Why do people learn in different ways?

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Offline thedoc

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Why do people learn in different ways?
« on: 24/07/2012 06:30:02 »
Daniel Beaven  asked the Naked Scientists:

My name is Dan, I live in Forest Row East Sussex. I am doing my GCSE's at the moment and one of my teachers was telling me about learning techniques. They did a test and apparently I am an auditory and kinesthetic learner and I was wondering why this is?

Thanks, because of the Naked scientist Podcast I am interested in science.

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 24/07/2012 06:30:02 by _system »


Offline David Cooper

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Re: Why do people learn in different ways?
« Reply #1 on: 24/07/2012 19:21:21 »
To a large degree this is just a current fashion in education, and it's being used to hide the real issues. You have been determined to be best at (1) taking things in if you can get your hands on them or interact with them in some direct physical way, but I doubt there's anyone out there who don't benefit from that approach, although too much of it will bore many people; and (2) having someone explain things to you in words, which again tends to work well with everyone. I would bet that you are also well able to take things in if they're presented through images and videos, and if you're a good reader it is likely that you can take things in perfectly well by reading text as you are doing here (because it is equivalent to having someone speak to you directly). When people are told what kind of learner they are, I suspect that to a large degree they're actually just being told that they're either good readers or bad readers, and that will depend primarily on how well or badly they have been taught to read.

Some people do not need a lot of hands-on experience of the things they're learning about as they can hear or read about it and simulate in their heads all the necessary interactions with whatever it is - they can get really bored when doing lots of slow hands-on stuff. The people who can't do it all in their heads like that really do need to do lots of hands-on stuff in order to get their minds around whatever it is they're learning, so there is a real difference there. This is probably the main thing that determines people's learning speed and where they will eventually end up in terms of academic achievement. What actually happens though is that the faster learners aren't allowed to learn fast, and the slower learners are forced to go faster than they are able to, but because most people aren't happy and become disruptive, you end up with a system where everyone learns more slowly than they are capable of and many of them are left with huge gaps in their understanding which make it impossible for them to cope with whatever they're taught next.

So, what's really going on is that some people aren't good readers (in the vast majority of cases because of inadequate teaching) and can't be expected to take information in efficiently from text, and some people aren't good at simulating things in their minds (probably for genetic reasons) and have to be able to interact with these things for real instead - in both cases these people will need more help if they are to learn things.