Thursday, April 27, 2006

Young Learning Styles - how early is too early?

Barbara and I were enjoying an Easter brunch with my family, when my daughter deliberately ignored one of my requests. Up until then, she was a model child, enthralled by Barbara’s attention and eager to please... quite unlike the daughter I know and love, in fact. But clearly, enough was enough, and she decided to assert herself by returning to her non-compliant self. Fortunately, she’s also externally motivated, so it was easy to guide her back into model-child behaviour.

In case you’re wondering, my daughter is three years old. Barbara and I just looked at each other and laughed: “That’s learning styles for you.”

So there you have it. While some elements of the Learning Styles Analysis (LSA) Pyramid can only be assessed at a later stage (statements like “I remember best when I can read about it” only make sense if you can already read), others come out much, much earlier.

The other day, we talked about soccer, and how, regardless of which team member scores the goal, it’s the whole team that wins. My daughter looked at us seriously: “Mummy,” she said. “I don’t like team work. I want to win all by myself.” I carry the LSA pyramid in my head, so I immediately put a large cross (for non-preference) through the social element called “Team” and a circle (for preference) around the social element “Alone”.

I also know that my daughter is visual, auditory and kinesthetic, although whether that last one remains a preference, or becomes a flexibility later on, is yet to be seen (from my personal observations, I believe that some of today’s couch potatoes were once children who enjoyed physical play). She also needs mouth stimulation: she bites her nails, and I can’t even begin to count the holes she’s bitten through sleeves, collars and hat strings, and I’m very glad I know about Learning Styles or else I might have ended up punishing my lovely daughter for something that’s not her fault.

My 19-month old son, on the other hand, is a strong tactile learner: he has to touch everything to figure out how it works, he loves the feel of different fabrics and textures, and he needs to hold the board book we’re reading in his own hands or he gets bored. He is also an obedient child (compliance) who loves playing with his sister (pairs). His favourite pastimes are sweeping and putting toys back into their box at the end of the play - that penchant for neatness, combined with his insistence to get everything “right”, points towards analytic tendencies, though I hesitate to pronounce anything definite this early on, because most children tend to start off as holistic, so I’m a bit thrown by this observation.

The LSA Junior assessment on is recommended for children aged 7 -12. Nevertheless, if you have a younger child, you can still deduce several of their learning style elements by simply observing them at play (let the questionnaire guide you).

But how early is too early? Well, for the sake of being a better parent who understands their child, I say: the earlier, the better.

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