Understanding Learning Needs



Whether you are looking to help your child with her homework or going through the process of choosing a new school for him, it is essential to understand his or her learning needs. Here's a brief look at how to get insight into your child’s learning style and how to put it to work!

According to psychologist Dr. Ester Cole, psychoeducational consult Dr. Kathryn Ages, and Tamara C. Larson, the educational consultant for Concordia High school, there are three specific types of learners that benefit from different strategies – visual, auditory, and tactile learners.

Dr. Kathryn Ages assesses students with learning difficulties by identifying their strengths, challenges, and needs to accommodate their learning. She says that parents can uncover a lot about the type of students their children are by watching how they play and interact with others at home.

Auditory/Verbal Learners...

"Verbal learners tend to do well with language-based education, they can listen to a teacher, soak in the information, and verbally share their ideas," she explains. These kids are often more talkative, have a wide vocabulary, and can express their ideas easily. They tend to feel more comfortable reading and sharing their thoughts. Group discussions, studying out loud, and co-operative classroom activities where they can share their ideas are all tools that help verbal learners succeed. These kids often thrive in strong arts or speech and debate programs.

Visual Learners...

"Non-verbal learners," continues Dr. Ages, "are more visual, they understand information through graphs, maps, and charts." Visual learners often like mazes, puzzles, patterning games, and LEGO. They do better when instructions are written out and they can follow along. Formal lectures may not be the answer, but including visual stimuli such as movies, images, lists, or charts can play to visual strengths. Letting visual learners draw things out when trying to understand concepts can also be beneficial.

Tactile/Kinesthetic Learners...

These learners often benefit from hands-on work, and prefer real-life learning. "These are kids that need to have their hands in the dirt," says Dr. Ages. They like to play computer, board, and electronic games. Field trips, regular physical activity, and an emphasis on experimental learning where students are allowed to participate in activities and interact with subjects can help tactile learners process information.

Meeting the Learning Needs of Children


Many students can be identified as having a variety of learning styles and thus will benefit from teachers who can teach to the whole child. "Parents should look for teachers who are engaged in a variety of teaching modalities while in the classroom and then address these same modalities when they ask children to do seat-work, homework, major projects, and tests," explains Dr. Alan Edmunds, associate professor of educational psychology at the University of Western Ontario in London. "Teachers should ask themselves, what do I need to do in order to give all of these kids a chance to succeed?" he says.

At Glenburnie School in Oakville Ontario, this is the premise upon which the curriculum is developed. "Our teachers are required to include auditory, tactile, and visual components in all of their lessons," explains Linda Sweet, director and founder of the school. "We also emphasize that all concepts taught in our classrooms have real life applications, in order to anchor this knowledge to the everyday world."

Keep Up the Good Work

Sweet also advises that parents keep up regular communication with teachers. Talking with teachers can benefit the child both at home and in the classroom if learning strategies are discussed and both parties seek to understand the needs of the child better. If your child is beginning to struggle, discuss what as changed in the classroom – likewise if they begin to improve, ask the teacher what tactics he or she is employing and your child what works or doesn’t work for him or her. Strong teacher to parent to student communication means everyone is more invested in learning is the key to a smoother educational experience!

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