How to recognize patterns of learning

One word: Observation

Another word: Student profiles (right, two words, but one concept)

Before getting to these words, let’s look at why we care about learning patterns.

We want to recognize patterns of learning in order to cater our teaching better toward the needs of the student. This is a student centered thinking and approach to teaching / learning. The needs of the student comes first. Naturally teacher needs to cover the material required by the standards. Diversification of teaching is not only about the material, it is more about the process of learning modified to suit the individual capabilities and tendencies of individual students.

The first word, observation, gives us material to work with. We can see what modality works for the students. Which of the students learn primarily through hearing, which primarily though seeing and which are kinestetic requiring more concrete and physical learning experience.

Besides sensory patterns, there are also habitual learning methods. Children these days take in lots of information. It’s not necessarily in the form of one hour of lesson and homework. The channels  can be youtube, facebook, twitter, email, Google documents (Google drive) etc. Whatever the normal channels for children are, they can be used to leverage in teaching and learning. Teacher can communicate using these methods, and students can complete their projects using methods familiar to them. As a result, focus is on the material that needs to be learned and students enjoy the learning process much more, because they already know how to learn using these channels.

More methods to chart the learning patterns can be found in the Midwest Rotating University’s final presentation at the Maharishi University of Management colloquium.

Some more learning patterns are recognized by and utilized by Khan Academy, and implemented some of the schools we visited (Like Van Meter). Learn more in my presentation on Khan Academy.

The second word or words, student profiles, mean to take the information gained in observation is recorded and updated according to progress and changes. As children evolve and learn, their primary modalities and ways to learn may also change. See my article on learning differences in school children based on their developmental phases.

In diversification of teaching methods, student profiles contain a lot more relevant information pertaining to learning: readiness level, interests, talents, challenges, skills(math/linguistics/sports/arts etc), emotional and social patterns, and physical and mental health etc. All inquiries need to be made in a non-invasive way. Students usually express the most important things voluntarily. If they don’t that’s important information also. Few questions are usually sufficient to get all the information teacher needs to create an initial student profile.

Some items to list in the student profile:

  • Readiness level
  • Learning styles
  • Learning speed
  • Modalities
  • Intelligences
  • Cultural background
  • Ethnicity
  • Socioeconomic status of students and their parents

Many things, like socio-economic background effects the learning patterns or lack of the necessary patterns. Socio-economic status of the parents, for instance, has been found to effect the overall motivation of the student. To learn more, I recommend a paper I wrote on How to teach with differences in socio-economic status.

In respect to learning patterns, I would recommend creating student profiles for each student during the first days. Short meetings with the students can help understand what is going on in student’s life, what motivates them and how they are used to learning.

Student profiles can help how the lesson plans and larger curriculum is developed. It also creates a comprehensive ground for diversified teaching methods. Statistics derived from the profiles give lots of insights into planning. If, for instance, teacher has both fast and slow learners in the classroom, teacher can provide two sets of exercises to appropriately challenge both groups.

By initially observing, knowing and charting out the learning patterns or the lack in some cases, strong learning patterns can be strengthened and success experience in these can be transposed to other channels and patterns of learning.

To understand how new learning patterns are conditioned from neurophysiological point of view, you might want to read my article on the topic:


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