Written by Rikke Haslund Jønsson
As a university student, you are told that you are responsible for your learning. This is both my personal experience and a collective experience amongst my friends and fellow students.
There are parts of the learning experience in universities that are communal and concern how to create a space for collective learning, such as lectures or group work. Besides these, there are solo activities: reading for class, desk research, and often the entire exam process. I however wonder how many of us have ever learned how to learn, and know what works best for us as individuals. Given that the university structure highly relies on individual responsibility for learning, it is crucial to ask if the students actually know how to approach this in a way that benefits them the most, and use their time and energy most efficiently?
As this is a key concern, I will delve into the potentials and possibilities of how to gain and be able to employ that knowledge. One of the ways that I believe that students could get to know their preferred learning is by being aware of their learning style, and thereby know what resources that they will benefit most from spending time on.
Right now, you often hear the phrase: “I am a visual person” and even the mass media paints a picture of you being a specific type of learner. This one-specific type-of-learner model is also embedded in how actual learning situations are being created. For instance, the organization providing homework tutoring, MentorDanmark, categorizes kids in these “types” to equip the parents with tools to hack their child’s learning, and Tv2 media writes about how the Municipality of Esbjerg uses it in some of their institutions (MentorDanmark, 2020; Østebø, 2017).
Getting to know how we learn seems incredibly impactful, however, isn’t it rather unlikely that you are only one “type”? To single down to one specific learning style, thus excluding others. That being an auditive person means that you will get nothing out of reading or maybe that you are unable to sit down and listen to a story if you are a visual person?
If we rather look at it as more of a spectrum where various learning styles co-exist, you may be 45% visual, but then also 33% Audio-verbal, 11% Auditive, and 11% Kinesthetic for instance. It would then be misleading to only call you a visual person, because what about the remaining 55%?
By knowing all the ways that one learns best, a student may be able to adjust how they spend their own time usefully and more productive. This could be a way for that student to gain confidence and be able to reach goals that were prior far away, and in general, make it possible for a student to customize their own learning experience.
In the current academic discussions, there are various ways of looking at the different learning styles. From there, we may find other perspectives that further challenge the one-sidedness of the model.
The municipality of Aarhus seems to use a version of Dunn & Griggs, where The institute for learning styles research seems to have their concept based in Galbraith & James (Institute of Learning Styles Research, n.d.; Lauridsen, 2010). These two models categorize the senses differently and thereby end up with different results, but one thing they have in common is that they are based in the senses. We are commonly known to have five senses; sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch, but besides these there are three more; body movement, body awareness, and interoception. Interoception is the perception of sensations from inside the body and includes the perception of physical sensations related to internal organ function such as heart beat, respiration, satiety, as well as the autonomic nervous system activity related to emotions. According to Winnie Dunn, the senses have different sensibility with every individual, and this has an impact on how we benefit or get challenged by them. These eight senses all have an impact on how an individual learns and can have a lot to say in whether a person thrives or fails in the education system.
From this skepticism and wonder about the one-sidedness in the learner model, my further research will explore what type of learning works well to compliment the different senses and how an individual can take advantage of their strengths when working on their own. This both by considering motivation, the flow state, and how all that and more is connected to an individual’s learning style.
Institute of Learning Styles Research. (n.d.). Institute of Learning Styles Research. Retrieved 19 April 2021, from https://learningstyles.org/styles/olfactory.html
Lauridsen, O. (2010). LÆR OM LÆRINGSSTILE. http://aarhus.inst.dk/DOK.vdir/__da815/Dokumentarkiv%20-%20Hjemmeside%20-%20Afdeling/Hjemmeside/L%C3%A6r-om-l%C3%A6ringsstile.pdf
MentorDanmark. (2020, February 19). Sådan tilpasser du lektielæsningen ved at forstå dit barns læringsstil. MentorDanmark. https://mentordanmark.dk/om-os/blog/tilpas-lektiel%C3%A6sningen-ved-at-forst%C3%A5-dit-barns-l%C3%A6ringsstil
Østebø, S. U. (2017, May 25). Ekspert forklarer: Læringsstile er vejen til dygtigere børn – TV 2. nyheder.tv2.dk. https://nyheder.tv2.dk/samfund/2017-05-25-ekspert-forklarer-laeringsstile-er-vejen-til-dygtigere-boern