Learning Styles and Motivation

I found a connection this week between two of my presentations on learning styles and a book review for The Motivation Breakthrough.

First, I had the opportunity to spend three days with 4th and 5th grade students, along with their teachers and parents, examining the results of the students’ Kaleidoscope Learning Style profiles. Dr. Christiana Van Woert, principal of the Bragg Elementary School in Chester, NJ, and Dr Larry Feinstod, superintendent, of Cranford NJ Schools, arranged for students to complete the profile and then be empowered to use the results in planning how to study for the greatest return on effort. Both programs invited parents to learn about their child’s findings as well as uncovering information about their own learning styles.

Dr Van Woert- “My goal was to help our students, teachers, and parents to become more self-aware and thereby responsible for how they learn. In knowing more about their preferences, they can naturally seek out instructional activities that support them and which will lead to increased student achievement.”

Dr Feinsod-“Teaching and learning cannot take place in an educational vacuum. Teachers cannot teach and children cannot learn unless both understand their respective learning styles. Indeed, differentiation is meaningless unless the teacher truly comprehends the way each child learns.”

At the same time, I found a USA Today interview with Richard Lavoie, a special educator and the author of The Motivation Breakthrough : Six Secrets for Turning on the Turned-Out Child. Lavoie offers six motivational strategies: praise, power, projects, people, prizes, and prestige.

Here are the connections I made regarding learning styles and motivation:

Praise– specific, sincere and focused on effort and improvement(Lavoie)
Knowing learning styles of students can cue the delivery of praise: (auditor, visual, tactual, kinesthetic)

Power– offering choices can motivate(Lavoie)
Learning styles can assist teachers in offering abstract/sequential, concrete/sequential, abstract/global and concrete/global options for variety in centers, activities, and assignments.

Projects– can connect disciplines, stimulate and motivate inquisitiveness. (Lavoie)
Simulations and Live Event Learning (real life activities like planting a garden or teaching younger students) provide the most opportunities for many learning style preferences being present in the learning activity.

People- especially important for adults to build positive relationships with people-orientated kids (Lavoie)
Tactual learners need the “comfortable feel” with teachers for the best learning. Empowered tactual learners know about themselves and approach their teachers to speed the fulfilling of these relationship needs.

Prizes- intermittent rewards, not announced ahead of time to celebrate best efforts can motivate.(Lavoie)
In Homework and Kids, author William Haggart lists celebrations that match learning style preferences. Matching the celebration to the students style can magnify the benefits.

Prestige– All children need to feel important. Consistent encouragement and opportunities to showcase talents are important.

As students that I worked with reviewed their temperament styles: intuitive feeler, intuitive thinker, sensing judger and sensing perceiver, I identified why their friends would value the strengths of the preference they had and also explored careers where those strengths are valued.

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Steve Barkley

For the past 30 years, Steve has served as a consultant to school districts, teacher organizations, state departments of education, and colleges and universities nationally and internationally, facilitating the changes necessary for them to reach students and successfully prepare them for the 21st century. Read more…

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