When you have difficult new material to learn, where do you go? To a quiet room where there's plenty of light and a clean desk? Or do you grab a soda and sandwich and head for the family room couch?
Depending on your answer, you may be categorized as a global learner or an analytical learner, according to Rita and Kenneth Dunn, nationally recognized learning style authorities who are at Utah State University this week.The Dunns attracted a recordturnout for the 11th Intermountain Gifted and Talented Conference, under way through Thursday. More than 380 people registered for the conference sponsored by USU, the Utah State Office of Education, the Davis, Granite, Jordan, Murray and Salt Lake City school districts and the Utah Association for Gifted Children.
The idea that children must sit up straight, keep their eyes on the teacher and have pencils at the ready in order to learn is absolutely wrong, says Rita Dunn. Years of classroom research reveal that these old-fashioned requisites may, in fact, hold a child back, keep him from learning.
The Dunns shared dozens of examples of different learning styles that they've observed while trying to help "learning disabled" students achieve. Ken Dunn suggests that we replace that tag with "learning different" to acknowledge the wide variety of ways people gather information.
One boy couldn't pass a spelling test until he was allowed to lie on his stomach on the classroom floor, propping his notebook on a pillow.
Another boy was distracted by the quiet in the room. Once he was allowed to move his desk to the side of the room and listen to music through earphones while he studied, his grades improved markedly.
A girl was distracted by noises students around her made while taking a test. However, when the girl was allowed to take her test in the ultra-quiet counseling center, her grades began to reflect her high potential.
The differences between global and analytical learners are vast, and it's important that parents and teachers identify children's learning styles, the Dunns agree.
For example, many global learners gravitate to noisy, low-light set-tings where the furniture is soft and comfy. Analytical learners often want a straight chair and desk, lots of light and no noise if they have to concentrate on learning.
Globals tend to learn from stories, humorous anecdotes and pictures, while analytics focus on facts, words and figures. Globals may juggle several projects at once while analytics want to finish one project before starting another. Analytics are reflective; globals are impulsive.
While all of these characteristics won't be found exclusively in one type of learner or the other, observers can see patterns in learning behavior.
Other learning traits that teachers in the classroom or at home should look for include: 1) time of day when attention span is best, 2) ability to work alone or in groups, 3) length of time people can sit still and 4) whether the child learns better when material is given orally, in written form, or as a hands-on experience.
The conference concludes Friday.