Learning styles, teaching and digital pedagogy

The following post if for the course EDED20491 and is in response to the following activity

Access the Felder and Solomon website and take the online questionnaire

  1. What is your learning style? What sorts of learning experiences would suit you best with your learning style?
  2. In a traditional classroom of 25 students, how would you support the range of learning styles each lesson?
  3. With your current knowledge of ICT, how could your design and digital pedagogy support your learners better?
  4. What sorts of profiling questions would you be asking about your learners to ensure you cater for everyone’s preferences?
  5. How does ICT support differences in learning styles?
  6. Create an entry in your blog (when it is created), and respond to these questions, and any you wish to pose, in the blog.

What is your learning style

The following image – click on it to see it in a larger form – summarises my results for the questionnaire.

Learning Styles

What that represents is that I am (supposedly)

  • A heavily reflective, rather than active learner.
    Reflective blogging, like this an related posts, is an example of a learning experience likely to suit this learning style. As suggested by Felder and Soloman
    Don’t simply read or memorize the material; stop periodically to review what you have read and to think of possible questions or applications. You might find it helpful to write short summaries of readings or class notes in your own words.

    Along similar lines, I’ve found having to teach something an effective way to learn as the act of teaching has required me to reflect upon what I know, how it is organised, how it can be explained, and what activities best encourage learning in others.

  • A heavily intuitive, rather than sensing learner.
    The explosion in information available via the Internet helps me here. I’m able to use Google and other means to find other interpretations, perspectives or theories on a topic. Establishing practices such as listening to a range of podcasts, following various edubloggers etc also open me up to alternate perspectives that enable and encourage connections. The capability to search digital information also helps in making connections to prior writings. e.g. searching my blog for posts that I believe connect in someway to a current topic. Both of which link with Felder’s and Soloman’s advice
    Ask your instructor for interpretations or theories that link the facts, or try to find the connections yourself

  • Slightly more a visual than verbal learner.
    On the verbal side the suggestion is “Write summaries or outlines of course material in your own words”. This seems to link nicely to this particular exercise. I’m essentially paraphrasing the material by Felder and Soloman and linking it to my individual context. For the visual side, the screen shot (though it’s a very text-based visual representation) of the survey results is a step in the right direction. Taking it one step further, I think the generation of slide presentations that have a highly visual component is one strategy that helps. For example, this presentation I did a couple of years ago.
  • Very slightly more global than sequential.
    Another blog post that I’m developing is essentially an attempt to develop a personal oveview of what I’m meant to be doing this week for this course. Again, a practice that links with some advice from Felder and Soloman
    Before you begin to study the first section of a chapter in a text, skim through the entire chapter to get an overview

    The post started with me skimming over the readings and activities for this week and generating a summary. When I was happy with that overview, that’s when I started working on this more detailed post in response to one of the activities.

How would you support a range of learning styles

I’m big on context. Depending on the context of the classroom of 25 students, the answers to this question would vary hugely, at least in the specifics. If I were to attempt for something abstract, the two-pronged approach would probably be

  1. Where possible adopt an appropriate array of different activities designed to support different learning styles.
    i.e. rather than simply always (or never) use classroom discussions, use them sometimes and supplement them with strategies that better suit more reflective learners. Or adopt modifications of classroom discussions that incorporate some aspect of reflection or at least time and space for reflective learners to engage.
  2. Capacity building.
    Students are not always going to find themselves in situations where their preferences are catered for. It would seem important to develop within them the capacity to deal with situations like this either through developing their skills on the other side and/or identifying strategies that help them deal with those situations.

The last point may well be essential for their school education as the context of schools may well mean that few of their learning experiences will provide exactly what their preferences require.

Design of digital pedagogy

To a large extent, I think my answer to this question is embodied in the previous two responses. First, I don’t believe there is any fundamental difference between non-digital and digital technology. Digital technology provides just another set of tools/technologies to help with learning and teaching. As it happens, I was listening to an interview of John Seely Brown this morning. In that interview Seely Brown (or it might have been the interviewer, Steve Hargadon) said something that summed up the point I’m trying to make here. The quote went something along the lines

With digital technology it’s not about the technology, but about the effects it can produce.

So, I would be using the same approach to design a digital pedagogy as I would a non-digital pedagogy. I would be aiming to fulfill the two-pronged approach from the previous question. To fulfil those two prongs I would draw on the advice and insights briefly discussed on this page and more deeply in other literature.

Which is essentially what I did in the first question where I equated the advice from Felder and Soloman with the practices/effects I was currently using this blog and other digital technologies with. i.e. I was looking for digital technologies that provide the effect suggested by the advice from Felder and Soloman.

Profiling questions

Well, I probably wouldn’t be using the Felder and Soloman learning styles questions as in the FAQ Felder explains how these questions have only been validated for college age students. The questions might retain some usefulness for younger students, however, the validity is somewhat questionable. In addition, there is the whole problem of self-reporting. i.e. I’m certain that a percentage of school students might see this as an opportunity to have some fun by answering exactly the opposite to their preference. This raises the question of whether or not there are any similar instruments that have been validated for use in school children. Not to mention validated for use with the cohort of children that I’m likely to teach.

That said, I would probably lean towards drawing on versions of these questions asked in the flow of classroom activity (rather than in a formal survey) combined with classroom observation. If subsequent research revealed validated instruments for school children, I might rely upon them.

I’m guessing that the answer to this question will have to be refined further prior to the completion of assignment 1 for the course.

How does ICT support differences in learning styles?

Again, I’d make the distinction that it is not the technology that supports the differences, but the capabilities for effects that it makes available. (This has me thinking about whether this is to fine/academic a distinction to make, for now I’ll stick with it.) Different types of technology provide effects that were previously not possible. e.g. the Blackboard provided a way for written or drawn information to be shared with a whole classroom. While a wiki allows multimedia information to be shared and modified with any group of people from anywhere with Internet access.

So, ICTs support differences in learning styles by providing effects/capabilities that fulfil some of the advice provided by Felder and Soloman. Especially when such capabilities were previously unavailable, too expensive etc. e.g. a personal blog provides a place for a reflective learner to work on and share their reflections in a way that is concrete and visible to others. Something that isn’t easily possible for a paper-based diary.

From a different perspective, ICTs support differences in learning styles because of their capability to manipulate digital information. For example, it’s possible that a verbal learner may not get much out of this blog post, but there are services that will automatically convert blog posts into audio. Hypermedia makes it easier to support both global and sequential learners in their approach to texts. Hypermedia and services like youtube make it much easier to support visual learners. e.g. 10 years ago (even 5 years ago) the readings for this course would not have been sprinkled with half a dozen videos.

From yet another perspective, ICTs support differences in learning styles to the extent that the learners, teachers, technologies, education systems and policies involved in learning allow ICTs to support differences in learning styles.

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9 thoughts on “Learning styles, teaching and digital pedagogy

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Learning styles, teaching and digital pedagogy « The Weblog of (a) David Jones -- Topsy.com

  2. wfass1

    There is enormous value in supporting your students’ understanding of their own learning preferences, whether through conversational means or analytical tool. In my experience very few of them tend to falsify results, rather their level of self-interest is well served by asking them to become reflective about themselves as learner. I certainly agree that the tool is not necessarily the best for the purpose – difficult in a course with limited scope and a novice entry level. But I would love for you to take your ideas and contextualise them into, for instance a group of 30 14-year olds. How will this knowledge, together with the capacity of ICT to transform, support the way you approach teaching in a contemporary classroom?

    Reply
  3. davidtjones Post author

    Spent a bit of time after posting this searching out the information I remember that questioned learning styles. I need to take the time, at some stage, to read/re-read, reflect on these, and post again at a latter stage.

    Some of the more interesting resources
    http://www.uwlax.edu/catl/studentlearning/Presentations/5_Ill_Conceived_Ideas_about_Learning.pdf

    The discussion (http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=14184878&postID=2571850319040161924) arising from this blog post http://www.willatworklearning.com/2010/02/learning-styles-reviewed-by-association-for-psychological-science-and-found-wanting.html

    All of which seem to arise from this journal issue http://www.psychologicalscience.org/journals/pspi/PSPI_9_3.pdf

    Reply
  4. VRBones

    Learning styles:
    The big takeaway I had from analysing learning styles was that my learning style may vary from my students. This means that things that may seem easy / natural for me to understand may not suit the class. Once you’re aware of this, it’s pretty easy to keep checking what’s working for different students and be ready to change modes at the drop of a hat. Unfortunately I still have a problem letting go: I know there are still kids that haven’t cottened on, but I have to move on because of time or the rest of the class is bored.

    Again, I’d make the distinction that it is not the technology that supports the differences, but the capabilities for effects that it makes available. (This has me thinking about whether this is to fine/academic a distinction to make, for now I’ll stick with it.)
    I’d encourage you to stick with it. It’s far too easy for the course to take you into “ICT is the saviour for everything” territory when, in fact, learning gains are paramount regardless of how they are achieved. For me it was counterbalanced largely by the ignorance of possibilities made available for technology by most teachers in the field. I know you know this because I got most of my technophile skepticism from you ;)

    Reply
    1. davidtjones Post author

      Thanks for the comments Tony.

      My thoughts on learning styles/multiple intelligences etc are a work in progress. At the moment, I’m questioning some of the very specific specifications of the differences. However, the basic point that there are differences and that you need to be aware or/cater for those differences while teaching is the point.

      There’s the question of diversity of content knowledge which I’m currently thinking about and perhaps may post about soon. In short, there’s a suggestion that the most important diversity amongst learners is the level of knowledge they have about a particular area.

      Which seems to pick up your thoughts about the ignorance of the possibilities of technology amongst teachers. I think that’s likely to be another question I think about more.

    2. wfass1

      “Once you’re aware of this, it’s pretty easy to keep checking what’s working for different students and be ready to change modes at the drop of a hat. Unfortunately I still have a problem letting go: I know there are still kids that haven’t cottened on, but I have to move on because of time or the rest of the class is bored.” Is this not the value of ICT? That these diferent modes can be maintained concurrently? It is not necessarily a delivery strategy, rather a strategy that allows students choice in their modes of learning. Although I am a visual learner, I elect not to use visual inputs for certaint tasks – this could be said for all learners. And although I am not a collaborative learner, I have been made aware through experience (which is your task as a teacher) that it is best to learn collaboratively in certain contexts. Therefore it is the task of the teacher to weave different learning modalities through each learning experience to scaffold learning that is pedagogically sound. As Mishra and Koehler (2007) stated: “teaching with technology is a wicked problem.” There is no greater understatement.

      And then, just when we think we have the ICT element under control, the decision may be made that technology is not the best mediator of learning, and in fact for many topics and pedagogies, face to face learning is preferable. It is clear that manipulation of algebraic problems is far more effective with old technology – pencil and paper.

      There are as many teachers in the field who are quiet achievers with ICT. Whilst they do not use fancy footwork and applications, their pedagogy with simple devices like digital images is extraordinary. In general, a teacher with contemporary ideas about pedagogy will look to ICT for its greater learning purpose and use it in excellent ways, whilst perhaps teachers who are less reliant on contemporary pedagogy do not. I am very reluctant to brand any teachers as being ignorant. Every teacher has a set of pedagogies, strengths and gifts, and it is the combination of teachers in a child’s life that provides a rich learning experience. A child who feels valued, and who values learning, independent of the type of technologies used, will be a child who becomes learned.

  5. wfass1

    In response to David’s comment “There’s the question of diversity of content knowledge which I’m currently thinking about and perhaps may post about soon. In short, there’s a suggestion that the most important diversity amongst learners is the level of knowledge they have about a particular area. “:

    This needs to be very clearly defined. If you are talking about levels of complex thinking, then it is clearly identified in the Essential Learnings that ALL students are expected to think in complex ways. Certainly the descriptors of complexity may differ from one ability level to the next. So if you are talking about complex reasoning process, I would like to have clarified what you mean about “level”. For instance, it is reasonable to expect, if using Bloom’s taxonomy, that all students work in the realm of analysis, evaluation and synthesis, regardless of their ability level.

    But your comment raises some very interesting ideas about connectivism. Because if you support your learners in working collaboratively, the specific knowledge set of one person will be complemented by that of the others in their group, and thus lift the collective learning far beyond the sum of individual knowledge.
    As a fatuous example, I know all about circuits, can explain to my partner why the light bulb ceases to work. But I am unable to climb the ladder to change it. Betweem the two of us, we are able to shed light on the situation!!

    Now, the question is, how does this fit into traditional ideas about schooling? We value ranking and individual achievement in schools, whilst the workplace generally values collaborative outcomes as teams. Is a person’s value to the team any less because they know how to find the person (or source) that “knows”? And even more fatuous, is the contribution of the student who “brings the TimTams” and the “Kleenex” to group meetings any less valuable to the contribution of the group than the intellectual high flyers?

    What we are talking about is capacity rather than knowledge, an interesting concept.

    Reply
  6. Pingback: ICTs for learning design – the first week « The Weblog of (a) David Jones

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