How children learn has been a matter of debate for scholars since the early stages of formal education. Thousands of years ago, during Greek Antiquity, educators, philosophers and physicians tried to determine how a child’s mind works and how the learning process occurs. The study of the human mind has evolved during the next centuries, but was mainly done by the clergy and the monks living in reclusive monasteries across Europe, being mainly focused on the religious and aspect.
Although these early studies were confined to select geographical areas and were performed only on certain segments of the society, they did prove comprehensive and laid the foundations for further study. These studies were continued during the Age of Enlightenment, an era that lasted between the 1650s and up to the 1780s and promoted analysis, reason, and cultural superiority as opposed to the traditional, archaic values. During this period, the intellectual elite focused on the study of education, while also supporting the fight against illiteracy, a new credo that gained ground across the Western World. During the next century, government-backed literacy campaigns, which guaranteed easy school access for children, became the norm, and studies on how children learn were performed in multiple centers.
Modern studies on how children learn are mostly based on these initial findings, but there are also controversial methodologies and techniques that bring a fresh outlook on this delicate matter. However, all studies point to certain ideas on which all scientists agree. For instance, there are certain learning patterns that are visible in every classroom, regardless of the children’s age, cultural background or upbringing. Also, scientists agree that children learn in different ways, and there are four main areas of preferred learning styles. Understanding these patterns can help educators create effective learning strategies that will guarantee a better psycho-social adjustment for future adults.
Let’s take a look at the four different types of learning:
1. Visual learning – children who tend to remember faces better, have a good visual imagination, are good readers and love visual arts. They respond to videos, reading, graphics, images, posters and other visual data. These children tend to take copious notes, perform well on writing tasks, have neat and coordinated clothing, benefit tremendously from illustrations, paintings, and other visual representations and are attracted to language rich in pictorial imagery. Visual children, as they are identified by educators and scientists, tend to be more passive, quiet, and enjoy calm surroundings.
2. Auditory learning – children who tend to remember what they have heard. They respond to any audible sound, they recognize voices, enjoy talking (as opposed to writing or drawing) and will often start debates on a variety of subjects. Educators recommend a learning strategy based on lectures, open discussions, questioning, singing, and even more complex techniques, such as rhyming and mnemonics. Auditory learners remember names (but often forget faces), hum or talk to themselves, enjoy listening to others, like to read aloud and may have difficulties when reading maps or graphs.
3. Tactile learning – these children love to learn by touching and feeling with their fingers. They tend to love writing, drawing, sculpting, sewing, doodling and are extremely creative. Educators point out that these children love to build new things or even design new toys and objects, but they also like to illustrate written stories and poems and will find painting, sculpting and sewing particularly relaxing.
4. Kinesthetic learning – the active children, as they are called by some educators, love to experiment through trial and error and will get involved in most physical activities. These children tend to remember what they have done (as opposed to what they have seen or heard) and will have difficulty paying attention to their normal schoolwork. This is why educators recommend a more hands-on educational approach when kinesthetic children are involved, instead of the traditional reading and writing method. Role playing, outdoor activities, and games are good alternatives for these children.