Your Child’s Preferred Learning Style

kids learningWith school back in session, it’s time for our children to dust off those books and sharpen their skills so they can succeed. As they did last year, they will need to use visual skills for reading and writing, and auditory skills for listening. But just as some kids are right-handed and others are left-handed, most have a preferred way of learning, too. Knowing their preferred learning style gives students an advantage when they are tackling school work and trying to retain complex information. Relying on a preferred learning style when facing the challenges of hard school work makes life easier for everyone.

Visual learners are more likely to recall visual information, and auditory learners are more likely to recall auditory information. I didn’t identify my preferred learning style until graduate school. After I did, I taped all my classes, and before tests I listened to them instead of focusing on re-reading the course content. I aced every test after that!

By identifying their learning style, your children can improve their recall, too. Learning goes hand-in-hand with memory. Although the two terms are not synonymous, they are highly interrelated. In order to remember, a person’s brain must first learn (encode) the information they will later remember (retrieve). When it comes to learning concerns, whether a child is typical or has ADHD, a learning disability, anxiety or some other emotional difficulty, parents’ most common question to me is, “How can we improve his or her memory?”

Memory is highly impacted by learning style. Once a person’s learning style is understood and accommodated, memory will improve. When people understand their learning style, they can adapt how they learn in order to use their brains most efficiently and improve their memory capability.

Here are seven thoughts about learning styles that can help get the school year started off right and improve a child’s memory, learning and study habits, as well as teach parents how to be more effective homework helpers:

1. Identify your child’s learning style. One way to do this is through formal psychological testing, which assesses learning style through a series of standardized brain behavior tests. The tests offer a unique profile of a person’s strengths and weaknesses compared to same-age peers.

2. The informal or non-standardized way of determining learning style is by recognizing what type of learning is easy and intuitive compared to what type is difficult for a person. The Learning Style Inventory is a questionnaire to help guide learners to their preferred learning style. Go to my website to take the LSI and find out your, or your child’s, learning style.

3. Auditory learners are people that are best at listening and learning. These are the people who love to listen to and comprehend difficult stories, but aren’t able to comprehend and recall the same information as efficiently if it’s read from a book. They remember what they hear, especially in context. They pick up languages easily because of the auditory component and their ability to copy and memorize the sounds that they hear.

4. Visual learners benefit from seeing what they need to learn and remember. They learn better by reading and writing information. They also tend to be inclined to problem solve with their hands. Visual learners prefer to see the information to be recalled and can create a visual file in their brain to retrieve this information when necessary.

5. People with attention and executive functioning weaknesses are challenged by being presented with different types of learning simultaneously. For example, if they are introduced to a new person, they may not recall their name because they are busy remembering their face. These two inputs compete in an already overloaded brain, causing forgetfulness. In addition, ADHD people tend not to recall rote facts such as names of unfamiliar people because they rely on contextual cues to help them make the information more meaningful and memorable.

6. People with learning disabilities often require repetition of information through a variety of modalities — visual, auditory, tactical and sensory — as part of the encoding and retrieval process required for memory.

7. Parents can use a child’s learning style to engage them more actively in the learning process. For example, when a child is an auditory learner and comprehends books at a higher level than his reading level, engage him in books through listening to stories. This will interest him in reading before he is able to read at that level.

The strategy of identifying a person’s preferred learning style to reinforce memory is not practiced routinely, and yet it can be very helpful to boost a child’s learning and memory skills. Schoolwork will be easier and more enjoyable overall.

Given the pace of life today and the amount of school work kids are asked to complete, it behooves parents and their children to know their learning styles and to use this knowledge to learn more efficiently and effectively.