Abstract: Presents a model for learning and methods of teaching based on the basic underlying personality structure of different learners. Outlines the reasons we learn, ways of learning, and impediments to the learning process. Suggestions are made as to the most effective parameters to stress in the learning process in the age of instant knowledge access.
Importance of knowing how we learn
Modalities of learning
Types of learners
Why the reasons we learn are significant
The reasons we learn
Ways of learning
The impediments to learning
Learning for the 21st century
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Importance of knowing how we learnWe cannot grow without learning. There are a number of capabilities which are innate - suckling, crying, time triggered capabilities like learning to talk, to walk, to recognize familiar features like faces and sounds. There are others which, if we are to progress, we must actively learn. We do this either by reassembling pieces known to us and producing a new synthesis which allows us to navigate our environment more easily, or we learn it by direct infusion from the environment or others.
Each of us learns differently and at different speeds, but we learn. The knowledge as to how someone learns best is a key to facilitating that learning process within each one of us. We approach the reasons for learning from different angles and with different desires. Some of the reasons are not of interest to some, are not available to others based on their personality structure, internal blocks, or the way in which they interface with the environment, while others will take one or two reasons to their extremes.
Even the reasons for not learning are different for each individual. It is knowing the reasons for learning and the impediments to learning that guide us, both for our own advancement and for helping those attempting to help us.
When we place one set of parameters for learning on each individual, we often stigmatize or thwart the progression of some while piling praise and additional tools for learning on others.
We often place value judgments on our learners based on our own parameters thereby crippling those who do not fit.
It is important to take into account the reasons that each individual learns, and the connection it has to his personality and the motivation for learning.
Modalities of learningThere is no single style of learning which fits all. We all learn in a slightly different way. And we fail when we attempt to find the one or two modalities to success in teaching.
Basic dimensions or basic ways of acting
Any entity, whether it is an individual or a group, operates on basically four dimensions respective to its environment.
a. Externalized or Internalized - relating actively to surrounding environment or basically to internal triggers
b. Innovative or Non-Innovative/traditional approach to problem solving
c. Goal directed or Maintenance of current level
d. Generally supported or Not Supported by surrounding environment
These are seen as separate dimensions which when combined produce 16 basic ways of relating to the environment including basic ways of learning. Each type brings a unique perspective to a problem or to the learning arena.
As an example, an externalized - non-innovative - supportive - goal oriented individual not only sees the world differently but also solves real world problems differently than an internalized - innovative - supportive - goal oriented individual.
In the end analysis, there are as many types of response and learning modes as the sum of all possible combinations of the four basic parameters.
Taking two basic types of the 16, we have the following: Learn by actively engaging and interaction with the environment in an innovative way towards some greater goal with the support of the surrounding environment.
This is opposed to the complete opposite on all dimensions:
Learn by rearranging internal perceptions cut off from the environment in a non-innovative or standardized way towards immediate gratification of goals without the support of, or possibly the recipient of negative feedback from, the surrounding environment.
All of the other possible combinations of the four basic parameters create their own learning types.
TYPES OF LEARNERS
It is important to remember that each type is crucial to the maintenance and advancement of society as each type reflects a part of the total social whole in its operation. If one part were taken out, the whole society would suffer. Teaching to the strengths and capacity of each type is crucial.
Why the reasons we learn are significantThe reasons we learn are basically the same for everyone although the emphasis is different for each individual. What makes the difference is the motivation. We have all seen the changes in motivation, speed and scope of learning when the environment is changed and reacts differently toward an individual. Avenues which were blocked before are suddenly opened or closed, making the environment and the reaction of others paramount to the individual's desire to learn.
All of the other factors are meaningless as tools to learning if the motivation is not present.
There are a number of different styles of learning. In most cases, we learn in a number of different ways. However, if we take the extreme learning types and make the assumption that there are individuals who learn basically in one of these ways and not in others, then we begin to see the problems presented by the attempt to teach many individuals in only one or two of the basis learning modes. We find that we have not touched a certain portion of the population which is just as capable of learning but has not been approached from the direction in which learning is maximized for them.
Unfortunately, many of our IQ tests are predicated on the basis of a small number of teaching styles which have unfairly prioritized certain learning types.
It is therefore the challenge of the teaching profession to teach the same material from the viewpoint of all of the positions, as well as test for IQ from all of these same positions.
Learning for the 21st centuryWith the advent of instant information availability, it is no longer necessary to store the knowledge of centuries in our own minds. In many cases, it is enough to know how to access it when it is needed.
In that case, what is necessary to learn are the following:
1. To understand how to access the information needed.
2. The finding and assessment of triggers, keys to find the desired information
3. To understand what constitutes adequate coverage of the subject.
4. To know how to piece bits of information together to form a coherent and understandable whole.
5. To assess quality of information sources and evaluate methods used to accumulate or verify information.
6. Enough information to form a base for determining probable truth or falsity.
7. To be able to identify lacks or holes in proofs, evidence needed to form conclusion
8. To be able to develop a logical progression to the accumulation of knowledge
9. Enough information to provide a base on which to build further knowledge
10. To be able to evaluate the truthfulness of information
11. To be able to determine the weight of evidence necessary to form conclusions
12. An understanding that there are different possible ways to solve a problem
13. The possibility of developing new results by enlarging the scope of possible approaches
14. The ability to discern what is not useful information in any area of inquiry
SummaryAs delineated above, different types of learners and personality types will react differently to the various methods. Some learners will be automatically locked out by certain types of teaching. A number of different methods will be used by any one teacher. Of importance here is the determination of which students are not being reached and critical evaluation of the methods being used.
Learning and teaching paradigm based on Cycles of Man, J. Morgan Thomas, et al. International Sociological Journal circa 1968
Learning Development Institute A Transdisciplinary Networked Learning Community Devoted to Excellence in the Development and Study of Learning
Learning Without Frontiers Significant Archives, Documents, Links to Learning. (last update December 1999).
Learning Styles Excellent source. Visual, Audio, and Kinesthetic/Tactile Modalities. Very good chart for students and teachers. Chart of Left/Right Mode Learning and Thinking Characteristics. Links to a number of self tests