profession.
2. The synthesizing mind takes information from disparate sources, understands and evaluates that information objectively, and puts it together in ways that make sense to the synthesizer and also to other people.
3. The creating mind breaks new ground. It puts forth new ideas, poses unfamiliar questions, conjures up fresh ways of thinking, and arrives at unexpected answers.
4. The respectful mind notes and welcomes differences among human individuals and groups, tries to understand these “others,” and seeks to work effectively with them.
5. The ethical mind ponders the nature of one’s work and the needs and desires of the society in which one lives. This mind conceptualizes how workers can serve purposes beyond self-interest and how citizens can work unselfishly to improve the lot of all. (68)

Which types of thinking are necessary for your course and your materials? Do you perhaps have creative minds coming in that need a little extra help developing their respectful or ethical minds? Keep all five “minds” in mind as you’re planning your lessons and choosing your materials.

Diverse personalities

You may also experience students with uniquely challenging behaviors in your classroom at some point during the school term. For tips on how to help various types of students excel in your classroom–such as the unprepared student, the inattentive student, or the discussion-dominating student– visit our post, “Four Types of Students You May See in Your Classroom.”

How do you plan to get to know next semester’s students to help customize their learning experience? Share your ideas below.

Reference: Ryan, Kevin; James M. Cooper; Cheryl Mason Bolick. 2016. Those Who Can, Teach, 14th Edition. Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.