There’s been a lot written about learning styles. More than 650 books published in the United States and Canada alone. Do a Google search on “learning styles” and you get over 2,000,000 results. Most people know if they’re a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner, and instructors often try to design their courses to accommodate the different learning styles so as to ensure that each student’s strongest modality is represented in some fashion.
Teaching and Learning
It’s easy to lay the procrastination problem on students and certainly they must own a big part of it. But this research indicates that professors are not powerless. There are ways assignments can be designed and courses structured that can decrease the amount of procrastination.
Do better students sit in front, or does seat selection contribute to better grades? A recent study examined this question and found that students who sat in the back of the room for the first half of the term were nearly six times more likely to receive an F.
Once I passed my 50th semester of introductory biology, I began to regret that my profession doesn’t have a real apprenticeship for teaching—why should every young professor facing his or her first big class…have to make the same mistakes I did and, perhaps more important, why should they not know that everybody…has the same problems?
Take the plethora of information available online, add the ease of which students can cut-and-paste material, throw in lots of pressure to get good grades, and plagiarism becomes an appealing option to almost any student.
For most of us, handouts are a staple of instructional life, but as Teresa Sakraida and Peter Draus (reference below) point out, their “development is often a trial-and-error process.” (p. 326) Like so many other aspects of instruction, we take the construction of handouts for granted, their creation guided largely by intuition.
Helping students develop critical-thinking skills and discipline-specific knowledge remain at the forefront of faculty goals for undergraduate education, with 99.6 percent of faculty indicating that critical-thinking skills are “very important” or “essential” and 95.1 percent saying the same of discipline-specific knowledge. Other top goals include helping students to evaluate the quality and reliability of information (97.2 percent) and promoting the ability to write more effectively (96.4 percent).
Research on learning styles now spans four decades and occurs across a wide spectrum of disciplines, including many quite removed from psychology, the disciplinary home of many of the central concepts and theories that ground notions of learning style.
As educators we hear and heed Peter McLaren’s warning, “You can’t teach people anything … You have to create a context in which they can analyze themselves and their social formations and lives.” 1 We believe the creation of this context must be our aim as educators, and this context must be balanced between theory and practice. In our pursuit to strike this balance, we believe that experiential education has the potential to assist our fellow educators in transforming their pedagogical practices to more deeply engage their students and improve learning outcomes.
Have you tried implementing some active learning strategies in a large course only to find students resisting those efforts? You put students in groups and give them some challenging discussion questions, only to see most of them sitting silently while a few make feeble comments to which no one in the group responds.