We all learn differently – some need verbal instructions, others need to watch a video, and some need hands-on training before they are able to absorb what is being taught. Kids too learn in various different ways. Some days, they may need more visual cues and on other days they need to be challenged to think and ask questions before they can understand a lesson.
Educationists believe that the basic methods for learning are:
- Visual – they would need to see something to understand it
- Oral – via audio and visual
- Auditory – purely through what they hear, such as through singing
- Verbal – through words
- Physical/Kinaesthetic – related to physical movement and motor skills
- Logical – would be concept-wise and asking the child what they think
- Social – learning in a group
- Solitary – individual learning
No one way
Pinky Panda, educational psychologist at White Lodge Kuala Lumpur, believes learning styles are not limited to the seven mentioned above.
“Our curriculum is based on the theory of (American developmental psychologist) Howard Gardner, who believes that intelligence can be of various kinds. So, learning can be visual, auditory and physical, among others. We focus on all these areas and it can be more than seven learning styles,” says Panda. (Yes, that is her real name. – Ed.)
According to her, children sometimes learn in various methods on different days or even have a combination of ways in which they learn. For example, some days they may need a song to learn something, and the next they may need a visual explanation.
“We accept that every child has a different way of learning and we work on that. We might notice that a child might learn better when colouring or may like to be spoken to a lot to be clear on a concept. The teacher’s skill in spotting this comes into play and the teacher would challenge the child personally and in a group. This should then be communicated to the parents so they can follow up with what is done in school. That would ensure both the school and parents are on the same page and it facilitates learning for the child,” she adds.
What can parents do
If the child is not in school yet, the parents should observe the child, paying attention to whether they prefer listening to instructions, looking at pictures and videos or hands-on learning.
While children’s learning styles might change daily it doesn’t vary so much, informs Panda. “To a large extent, predominantly some children will learn best in certain ways,” she says.
An example would be a child who is on the autism spectrum and may prefer solitary learning. While some autistic children might prefer to learn individually rather than in a group, Panda maintains it is good for them to socialise. They may be quiet, but that doesn’t mean they are not listening and learning.
She advocates autistic children being in the same classroom as regularly-developing children as it helps both groups learn.
“The autistic child learns to live with others and the rest of the class learns to accept that there are children who are different,” says Panda.
She believes that it is best to send children to school early so that if there are any learning problems, they can be detected through early intervention. Preschool is also a good time for children to learn social skills and how to take care of themselves such as go to toilet independently. Such skills are needed before a child is ready to enter primary school.
At preschool and kindergarten, children usually have a short attention span. However, as they reach the kindergarten year, they should be able to focus on a task for at least five to 10 minutes.
“Anything less than that after the age of six years would be considered hyperactive. Most of the time inattentiveness is associated with being bored so the child might need a way to challenge themselves. There is a thin line between being hyperactive and being bored,” says Panda.
Helping kids learn
The best time of the day for them to learn? Any time after they have been fed and are happy, instead of hungry and cranky!
According to Panda, there are a number of things you can do to support your child at home to help them learn better in school. Eating healthy meals, exercising, getting enough sleep and minimising screen time are all beneficial, but the most important is being there, spending time with them and talking with them daily.
She also recommends parents communicate with the school to know more about their child’s development. She advises parents to “accept your children as they are, don’t compare them with others, and be there for them unconditionally”.