Learning Styles: Why some children fall behind in school

learning styles“Learning styles” also known as our “representational systems” determine how we learn. Some of us take in more information through our eyes, we call them “Visual” while others are predominately “Kinesthetic.” Kinesthetic learners consume information more easily through physical exercises and need to wriggle or move to improve retention.

Less of our population is auditory. Auditory learners need to hear information delivered in entertaining ways and variable tones. Though due to the digital age, more children need to “think” and “process thoughts” and so are becoming “Auditory digital.”

This proven science, taught at level one NLP Practitioner classes is key to our ability to learn, yet it is seldom taught to our teachers. This omission is failing our school children.

Confucius once said, “Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I will understand.” It makes sense as to why so many of our children believe they are not intelligent. They are rarely taught to understand, instead, they are taught to listen, read and repeat.

Which is your preferred learning style?

It is clear that we do not process information the same way. Our learning styles are all different. While the western world may believe we all communicate in English, nothing could be further from the truth. There are in fact four styles of English.

These distinct modes of English that determine how we learn and communicate are called: Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic and Auditory Digital (or Digital). In the study of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) they are referred to as modalities, learning styles or representational systems. These are modes in which we re-present the world through our senses and how we typically communicate them back to the world.

Why do some children fall behind in school?

While visuals prefer to learn by seeing pictures, auditory learners prefer a more conversational approach. Kinesthetic learners prefer to move their bodies in an activity or through what appears as fidgeting. Auditory Digital learners seem to be the only representational system that is in rapport with our educational system. They learn by listening, taking notes and mentally pacing themselves by going through steps, systems and procedures. Hence, they are typically considered as ‘bright’ by an educational system that favors the listen and learn models.

If the majority of a teacher’s students are visual and the teacher fails to show children pictures and diagrams, then most of the students will fail. It’s that simple. We don’t know what we don’t know. If a teacher is unaware of the learning styles of their pupils, then your children attending the best private school that money can buy, are at a disadvantage. A private education doesn’t mean you are getting the best communicator for a teacher. Instead, your children will ultimately be paying the price of ignorance.

When information reaches our brains, it is given meaning and forms a subjective experience of the world – this is our representation otherwise known as perception and determines our learning styles. Although everyone uses all of the learning styles, we tend to have a preference or favor one over another. Just like there are people who prefer certain types of food or different ways of expressing themselves, we also have a preferential learning styles.

Statistics suggest that in a developed countries, people are predominantly;

  • 60% Visual
  • 20% Auditory
  • 20% Kinesthetic.

It is worth bearing this statistic in mind when creating marketing or advertising material. On the contrary, Miller, P. (2001) in “Learning styles: The multimedia mind” ED 451340 suggested that: –

  • 29% use Visual learning styles
  • 34% use Auditory learning styles (which includes Auditory Digital), and
  • 37% use Kinesthetic learning styles.

We can however agree, that our preferred learning styles means that to an English visual learner, kinesthetic teaching may look like Greek and feel like Japanese.

The learning styles that we use predominantly is our own special language of our experience and it embraces all the mental processes of thinking, remembering, imagination, perception and consciousness. By understanding these more clearly, it allows us to communicate better with ourselves and others and controls the way we interpret things.

The representational systems we tend to use most frequently are:

  1. Visual (V) seeing
  2. Auditory (A) hearing
  3. Kinesthetic (K) feeling
  4. Auditory digital (Ad) inner dialog or self talk and we also use our
  5. Olfactory (O) – Smell and
  6. Gustatory (G) – Taste

Are you more likely to be a Visual learner?

Visual people tend to do things more quickly whether that be moving or speaking. A picture tells a thousand words and they’re describing in words the images which are flying through their mind at breakneck speed. Visual learners often speak in a higher pitch and tend to sit more erect on the edge of their seats, with their eyes up and generally breathe shallow from the top of their lungs. By the way, this breathing and speech pattern can often look like anxiety to the uninitiated. So visual children are often misdiagnosed with anxiety issues.

Visual learners use gestures a lot which tend to be nearer head height and they have no problem throwing their hands in the air. They generally have a neat, organised and well groomed appearance and like things to ‘look right.’

This representational system find it difficult to remember verbal instructions because their minds tend to wander through a collage of mental pictures. They are less distracted by noise and they use visual predicates; words like: see; watch; look; picture; and seem to describe situations like they are photographs.

Physically, they are often thin and wiry and their hands will at times reflect this too with long slender fingers. Their handwriting will also likely have more sharp points to it and be written quickly. Here are some Visual learner clues summarised;

  • Breathing: Top of Lungs
  • Speech Rate: Fast
  • Physical Cues: Often gesturing with hands
  • Predicates: See, look, watch…
  • Eye Accessing Cues: Eyes move to top left or top right
  • Other Cues: Speak in higher pitch

Are you more likely to be a Auditory learner?

People who are predominantly Auditory do things more rhythmically. Their voice tends to be mid range and they talk to themselves, either internally or externally. A clue is that you may see them moving their lips when they are reading.

They breathe from the middle of their chest and use some mild hand gestures but not extensively like a visual learner will. They may repeat instructions back to you and are easily distracted by noise. So that kid tapping his pencil at the back of the room will be not only distracting them, it could be a major source of annoyance.

Auditory learners often tilt their head to one side in conversation, as if lending an ear or on the telephone. They memorise things in steps or sequence and like to be told things and love to hear feedback in conversations.

They tend to use auditory predicates such as, that rings a bell or that clicks, and are interested how you sound like in what you have to say. They can be excellent listeners and enjoy music and spoken voice. Their handwriting holds a character, somewhere between the visual and kinesthetic styles. Somewhere between sharp points and rounded. Here are some Auditory learner clues summarised;

  • Breathing: Middle of chest
  • Speech Rate: Medium
  • Physical Cues: Mild hand gestures
  • Predicates: Listen, hear, sounds like…
  • Eye Accessing Cues: Eyes move side to side (towards their ears)
  • Other Cues: May tilt head in conversation

Are you more likely to be a Kinesthetic learner?

Kinesthetic people typically breathe from the bottom of their lungs, so you’ll see their stomachs going in and out. They do things more slowly than visual learners and typically enjoy a deeper a deep voice. They can feel it when they speak. In speech, they hold longer pauses between statements. They process things that are said to them, by determining how they feel about what is said.

They respond well to touch and physical rewards. If you want their full attention, it is often helpful to touch their shoulder briefly before speaking. They use few hand gestures and generally stand closer to the person they’re talking with. This helps them to feel their energy, so to speak. They use predicates such as, I want to get a handle on it or a firm foundation or a feel of what’s going down and as such, they will be able to access their emotions more readily. Physically they tend to be more solid looking and generally their hands are larger or chunky (so that they can get to grips with things).

They are interested in how you feel and memorise by walking through the process or doing it. Some schools for example; teach children to physically walk each letter of the alphabet. This is a highly kinesthetic way of teaching. Their handwriting is more rounded and it is likely that they’ll push more firmly on the page. It’s easy to feel their writing that way. Here are some Kinesthetic learner clues summarised;

  • Breathing: Bottom of Lungs
  • Speech Rate: Slow
  • Physical Cues: Few hand gestures, usually stands close
  • Predicates: Gripping, feel, rough, soft, hard…
  • Eye Accessing Cues: Eyes will move to the bottom left
  • Other Cues: Deeper voice, takes longer pauses

Are you more likely to be a Auditory Digital learner?

Auditory Digital people will likely manifest characteristics of the other three representational systems. In addition, they will talk to themselves a lot (in their head – you won’t see their lips moving like auditory learners) and like to make sense of things and understand them. You may begin to notice that every question you ask is repeated in their head before they will answer you. So you need to give this representational system more time to process their thoughts. Whatever you do, don’t rush them.

Whereas visual learners like the big picture, auditory digital learners place a high value on logic and love detail. They use words which are abstract with no direct sensory link and so learn corporate speak, acronyms and jargon easily. They use predicates like, I understand your motivation or that computes with me. Let me think it through. I need to process that first. Let’s analyse the details more thoughtfully.

As a result of their emotions not being attached to the words that they’re using, they often are less emotionally attached to outcomes. They almost scientific researchers reflecting on facts (in NLP we call this a “double dissociation”). Here are some Auditory Digital learner clues summarised;

  • Breathing: Sometimes lower abdomen
  • Speech Rate: Sometimes Slow
  • Physical Cues: Reserved
  • Predicates: Sensible, understand, calculate, analyse…
  • Eye Accessing Cues: Bottom right
  • Other Cues: Often not emotionally attached to outcomes

Find out how you process information and how you need information to be delivered to you to ensure that you truly get it. Click here if you would like to take the Free Learning Styles Assessment Now

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