Saturday, August 20, 2016

Knowing Ourselves as Learners Can Improve Our Instruction

Do You Know Yourself as a Learner?

Dear Readers,
As back to school season is upon us, we are all thinking about how to build relationships, form connections and create a classroom community of learners.

As important as it is to find out your students’ “favorite things”, it’s equally as important to get to know them as learners.  Your students should never feel they have to adapt their natural way of learning to your instructional delivery, in fact your instruction should meet the needs of various types of learners.

I happened to be in a few Twitter chats recently and was talking about myself as a learner. I am not an auditory learner. For example, I struggle to recall numbers, I need them repeated several times and in small chunks. While many people turn to audio books, they are quite honestly a nightmare for me. I have difficulty hearing in crowded rooms with many people and a lot of noise in the background. I tend to sit in the front or on the outside layout of the room. Over the years I have found that is my ideal learning place. I rely heavily on handouts, visual presentations and asking questions. I learn most effectively through language. I read a ton and at a fairly fast pace. It is my strength and I use it.

Additionally, I am a hands on learner, but perhaps not your traditional thinking of what you consider hands on to be. I love taking notes, it keeps me focused and helps me process verbal information. It is like a math manipulative, but for a language minded person. I make lists, write in books, highlight, add post-its, I truly interact and annotate professional resources, articles or texts.

I have recently discovered a love for creating visual representations of what I am learning. I do not like to draw, however I use language to create visual maps that I see in my mind. It is putting my thinking on paper for others to see. It is a great tool to see how people think about information.

I can also be an introvert or extrovert based on the learning I am doing. For instance, as a technology learner, I need to be in a small group, fairly quiet environment with a patient, encouraging and supportive facilitator/instructor. I embrace technology and social media and am not afraid to try new things, but I must feel comfortable doing so. If I were to be a student in your class I would need things broken down in chunks, repetition, ability to ask tons of questions and 1:1 “conferencing”. I would most likely be on the quieter side as I need to listen, process, reflect and then try. I also need to walk away, try what I learned and then come back for more.

However, if I am at a language or literacy professional development I thrive in a fast paced environment with many individuals and for my thinking to be challenged. Most likely I am going to exhibit more extrovert behaviors because it is my comfort level and strength to talk about language, reading, writing, speaking and listening. As a student in your class I would need to be challenged and spend more time engaging in thoughtful conversations than being “talked at”. I would get bored easily if the pace was slow and it was more of a lecture style learning environment.

Knowing yourself as a learner can help you see learning from your students’ perspective and help create a comfortable learning environment for them.

I wish everyone a wonderful start to the school year!