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VARK and Preferred Learning Styles

            Learning about preferred learning styles was a revelation to me. As I mentioned in both my biography and in my reflection paper for week one, I have no formal teaching education. I had also never taken a test to assess which learning modes I prefer. I scored as a multimodal learning with a preference in aural learning. While the results weren't surprising at all, they did provide a lot of food for thought. I was an excellent student throughout high school and college, but struggled with my courses in graduate school. Every day, we gathered in a darkened classroom where our professors would lecture at us for four hours. There was no discussion, no diagrams, no demonstration; just slide after slide of text we scurried to transcribe. For a primarily auditory learner, this is a troublesome scenario.  I will recommend implementing audio lectures, using diagrams and hands-on software exercises in our classes.

 Introduction to Constructivism and Teaching Theories

            The second section of week two dealt with constructivism; reading about it, discussing it with my classmates, and determining how I might implement this approach to my courses. I did a fair bit of reading on the topic; I've familiar with various theories of cognition but had never learned how to translate those theories into curriculum design. Fortunately, I was able to discuss the subject with classmates, both in the general discussion forum and in our small group forum. In addition, I conversed offline with friends who are educators. Through these discussions, I was finally able to visualize how constructivism would impact curriculum design and lesson planning.

            I determined that there are aspects of constructivism that would apply to our classes. While our students will be well-served by having an outline of the skills they will need to master in order to conduct genotyping studies, they would also benefit from having input on the flow of the course and  in learning how to perform analyses from a holistic standpoint.

Discussion Group and Team Project

It has been a tremendous benefit to have a small group of classmates with whom I can discuss the material. I have found their expertise a great help in fully grasping this week’s concepts. In addition, they have provided additional references and reading material to the group. This has also aided my understanding of the material. I look forward to working in small groups again, both with my current groups and with other members of the class.

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In week two, we've begun a discussion of VARK, which is an acronym for a tool to evaluate students' learning preferences. It's a short quiz intended to ascertain a student's preference for learning by Visual, Aural, Reading/writing, or Kinesthetic modes. We each took the quiz and then posted our thoughts about the results, and how we intend to utilize the concepts of learning styles in our courses. I'm going to post my results and comments, to see if it generates any discussion here.

***

My VARK results are Visual 9, Aural 12, Read/Write 9 and Kinesthetic 8. This suggests I have a preference for multimodal learning styles, although I do show a stronger preference for Aural learning styles. These results seem very accurate to me. Although Read/Write is the primary learning modality in Western culture, in the biological sciences there can be a stronger emphasis placed on multimodal learning. Students are instructed to “look through the microscope and draw what you see,” or “be able to draw a clear diagram of the Krebs cycle,” or to take the laboratory tools and perform a procedure under supervision. I am curious whether students with multimodal learning preferences are drawn to subjects like biology, or whether success mandates they learn to use multiple learning modes.

I suspect the latter may be true in my case, as I've been predominantly an auditory learner all my life. In college, I quickly realized that if I spent too much time taking notes in lecture, I'd never remember anything the professor said. My preferred strategy was to listen attentively while making a few brief notes, and tape record the lecture so I could go back at a later time and re-listen. Talking about course concepts with a study buddy, repeating things out loud to reinforce memorization; all of these strategies helped me the most. In general, my family always said that if they write something down I'll never remember it. But if they tell me something, six months later I'll be able to recall everything they said in perfect detail. And then there's the matter of what my co-workers refer to as my “mutant ability” to remember song lyrics from the radio; it's not really useful, but it's great at parties.

Getting back to the matter of applying these concepts to our classes, I think using multiple modes of information transfer will be very useful in our online classes. We typically stress visual information, providing graphs, symbols and diagrams in our presentations. The handbooks we supply and the quizzes we administer address read/write learning modes. WebEx recordings provide an aural learning component, and the practical hands-on software exercises will round out the delivery.

dangit

Apr. 20th, 2007 07:36 am
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My laptop is hung up in customs. In Indiana, of all places.

*impatient*
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I've ordered a laptop. 'Cause I'm going to be taking classes until the end of next winter and it will be crazy not to have one. So. Yeah.
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I am enrolled in the first of a series of online teaching courses. For to learn how to effectively teach online.

Boogity boogity.

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Intercourse, the penguin

January 2013

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