Friday, June 24, 2011

The Global Learner and Learning Styles

It hit me this morning.  One of those AHA moments where you want to knock yourself on the head and ask, “Why didn’t I think of this before?” 

Here it is… brace yourself… ready…?  When teaching a math problem, if a struggling student is a global learner they will learn the process better if you show them the solution first and work the problem backwards.  Not just in math though.  Let’s take an essay for example.  Show the student a completed essay then break it down into its components to show how the parts made the whole.  It seems so obvious, doesn’t it? In Brain Friendly Strategies for the Inclusion Classroom Judy Willis says global "learners process information best when instruction starts with the whole and breaks the content down into parts.” I only have one or two global learners in my class each year.  These learners are almost always strongest in the naturalist, musical-rhythmic, and kinesthetic intelligences. This knowledge can have a great impact during lesson planning or for interventions.  Combine a whole-to-part global lesson with music or an activity requiring movement for best results with these students. 

Most students and teachers are analytic/sequential learners.  Therefore we teach in a part-to-whole format.  It just makes sense to us.  But not everyone learns the same way.  Every brain is different. This knowledge can have a great impact in the classroom.

Why This is Important
Knowing the thinking/learning styles and intelligences of your students is very important.  I test for that at the beginning of the year and record it in my grade book for easy reference.  (If you are looking for some good inventories and ideas, an excellent book is RTI Success: Proven Tools and Strategies for Schools and Classrooms, by Whitten, Esteves, and Woodrow.) 

Every brain is as unique as a fingerprint.  Each brain processes information differently.  Therefore to be truly effective as a teacher it is not enough to know the learning/thinking styles and intelligences of our students; we must act on the information.  This information gives us a map into the long-term memory of both global and analytical students. So, work backwards if you have to...AHA!


  1. This is interesting, Diane.

    The fact that we all have different learning styles from our own unique brains has implications for my own development of adult reading and study skills.

    I'm working on improving those at home in preparation for study in a university environment as part of my continuing education.

    I'll need to: In the physical presence of a lecturer, there'll be no pause or replay button to use if I miss a point the first time it's discussed.

  2. The problem is that we don't have identifiable "learning styles". It was an interesting hypothesis, but it didn't pan out; the evidence just doesn't support it. Unfortunately, policies were implemented before research was even started.

    That doesn't mean that we are not all different and that different techniques in different situations with different people are not warranted, but it does mean that curricula designed with "learning styles" in mind should be rethought and tested.

    Just my two cents.

  3. Being an analytic/sequential learner myself, I can see where this would be most helpful for the global learner. The challenge is being able to recognize and implement different styles in large classroom settings.