BTR-TESOL Unit 5D - Language Learning Styles



objectives of this unit

the least you should know

what is a learning style?

comprehensive questions

understanding different styles

culture and learning styles

tips for teaching different styles

comprehensive questions

video examples

reflection and responses

where to go to learn more

connections to other units in this program

online and other electronic resources

print and paper based resources

additional references



Coming soon.

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A young teacher has been assigned to teach English to a class of 15 students. The teacher is from America and all the students are from Korean. The teacher has been teaching this class for weeks on prepositions. However after giving a test of the material they covered she finds that most of the students failed a particular section of the test. The teacher remembered that she had taught this section by having the students act out the parts of the content and did not give specifics on the rules of. She felt that the student would be able to learn the content and background of the prepositions for that section by going through the motions and acting out each preposition. Because of the distress the teacher decided to try a different approach. She instead wrote down all the rules and exceptions to the rules giving multiple examples and exceptions to the rules. She then retested the students later and found that they all did very well on the test. The teacher then continued to try more explicit instruction with activities that had the students analyzing and going over the rules behind the language along with her previous methods of teaching. She found that most of her class responded very well.

  • What would you do in this situation?
  • Why did the students have a difficult time using the prepositions the first time?
  • How would you adjust to the students’ styles of learning?
  • How does culture play a role in our learning styles?

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    Objectives of this unit

    As you work through this unit, you will…

    1. Become aware of types of learning styles.
    2. Develop awareness of differences in learning styles
    3. Develop an awareness of the cultural impact on learning styles.
    4. Learn techniques to help you adjust your teaching styles to that of the learning styles of your students
    5. Participate in a learning style analysis quiz and reflect on what you learn about your own style of learning.

    If you have learned well, your teaching style will be adaptable to your students’ learning styles while teaching in different cultures and situations.

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    The least you should know

    1. What is a learning style?

    A language learning style is how a student gathers new knowledge and understanding about a language in order to learn. This can be influenced by many factors. You can probably remember going through school and noticing that certain types of instruction and or activities helped you understand topics more easily then others. This could be attributed to many different things however you may have noticed that when your teacher used a lot of examples, and visuals that you were able to understand better. Maybe when a teacher gave you a project that required a hands-on approach you were able to figure the activity out without any direct explanation. You could be a visual learner or someone who needs to learn by experiencing it. This is your preferred learning style. This also applies to when you are learning a language.

    Learning styles are also closely attached to learning strategies because a particular learning style learner will use specific learning strategies more than others because they fit their learning style better. Although there are many learning styles currently being researched, here are a few examples and definitions to help you understand learning styles:


    Student does something active with information.

  • Discussing, applying or explaining the information to others.
  • Reflective

    Student thinks about the information first.

  • Students take several minutes to process and think through the use of a preposition just presented in class.
  • Sensing

    Student likes learning facts, solving problems, are patient, more practical, like information that ahs a connection to real life.

  • Student memorizes rules of language and can use that knowledge when producing language.
  • Intuitive

    Student likes discovering possibilities and relationships, innovative topics and dislike repetition, more comfortable with abstract concepts, don’t like memorization and routine calculations.

  • Students learn new rules that have exceptions and do well in using them because the rule has exceptions.
  • Visual

    Student learns better with visual representations like graphs, pictures, videos, diagrams, etc.

  • Learner grasp concepts from using a picture of a particular fruit and can remember that fruit based on the picture representation.
  • Verbal

    Student learns more from written words and spoken information.

  • This learner remembers the names of the fruit because they can visualize the spelling of the word and remember hearing it from the teacher.
  • Sequential

    Learn knowledge step-by-step, follow logical paths to knowledge and solutions.

  • Don’t understand the complete sentence until they understand the role of each word in the sentence.
  • Global

    Learn in chunks without fully understanding how the information connects. Like to get the big picture.

  • Understand and grasp the role of sequence in sentence structure with out understanding the role of each word in the sentence.
  • (Richard M. Felder & Barbara A Soloman)

    These are not the only categories and research has shown many other styles and definitions. It is important to understand as a teacher that your students will have different styles in how they learn the language. Using different techniques and tasks and you prepare lessons and focus on your students will help them learn the language more effectively.

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    Comprehension (and reflection) questions

  • Which of these learning styles do you tend to use?
  • How do you know?
  • Which of these do you have a more difficult time with when learning?
  • How can you as a teacher help your students with different learning styles?
  • Try the following links to analysis your method for learning. (Remember that these will give other information about different categories of learning styles that haven’t been mentioned here.)

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    2. Understanding students' different styles of learning

    When you begin teaching your class it the first day you may not have any idea what the teaching style of your students may be. This is understandable considering you haven’t yet taught the class. You will quickly find that many of your students do not learn or process information you are teaching the same way. This is ok. Many teachers may misdiagnose this as something related to the level of the student, ability of the student or something else. You probably won’t be able to do a complete analysis of your entire class and each of their learning styles. Instead it is probably more informative and easier for you as the teacher to do some classroom observations and task assessment reflection. Remember that your students won’t fall into a perfect style.

    Informal classroom observation

    This is not the most effective method but probably the one you will find yourself doing the most. This is fairly easy, you're already doing much of it, and it requires less time than other methods of analyzing your classroom. You can make this a very informative observation of the entire class session or a quick reflection of your task. If you decide to make it a quick reflection of the task, follow these steps:
    • Identify the task you will be doing in class.
    • Find out what learning style does it promote the most. Are you using visual items to help your students like pictures and videos in the lesson? Or are you doing a task that asks the students to figure out what the key word is in the sentence? Match your task to a learning style.
    • Have an evaluation task after the task is introduced and monitor your students.
    • Which students understood and performed the task well? Which ones did not?
    • Remember that every student is different and one evaluation may not work and or may have different results another time with the same student.

    The reality of teaching styles is that you need to become familiar with your class and prepare multiple types of tasks and lessons that focus on different learning styles. You classroom will have many students who are different. Focusing on one type of task will quickly bore, frustrate, and alienate other students who have different ways of learning information.

    What you need to know recap

    Use variation in your tasks. However if you find students are doing well with a particular task keep using it. Learn to integrate different approaches to learning. Also remember that using different strategies and helping students to learn new types of strategies will also help them gain new skills.

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    3. How do culture and other traits play a role in learning styles?

    Although each student will have some difference s in their learning style you will also find that there are styles that run across cultures. For example while teaching a group of Korean and Mexican students an American teacher was using a lot of interactive games to help student learn vocabulary. She also tried using drills and repetition. She noticed that the Korean students did not participate in the interactive games as much as they did the drills. The Korean students also performed much better on vocabulary quizzes when they had drill practice and repetition drills. Because of their learning style in the culture they learned better with something specific to what they were used to from their other learning experiences.

    Many different areas impact how we learn. Some of these include, how we have been taught before, what we are used to doing in classroom, personality, familial influences, school rules, and others. Many of these categories are heavily influenced by culture and can cause severe problems if misunderstood.

    What you need to know recap

    How you teach and how your students learn are affected by your cultural background. This does not mean it is set in stone or that everyone is the same from a particular culture. However it does give you an idea of the impact culture has on learning. It is important to learn the culture and adjust your teaching to the needs of the students learning styles.
    You should also teach them with multiple different strategies to help them gain more resources to help with their learning. Understand that they do have preferences and strong areas and weak areas of learning strategies. Create your lessons and activities with your students learning styles in mind.

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    4. Tips for teaching to your students learning styles

    Here are a few tips to help you get started and teach to your students’ strengths and weaknesses.

    1. Prepare your lessons based on some analysis of your students

    After you have gained a feel for how your students learn and what works well with them begin to prepare your lessons with students’ learning styles in mind. Even though some activities and tasks help you learn something well doesn’t mean your students will respond the same way.

    2. Vary your lessons and tasks based on the needs of your students

    You will have many different students. Some students may come from similar backgrounds and cultures. Other classes may have a wide range of cultures and backgrounds. This can be a challenge for a teacher. You don’t have to use the same strategies and tasks every lesson. In fact you should alternate and use many strategies so as to help all styles of learning and help students gain new strategies for learning not normally used with their style.

    3. Learn from the other native teachers techniques they are using to teach the students

    By using other native teachers as a resource to observe and plan lessons and activities you can get an idea of what the students are used to in their regular classes. This doesn’t mean the style of teaching and strategies are the best for your class but it gives you an idea of where your students are coming from and how to integrate a few other types of tasks into your lessons.

    4. Continue to monitor your students and ask for feedback from them

    Continuing to monitor your students is important to insure the tasks and strategies you are using target their needs. This also helps you to adjust your teaching to their styles of learning as you begin to see what tasks and strategies are working the best with students. Another idea is to ask your students or have them fill out surveys in response to particular strategies you are trying. This is usually best done at higher-level classes.

    5. Evaluate your students after your tasks and lessons

    As mentioned before monitoring is important. This can also be done through evaluations directly after the tasks and lessons. After teaching a particular principle with a learning strategy have some way of having the students perform the tasks and use it as an evaluation. This could mean after teacher them several conversation skills using different strategies have the students role-play. Try and find out how well they did. This works particularly well if you are having trouble with a particular student and are insure what could be the problem. Remember not to alienate or make them feel behind the rest of the class. Apply the evaluation to the entire class with focus on a few struggling students.

    6. Refer to the other lessons on Teaching Styles, Evaluation, and lesson planning

    Other units in this guide are directly linked to learning styles and play a role in the students learning habits. By referring to these other units you will be able to get a sense of other factors and more details on how you can be better prepared as a teacher.

    What you need to know recap

    Remember each student is different and by using many different strategies and techniques to teaching different topics and concepts you can better target many different styles of learning found in your classroom. Remember that evaluation and observation are important tools for the improvement of your teaching and that of the instruction that students will receive. You ultimate goal is to help the students succeed. By understanding their learning styles and then teaching accordingly you will help them in their learning. They will be more motivated because of better progression, they will see, multiple different strategies that they can then gain to their style of learning, and many other benefits to them and you as a teacher.

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    Comprehension (and reflection) questions

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    Video examples

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    Reflection and Responses

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    Where to go to learn more

    Connections to other units in this program

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    Online and other electronic resources

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    Print and paper-based resources

    Coming Soon.

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    Additional References

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