How Learning Styles Affect Children's Learning

January 10th, 2013

A Sunday school teacher begins a new unit on Creation. Some children in the class are regulars and the teacher knows well what type of activity engages and excites each of these children. Then, there are children who come infrequently, and hopefully, each class will have visiting children! The strengths of these children pose a greater challenge to the teacher whose goal is to make a positive change in the discipleship of each child through the Bible lesson.

The regularly attending children will know the routine and have an expectation of what will happen in the class. The children who attend less frequently may depend on the cues of the other children and the teacher to be able to experience the biblical story and follow the class activities. The primary mode of teaching is verbal/linguistic; one often used in printed materials. Over-reliance on this method will leave out children who learn in other ways.

Some children may disconnect and become frustrated with trying to follow what is happening. A child who is acting out or disrupting an activity could be signaling that he or she is struggling with a learning style that seems foreign or difficult. Flexibility is a key characteristic for teachers, and a “tool box” of alternate ways of approaching the lesson is a valuable asset.

Each child has his or her own ways that help first, to engage their surroundings and second, to absorb the experience and make sense of it. In Sunday school, it is important to employ multiple ways of making meaning so that children relate to one another in a positive way, become more aware of the needs of other children in their own neighborhood or in places far away, and know that God’s love surrounds each child everyday and at all times.

Howard Gardner, a Harvard professor and researcher, has identification eight multiple intelligences that form a foundation for teaching and learning in both Sunday school and public school.

Each person tends to gravitate toward one or more preferred ways of learning, and thus of teaching!

By tapping these preferences and including the strengths of all children in a class, children have the maximum potential to engage the world, to make sense of their experiences, and apply those experiences elsewhere in their lives.

The multiple intelligences are:

  • Verbal/Linguistic (dealing with words, reading, speech)
  • Logical/Mathematical (dealing with numbers, patterns, sequences); Visual/Spatial (dealing with art, space, drawing, viewing)
  • Body/Kinesthetic (dealing with the physical; tangible manipulation)
  • Musical/Rhythmic (dealing with music, singing, playing, making rhythm)
  • Interpersonal (relating to others)
  • Intrapersonal (learning independently)
  • Naturalist (dealing with Creation and environment)

What Gardner set out to do, though; was not to provide a “how to” of applying the multiple intelligences, but to leave that task to educators.

In fact, children (youth and adults) themselves often provide cues to their strengths in learning by the excitement they show and by expressing a new learning in ways other than the method used to teach it. When a child has a choice of how to engage and respond to a biblical story, then even the lives of young disciples can be transformed to feed the hungry, to visit the sick, and to love God and neighbor.

comments powered by Disqus