Some other points to reflect on about learning styles inventories:
1. You can learn lots of valuable information about your class makeup. In one small class of about 15 students made up largely of boys, 70% of the class was tactile but only two of them presented that way – the others had learned to quell their need to fidget either through self-discipline or it was done for them pharmaceutically. So, when you at least acknowledge those things in class, it is huge for them. The students know that you know them and care about how they learn and that you care about their success in your class. They begin to see you as on their side.
2. Greater appreciation of students who are different in any way occurs. In one case, one of the best students in all of my classes was – at the time I discovered it – failing many of her other classes. She was just not a visual learner and had just given up. But when we bridged the topic of how great she was doing in my class, and how it was connected to her learning style, the look on her face and on the faces of the others in class was worth becoming a teacher for. The kids came to a greater appreciation of the fact that not all students – and their teachers – learn and teach in the same way. Her face shone with pride as she was finally recognized for something that she was good at. Because of the inventory, she understood that she was not stupid, countering a message that she had received for years from visual teachers who required large amounts of memorization in the visual learning environments that we call schools. The biggest outcome of this new knowledge for this girl, however, was when she became one of the most outstanding artists we had creating drawings all that year. We turned a negative into a positive. That’s what good teachers do.
3. When I see that a student doesn’t understand me in class, I can make eye contact with them and maybe whisper in English something reminding them that they are a visual learner stuck in my auditory environment, so they really have to try harder in my class. This helps them put things into perspective.
4. Doing the inventory takes away any personal resentment the visual learner might have towards me, as they come to understand that it isn’t me who is trying to hamper them, but the way they process information that is what needs to change.
5. It is a great thing to have these inventories next to my printed grades for parent conferences, because it immediately takes away any oppositional energy that the parent might have. In a parent meeting, as soon as I say, in a lighthearted way with a big smile on my face, something like, “So, your child is a visual learner trapped in an auditory environment!” It’s a good conversation starter for a parent conference.
6. If the parent is one of the types who seems to know more than you about teaching languages, at that point you can go right to your two big ACTFL guns – that the standard in WL education is Communication and that the research says that people acquire languages primarily via listening, and that:
– you as a teacher are now required by your national parent organization (ACTFL) to speak the language most of the time in the classroom.
– their child is probably very talented at learning via listening, but just needs some practice at it and an open mind to accept that this one class is going to require her to learn in a completely different way from the learning style that she uses in her other classes, except possibly in her music and, if she is lucky, her art classes.
– the Communication Standard is never going to revert to the old visual model that once propped up foreign language pedagogy in the United States.