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Teaching Strategies to Accommodate the Learning Styles of Diverse Students

Educators know that every student has their own unique identity. This includes not only their outward behavior and personality, but implicit traits as well, such as the ways they absorb information: their learning styles. Just like any personality trait, learning styles are influenced by cultural background and can vary greatly in classrooms with students from different cultures.

By practicing teaching strategies that cater to a multitude of learning styles, educators create a curriculum that is more inclusive for all students, as well as a chance for students to explore and cultivate additional learning styles. Emporia State University's Master of Science in Curriculum & Instruction – Instructional Coach/Teacher Leader PreK-12 online program offers preparation for you to develop, design and apply a contemporary strategy and curriculum that is inclusive for all students.

Active Learning

One-minute papers, one-sentence summaries, role-playing, debate

Active learning can take a variety of forms. One of those is a shorter, quick-hitting approach to certain topics that target individual academic skills, such as a one-minute writing prompt. The idea, as teacher trainer Jade Blue wrote in a 2018 blog post for Cambridge University Press, is to create shorter, more digestible learning exercises that don't require "longer periods of focused study," which can be difficult for some learning styles. Other active learning activities, such as role-playing or a debate, can also be a strong opportunity for social-emotional learning (SEL), helping students develop interpersonal skills and habits to complement their academics.

Small-Group Work

Project-based group assignments, group discussions

As a post from Lumen Learning highlights, one of the primary ways that cultural differences can arise among students is on the topic of identity, "the sense of self or of 'who you are.'" American culture tends to uphold the idea of an independent and unique self, while many other cultures possess a sense of a more "interdependent self." One good example of this difference is competitive versus cooperative activities. Some students prefer the ability to separate themselves and stand out from the crowd, while others might prefer a group activity where people work together to achieve the same goal. Breaking up students into smaller groups for assignments or discussions allows for more cooperation. Smaller groups can also be a chance for teachers to speak with and accommodate the needs of students more directly if necessary.

Learning Stations

Inclusion of quiet areas

Like active learning, it's possible to break up the monotony of a long continuous lesson using learning stations. The principles of small-group work apply to learning stations. The idea is to break up students at separate tables or "stations" and have them rotate through a variety of learning activities for shorter periods of time.

In an article on Teach Thought, author Dan Henderson wrote that his students spent 20 minutes at each of five different learning stations, the idea being that "each academic group comes to the teacher in groups of four to six students for direct instruction. In the other centers, activities are planned out for groups to do independent work." This kind of rotation fosters several different skills and gives the educator a chance to engage on a smaller, more direct scale. Arranging groups based on learning style or comprehension level can also create more effective engagement between the teacher and students.

Gamification

Electronic, board, paper-based

While the transactional — and sometimes competitive — nature of "gamified" teaching has its detractors, it also has legitimate positives. First, an enthusiastic emotion like joy helps to encode memories, improving association and skill development. It can be a gateway to learning for particular learning styles, one that begins with a game and evolves into the enjoyment of learning for its own sake.

Educational Technology Tools

Digital journals, gamification

On the most practical level, educational technology tools solve accessibility issues for any student facing a barrier to access, like having a vision impairment or being hard of hearing. Supplying audio recordings, offering readable printouts and other best practices help foster a more inclusive and accessible learning environment. Modern education technology can also be more efficient at times, as teachers can use the same program for every student while still personalizing each individual learning experience.

Alternative Assessment

Making a portfolio, creating an infographic, writing a how-to manual

Alternative assessments help to measure performance and comprehension on a larger spectrum. They can be more engaging for many learners and a more effective way to observe creative skills. They are also an excellent way to mitigate the social pressures that can arise for many students in the traditional question-and-answer exercise in front of a classroom, offering a less public way to demonstrate their abilities.

Teachers who use strategies that accommodate a variety of learning styles can help students enjoy and retain what they learn. The Contemporary Teaching and Learning Strategies course in Emporia State University's online master's in C&I program offers teaching and learning templates tailored to various content areas and individual classroom management styles. Completing the online program equips teachers with strategies they can implement in their classrooms to best serve their students.

Learn more about Emporia State University's Master of Science in Curriculum & Instruction – Instructional Coach/Teacher Leader PreK-12 online program.


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