Thursday, March 20, 2008

Learning Styles and Homework Myths

(To analyse your child’s learning style, have a look at this free online demo.)

Myth 1: Don't agree to having the TV or music playing while your child is doing his or her homework. It's nothing but distracting and teaches a habit that will be hard to break.

Truth 1: Research shows that many students think and remember best when studying with background music. Furthermore, 20% of an elementary population in a research study scored significantly higher when reading in a noisy environment.

Myth 2: Use folders, small boxes, manila folders or other types of stationery for storing school work, both past and present. This will teach a life long habit that makes achieving set goals so much easier.

Truth 2: Yes, being organised is a wonderful habit to have. However, a child whose information processing is global, will feel distressed or even threatened by a neat work area. Such children draw comfort from a less tidy and less structured homework environment and will find it impossible to function at an organised desk. And, speaking of desks....

Myth 3: Children learn best when sitting upright at a desk.

Truth 3: Sitting upright on a firm chair puts most of your weight on a very small part of your body. Many children (and adults) find it distracting to maintain such a body position for any length of time. Speaking from a learning style point of view, many learners need to sit in a less formal environment (floor, bed, sofa) in order to concentrate better, or concentrate at all. Which leads us to sitting....

Myth 4: Students who do not sit still are not ready to learn.
Truth 4: Many students need mobility when they learn because of their learning style requirements. An American study revealed that half of one school’s seven grade students needed extensive mobility while learning. When they were allowed to move from one instructional area to another while learning new information, they achieved statistically better than when they had to remain seated. Most students who are actively involved are likely to learn more, pay closer attention, and achieve higher test marks.

Myth 5: Students learn best in well-lit areas and damage their eyes when they read and work in low light.

Truth 5: Research shows that many students perform significantly better in low light environments, because bright light makes them restless, fidgety and hyperactive. Low light calms these youngsters down and helps them relax and think clearly. The younger children are, the less light they seem to need! They only need that amount of light for reading in which they feel comfortable, but their need for light seems to increase every five years.

(Does your child need bright light to do her homework? Find out here.)


Danielle M said...

The truth of myth one that students score higher in reading in a noisy environment seems strange to me. Then again, since the data is of elementary school children, it makes sense, but I know few of my peers who learn better (or retain information better) in a noisy environment. I used to like music or the TV on while I am working, but I have found that the harder coursework becomes, the less I want noise around me. I wonder when we grow out of liking a noisy environment to work in.

For myth two, this makes me think of my younger sister who claims she does not like her room clean because it upsets her. Do young students get threatened by this sort of environment because it seems too grown up? I wonder if there is an underlying fear there of actually growing up and having responsibilities, like keeping a clean desk.

And about myth five, yes, I can understand students not needing a lot of light, but this is also a good environment for students to fall asleep in. For instance, say a student was working on a math sheet and the teacher lowered the lights a bit to make the work seem less threatening. A student who does not have any interest in math may actually drift off because of the lack of blinding, florescent light.

Danielle McGuire

brian mueller said...

Some of these myths/truths are a bit surprising to me but after thinking those through they seem to make sense. The first myth I found surprising was number five. It seems important to have enough light in a classroom so students can see the chalkboard and other reading materials clearly. But after thinking back to my days in grammar school I can remember being more relaxed in classrooms that had low light, I was actually able to concentrate better on the subject at hand and didn't find it that hard to read material.
The myth’s I found to make the most sense were number three and four. I understand why teachers and parents would want their children to sit up straight so they won't damage their backs but the chairs most children sit in are very uncomfortable, which leads to slouching and fidgeting. If classrooms made desks were more student friendly students would be able to become more relaxed and able to concentrate on the task at hand.
Most of the myths/truths you brought up in this article are all experiences I had during school. When I become a teacher I will certainly try to implement some of the positive research about learning styles into my classroom. It’s important to try and make all students comfortable in the classroom in order to get the most out of them and so that they can get the most out of the class.

Yvonne Eve Walus said...

Danielle, thank you for your feedback. To answer your question about music: we don't always grow out of our preference for a noisy learning environment. While generally speaking teenagers have a greater need for background music than any other age group, some people maintain their need throughout their lives and cannot concentrate in a silent environment.

About neat rooms: it is true that young children don't usually clean up after themselves unless they're told to - that skill we acquire as we grow up. Nevertheless, some of them will prefer to have a tidy room with toys arranged by theme in boxes... while others, like your sister, will feel uncomfortable in an organised room. While one of the contributing psychological factors may be the fear of growing up (particularly in teenagers), many children want to grow up, want responsibilities and still hate tidy rooms with no rational explanation other than that it's their learning style.

Lighting in the room is a tricky issue: those who need bright light will feel sleepy in darker rooms, while those who need dim light will feel stressed in bright rooms.

A pleasure talking to you!

Yvonne Eve Walus said...

Brian, thank you for your input.