What learning style am I? Do I take tests well? Am I a project-based learner? Do I prefer to learn alone or in groups? These are just some of the questions high school students are asking as they learn how they learn best. This article helps parents stay informed about strategies that target an individualized education.
What learning style am I?
When we talk about the term “individualized education,” what we really mean is an educational model that allows for flexibility in how a student learns moreso than what a student learns. This includes a student’s ability to understand the importance of learning style considerations.
To answer the question, “What learning style am I?” we first have to look at the myths of learning styles. One common misconception is that everyone learns in one particular way only.
You may have discovered over the course of your lifetime that you prefer to “see” something in order to simulate it best. That may make you a visual learner. However, does it mean you learn everything best if viewed? Not necessarily. Does it mean you can’t also learn by hearing something or participating in it? No.
A learning style is actually more like a continuum. So, knowing the answer to “What learning style am I?” is actually more like answering, “What kinds of preferences do I have as I learn different types of information and apply it to my life?”
Another way to put it is multimodal learning. This simply means all students need some form of learning capacity using various modes. It helps with information synthesis, developing curiosity and ideas, testing theories, and problem-solving skills. All of these abilities are useful no matter what a person is learning, so a learning “style” is not a one-size-fits-all approach. But neither is it a one-style-fits-me approach.
6 Strategies that Target Individualized Learning
In all grades, the Learnwell approach is to meet learners where they are and challenge them in understanding how they’re wired. This begins in middle school where students start to think about how they learn best.
It continues in eighth and ninth grade as students take life skills, where they gradually form opinions about how their study skills may differ from another student based on how they learn best.
- One strategy Learnwell uses to help students understand how they learn best is through theoretical and practical exposure. For example, a life skills class may discuss a variety of learning preferences, take self-assessments, and then spend a few weeks trying them out using their coursework from a specific class. This allows students to understand the options for learning but also to practice them and choose what works well for them in specific subject areas.
- Another strategy Learnwell uses to help students with individualized learning is by allowing students to complete coursework using a variety of models. In eighth grade, our administrative leaders meet with each parent and student together to decide what the best options are for the student’s upcoming year. One student may prefer to come to class two days a week and learn in a classroom environment for some subjects. That same student may be able to look at the high school requirements for a different subject, such as world history, and decide she would like to study that on her own. By working with the teacher of that course, the student can create an individualized plan for how she wants to show mastery of the high school requirements for that particular history class. In that way, her education has been tailored to her preferences.
- The third strategy we use is deeper learning in areas of interest. Individualized learning is not simply learning a different subject; it’s learning it at a different level. Even our younger students have the opportunity to participate in programs like REACH, where students are encouraged to dive deeply into areas of interest. If your student is an engineering afficionado, he can participate in regional and statewide competitions that other students may not want to take part in. Our REACH program allows all students, K-12, to pursue the subjects that most interest them: levels that challenge them where they are.
- Fourth, students can synthesize their interests and beliefs into subject-related assignments and by starting their own business or community organization. While a ninth grade civics class may have an assignment to write a letter to an elected official, it’s not a blanket assignment that everyone does the same. Our teachers get to know their students because of Learnwell’s smaller class sizes, and this allows them to give students freedom to personalize assignments to what interests them most. For example, one student may write the letter to an elected official about education, and another may write to a different elected official about the rising costs of housing. A smaller student-to-teacher ratio means going beyond, “What learning style am I?” and asking the questions, “What do I believe?” or “What am I passionate about?” Our teachers are also teaching every subject through a Christian worldview, so students can be open about their faith exploration.
- Parents and teachers work together as partners. Even when students at the middle school and high school level are taking increased ownership of their education, parents and teachers coordinate to help students make this transition smoothly. Parents meet with administrators and teachers whenever needed to help a student who needs more challenge, doesn’t understand an assignment, or simply to provide the student with best-case-scenario organizational systems that will work for them. Everyone is on the same team at Learnwell; we want your student to get the best education possible and to graduate with a love of learning and a deep understanding of who he or she is and how he or she is wired.
- Finally, targeting an individualized education only makes sense if you unpack the traditional mindset about learning and schools. At Learnwelll, we tell families that this model doesn’t work for every student. Some students are designed for a more traditional school environment and learn well in a public or private classroom in high school. However, for those who need something more individualized, we help them and their families look at education through a different lens. Not every student has to arrive at the same place at the same time. In fact, there is no race, and if we’re doing our jobs right, education doesn’t end when a student graduates. We aim to build lifelong learners who can continue the love of learning no matter what field of interest they pursue for a career.
Are you interested in what Learnwell offers as part of its high school program? Join us at the next Discover Learnwell.