Learning Styles Inventory – 1

In past years I wrote two posts on on the topic of using a Learning Styles Inventory. This first repost is from 2011. It could be very useful for some of us right now in October, when we have to haul out the heavy artillery with certain students. What better way to manage a classroom and placate nervous learners who might also happen to be bullies than to validate those students by publicly in class validating the kinesthetic and visual learners (the auditory learners don’t need validation in a CI class) by using a very simple Learning Styles Inventory?

I like to use Learning Style Inventories with the kids in October. I find the simplest ones on the internet that only take about 15 minutes for the kids to fill out to determine if they are an auditory, visual or kinesthetic learner.

It is very important to do that each year because each child who is not an auditory learner in a CI classroom needs to know that the reason they struggle more is NOT because they can’t do CI as well as the auditory learners, but because they simply haven’t found the “right part of their brain” yet.

Devoting one class in October to this activity (15 min. to get a score and the rest of class and often the entirety of the next class) has allowed me to get to know each my kids better, to make sense out of the results, and when it is early enough in the year to help launch really good CI classes based on increased trust. (The inventory discussion builds trust.)

I can always get to know my kids better. They are so good at hiding behind their faces. By giving up just one class now in October and giving them the inventory and maybe the next day and then maybe periodically after that.

I like to guess what their scores are with certain students, what their dominant learning styles are as a result of what I have observed in them since the year started. They love to see if I am right, and they love it when I guess their three numbers, and I have gotten some kids exact on their scores. That really blows their minds.

Doing the inventory is well worth the loss of one class of comprehensible input because, as stated above, with the increased trust the inventory generates, a lot more personalized comprehensible input seems to happen after we do the inventory. After the inventory, sometimes names happen, as well.

How does the inventory work? Before giving them the inventory, I explain that everybody is either a visual, auditory or tactile/kinesthetic learner, and some people are combinations of the two or three of them. I give them examples of each, so that the kids understand that:

1. visual learners like to process information logically and read and write and do things that teachers ask them to do in school all day and are good at algebra. I tell them that kids who are visual learners handle school and sitting in class and looking at stuff that teachers make them look at without much effort. I tell those kids that school is fairly easy for them.

2. auditory learners, I tell the kids, don’t often do well in school except maybe for geometry, because they want to learn with their ears and, except for my class and maybe a class in choir or some other music class, they are shit out of luck (I don’t really say that) as far as being content in a school environment, which is definitely visual pretty much all the way around.

3. tactile/kinesthetic learners, I say, like to work with their hands and do things that involve moving their bodies or manipulating things. I tell the kids that tactile learners become surgeons and auto mechanics, etc. I tell them that what looks like a desk to a visual learner looks more like a restraining device to a tactile learner. I try to impress upon them how serious that is for kids who test high on the tactile/kinesthetic scale.

It is a good thing for each kid in the room to be able to connect their school experience with their learning style. Kids with high visual scores can understand why they may process a little slower than others in my class, those faster (auditory) processors in the room whom they thought they were “smarter” than before they saw the auditory learners strut their stuff in my class. The kids with high tactile scores are relieved to know that there is nothing wrong with them and that their squirminess can be explained by their natural learning style and not by the fact that something is wrong with them. I entirely avoid the topic of using drugs to control tactile learners, for obvious reasons.

An example of how doing this inventory can help is one student of mine who is my best student in all my classes and who processes faster than anyone in any of my classes by far and yet is failing, for real at this moment, all her other classes – she is just not a visual learner. You should see the look on her face and on the faces of the others in class when we bridge that topic. Her face shines with pride as she is finally recognized for something she is good at, and because she understands that she is not stupid, a message that she has received for years from visual teachers who may have never even give her a learning styles inventory or mentioned multiple intelligences.

If you want, just give it to them, it’s self explanatory. At the end of the process, they will have scores between 10 and 40 in each of the three learning style columns. A typical score for an auditory learner would be 18 on visual, 34 on auditory and 26 or so on tactile.

Then, and this is where the trust and communication skyrockets as they see that you really care about them, you put your hand on your chin and look around the room and write three numbers for each kid on the board. Of course, you are guessing, but, after over two months with the kids, you might surprise yourself and the kid with your level of accuracy. The kids who always wants to doodle in class (but can’t because of the Five Finger rule) may get a guess of 30 from you. With one super auditory learner, I did this and looked right at her and said, “Your visual score is 16.” I was right and immediately everybody wanted me to guess their scores. The hardest one to guess if the visual score, because schools try to turn everybody into visual learners.

Doing the inventory is a fun way to spend time with the kids. Doing this activity makes them understand about how they learn in my classroom. That right there is a big deal. When I see that they don’t understand me in class, I have an even stronger reason to ask them to clarify with the fist slam move, as I 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.

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 that is trying to hamper them, but the way they process information that is the problem. And 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. As soon as I say something like, “So, your child may be complaining about French because, guess what, they are a visual learner!” It’s a good place to start a parent conference. It’s a good thing to do right now in October, as many of us get ready to get lift off of stories in our fluency programs based on comprehensible input into and through the fine days of winter.



8 thoughts on “Learning Styles Inventory – 1”

      1. Yes, celestially. I agree. but following the line of “language learning is auditory, not academic” how much credence do we give to the whole auditory, tactile, visual stuff? I don’t mean to challenge the foundation of multiple intelligences. But if a kid (or kid’s parent) says, “my kid is a visual learner, they have to write it down”, where’s the line between, “Yes, I validate that” and “I’m sorry, this class is primarily auditory, your daughter/son didn’t read their first language until they were 5, 6, 7 years old, etc”

        1. I’d say that your line would be in accomodating specific learning styles for specific people. Remember that learning styles should be more properly labeled “dominant learning styles” because we all learn with each of the styles to some degree. Brain research in fact notes that things get better encoded for memory the more different types of senses are activated. When we act out a story, which learning style is dominant? Auditory? Kinesthetic? Visual? It depends on the learner; they’re all getting different things out of it, but it is the complementary nature of the methods that really makes it work. We need to keep varying it up between the styles anyways to provide richer encoding and hold interest.

          So for that student who has to have things written down, great. Give them a print out of the extended reading so they can work from that. I allow notes in my room as long as the default position of the book is closed and it is open for no longer than two minutes at a stretch. I have only 2 people on average take me up on this at any given time, so I see that as valuable for them but not for others.

  1. I’m checking authorship and copyright and doing all I can to find where it comes from before I put it up here as public domain. I think it is at least 20 years old. Trust me, if it has stayed with me for all these years, it’s good stuff. Give me a few more days on this.

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