Thursday, May 15, 2008

Analytic and Holistic Learning Styles

Analytic students with a left-brain processing style learn very differently from the way students with a right-brain processing style tend to learn. Analytics learn sequentially, building details into the understanding and often prefer a quiet learning environment, bright light, formal seating arrangements and tend to continue their tasks until they have been completed. This makes them generally more successful in traditional school systems which are based on analytical, logical, academic teaching approaches.

Holistic/global students however, have a right-brain dominant, more feeling-based thinking style, learn holistically and compared to analytics often 'backwards'. They need the big picture, an overview first and once they understand the concept then they are able to concentrate on details. They prefer learning with what most teachers would describe as distractions: music, conversation, soft illumination, informal seating, snacks, social interaction and with lots of mobility. In addition, holistics often are not persistent, it is not their way to focus on one thing until they reach understanding - they function much more like a 'scatterbrain'. Only if something makes sense to
them, can they concentrate on details. They also may get easily bored and need frequent breaks. Usually they return to their assignment, work on it for a short period of time and then need another break. In addition, holistics don't like working on one thing at a time; instead, they prefer to work on multiple tasks simultaneously and enjoy them most when permitted to choose their own sequence and the time frame.

The younger children are, the more right-brain dominant they are; therefore they need more holistic, right-brain teaching methods because their analytical brain-processing skills are not yet developed and in many people (research estimates approximately two thirds of the Western population) holistic brain-processing remains the preferred thinking style throughout life. Most people have learned to analyse and can apply analytical thinking processes if they have to, but this makes learning harder and information storage much more difficult for them.

However, if a school system, which is based on analytical teaching methods, forces young people to do all their learning analytically (as this is the preferred teaching style, especially in academic subjects in most of our high schools) the result is that such a system sets up students for failure - especially those whose information-processing style is strongly holistic, as seems to be the case with many teenage boys and native people in many countries.

Another factor which contributes to the mismatch between teaching and learning styles is the well researched fact that teachers are strongly analytical in their approaches, more so in high schools than in primary schools (and even more in tertiary education) and cannot imagine that their specific subject area could be studied and presented holistically, in a more right-brain way. It is just not in their thinking! Such teachers also seem to have great difficulties in accepting that there is more than one way to learn anything, because due to their own sequential thinking processes, analytics believe 'their' way is the best and the only one.

And that false belief causes holistic students to fail, mainly in analytical subjects such as mathematics, science, economics, etc, which causes boredom and frustration, has a negative effect on their overall performance, and seems to be the main reason for behaviour and learning problems, which then lead to the above mentioned social problems among young adolescents.

1 comment:

roland camilleri said...

I think your article is great.
I happen to be a left brain person.
I agree with your conclusions.
My fortes are mathematics and

best regards,

roland camilleri. B.Ec. FCPA.

sydney, australia.