Teaching and learning methods vary from country to country, and from school to school. However, most of us are educated in relatively big groups. As a result, school systems have to try to meet the needs of every ‘type’ of student. That means that all learning styles, learning outcomes and assessments are standardised. A bit like hats, they’re ‘one size fits all’. However, your learning style is unique.
The aim of this blog is to help you reflect on your past and on current education systems. You’ll think more about how you and others process information. This might help you consider other ways to work and study more productively. If you’re a teacher, it will also help you understand your students’ needs better.
To do so, there are journal questions at the end of each section which you can use for guidance. Download the worksheet here so that every time you see “Go to journal questions” you can make the most of your learning experience .
Go to journal questions (A) You can download your worksheet here.
Our brains function in unique ways
They determine how we receive and process different kinds of information. Think of a maths problem. One student will find playing with the numbers and equations a logical thing that simply makes sense. But another student will struggle to connect those figures to any kind of meaning, leaving them unable to find the correct answer.
It’s likely that the gap in their experiences is due to the students’ natural ways of thinking. And the fact that their learning style is unique. We naturally relate more to some types of activities and ideas than we do to others.
Finding something difficult doesn’t mean you will never be able to do it. What’s important is to find the right way for you to absorb the information. It’s finding out your brain’s preferred way of processing it. Once you know that, you might know how to approach a task better. You might also be able to reconsider how you present tasks or instructions to your students.
Giving us all information in the same way puts us as individuals in different, and unequal, positions. This is why school is a difficult experience for so many people but an easy one for others. It isn’t just about ability. It depends on your unique learning style.
Answer these questions with the intention of understanding how you are as a student. This will help you see if there are better ways for you to work. It will also help you practise analysing how other people process tasks and information.
Go to journal questions (B)!You can download your worksheet here..
What is neurodiversity?
Until now, this blog has only referred to learning style variations that are really only ‘neurotypical’ ways of thinking and interpreting information. Neurotypical means not associated with a brain condition, such as autism which affects a person’s interpretation of information. So, it can describe a person who doesn’t have a brain condition or characteristic like this.
Although these concepts aren’t black and white, in linguistic terms, the opposite could be ‘neurodivergent’. A neurodivergent brain learns information and functions in less common ways. This could include people with autism, dyslexia or dyscalculia, for example. ‘Less common’ but more common than we might think.
In order to accommodate everyone’s way of thinking and learning, we must talk about ‘neurodiversity’. Neurodiversity is the idea that people have many different types of brains, perhaps characterised by a particular condition. It also refers to the idea that this variety should be considered a normal part of human life.
Whether a person identifies as neurotypical, neurodivergent, or something in between, there are ways of providing education that suits everyone. We know enough about how brains function to move away from such a standardised system for teaching and learning. Perhaps the first step to this is normalising neurodiversity; the fact that our brains are not ‘one size fits all’.
What does this have to do with my unique learning style?
These things face a similar root problem. Our education systems rely on a version of ‘normality’ which excludes many people based on the way their brains function. But I believe that the way our brains work is too complex for us to consider them either ‘typical’ or ‘atypical’; ‘normal’ or ‘abnormal’.
Normality suggests there’s one way of being and this isn’t true. What’s really normal is extremely varied and diverse. Imagine if our brain diversity was normalised. There would be a better understanding of how each person’s learning style is unique, whether or not they identify as having a specific brain condition or characteristic.
Perhaps, as teachers, our awareness of this can stop us from treating individuals as if they are ‘different’, and a bigger group as ‘all the same’. We can communicate that everyone’s brain and learning style is unique, and that doesn’t have to be an obstacle.
Nowadays we know how to make classes, schools, shops and websites more accessible for our neurodiversity and different learning styles. Surely it’s a realistic expectation also that we, as a society, can learn about learning diversity and the basic aspects of neurodiversity. We’ll see that these variations are already normal. We need to see it that way, and adapt our systems to everyone’s unique learning style.
Go to journal questions (C)! You can download your worksheet here.
Your schooling might have neglected your learning style
Actually, if we consider the huge scale of neurodiversity and different characteristics of different learning styles, it probably did. Unfortunately, mass education systems don’t have the luxury of time and resources that allow teachers to deal with your unique learning style, and everyone else’s. So, we grow up in similar school systems, with similar rules and similar techniques, which generally constitute one standardised way of learning. Reflect on how they taught you. Think back to your school days, or the early days of your education. How did you have to learn? Common methods are drilling, memorisation and written tests.
Go to journal questions (D)! You can download your worksheet here.
What’s your best way of learning?
Most of us use a mixture of different methods when we’re trying to learn something. That’s often why some people fall behind in their education experience – their learning needs aren’t catered for as much as those of some other students.
We are not like each other. We don’t learn the same way, so it’s important that we know what learning methods work best for us. To learn what you want to, and do what you want to do, you’ll need to get inside your brain! Reflect on how you enjoy learning. Assess how your brain likes to find information. How do you record that information in order to come back to it? And what kind of information catches your eye?
Go to journal questions (E) on your worksheet! You can download your worksheet here.
Use the following useful links to do the research for these questions.
Find out some more on learning styles:
Find out more about neurodivergent characteristics and what this means in the workplace:
- https://www.local.gov.uk/sites/default/files/documents/Neurodiversity%20Slides%20200920.pdf (pages 2 and 3)
- https://www.ed.ac.uk/equality-diversity/disabled-staff-support/neurodiversity-support (see very useful and clear links on this page)
If you want to learn more about this, soon we’ll talk about reprogramming your idea of learning. On our online learning platform, you’ll find more materials such as quizzes to explore the topic further. We’ll also look at how you can use yoga as a learning tool! You’ll be able to reflect on how you think you learn and what you expect from yourself. Maybe you can reassess your expectations to make your work and study goals more realistic. Hopefully you’ll also see how yoga can make a further positive impact on your life, and the lives of your students. More about this coming (in September 2021).
(Note: The aim of this is to reflect; to open our minds and ask questions about the learning experience in order to develop as teachers. We are not inclusivity experts, doctors, speech therapists, sociologists or psychologists! Find approved courses and reliable educational sources if you want to get professional development in specific areas.)