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Children learn in a variety of ways. Why are some more successful as learners than others? Discuss with reference to current literature on the subject.

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Introduction

Children learn in a variety of ways. Why are some more successful as learners than others? Discuss with reference to current literature on the subject. It seems obvious that although we all learn something at some point in our lives, there are many different methods of going about that learning. Whether or not we can delineate children as being one 'type' of learner; whether success in learning is adequately measured in current educational circles; and whether or not our educators can be well served by knowledge of relative success of different learning methods are questions all linked to our main title. While by no means exhaustive, this essay will cover a range of topics in the learning styles field, namely the purpose of learning and understanding in the primary classroom (using mathematics as an example); the link between assessment and learning; gender issues arising from different approaches to learning; Bruner's extensions to Piagetian thought on learning; and finally on the visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learning styles. It will attempt to address the notion of the differences in success of children's learning behaviour with analysis of articles from an eclectic range of sources. We all know what happens if we are taught something using an inappropriate method. Driving instructors (hopefully) blend the theory of perfecting a parallel parking manoeuvre with its practical application, and rightly insist on both methods of learning to ensure success. A piano teacher may stop a pupil who plays a wrong note in a scale of D minor, and then remind them of some justification as to why pressing certain keys over others is correct. These are examples of transparent (and chiefly practical) learning behaviours that are tantamount to acquiring skills, yet our question at hand should be more explicitly relevant to the established literature. Joyce, Calhoun & Hopkins (1997) make a good summary of the myriad models of learning, summarised further as: 1) ...read more.

Middle

Nevertheless, a dialogue between the evaluation of styles from an unbiased assessor (who preferably has no obvious dominant learning style), and the assessed party is not helped by the unwillingness to stick to one category of learning on both sides. In other words, will the learner make any use of the fact they are classified as an 'enthusiastic' learner under the Learning Styles Inventory (Kolb, 1984; cited in Riding & Rayner, 1998). Will the assessment method itself only have a vague surface reliability, or can we take the typology of proof of a more complex cognitive system at work? At the bare bones of learning theories, opposition to the Piagetian dominance in primary classrooms has taken various forms. One such idea is a theory of knowledge acquisition, supported by studies on domain specific learning. In a landmark paper, Chi (1978: cited in Atkinson, Atkinson, Smith & Bem, 1993) showed that 10 year-old chess masters could recall positions of pieces in chess games significantly better than amateurs (college students of 18-21 years) - despite the fact the college students were significantly better at recalling lists of random numbers. This is explained by the 10 year-olds having a deeper grasp of the 'underlying structures' of chess, enabling 'chunking' of moves (such as 'black king attacks white bishop') into larger meaningful units. In the primary school classroom, this equates to a simple adage - do not expect children to learn successfully unless the information is presented in a meaningful way that lends itself to engagement and purpose. The chess amateurs are more likely to be unaware of the implausible positions of pieces during a game, so irrelevant material is processed when it need not be. When a mathematical problem is presented with irrelevant information (just as in real life, where we seldom think of correcting our multiplication tables before our wallets when purchasing fruit in a market), the problem undoubtedly gets much harder to solve. ...read more.

Conclusion

The success of learning may indeed be hindered by an incongruous teaching technique to the child's learning style, but when such transparent and bizarre assessments allow parents to dictate the preferred style of a young child (who knows no better), the situation only invites confusion. In assessing the success of learning, we have go to be aware of the main threads underlying how we evaluate success in the classroom. The simple answer to the essay title would be to say that it is the 'variety of different ways' that causes the varying success, and it appears that from a critical standpoint, the methods of assessing the success are flawed. Shaw & Hawes (1998) tell us that moving between the level of unconscious and conscious competence is the key to correctly acquiring a skill, where as this meta-cognition of action is not so explicit in the vicarious nature of learning in Bandura's cognitive social learning theory. However, Bandura's ideas do correlate to some extent with the Brunerian stress on modelling and instruction (through scaffolding techniques), as they both have their roots in social constructivism. The child benefits from being reflectively questioned about her own action with critical questions in the development of their own world ideas, without the adult scaffolder being too invasive. This leads to successful learning regardless of the na�ve paradigm of VAK, or the learning styles that correspond to gender roles. Children learn in a variety of ways, all of which must be self-selected in some way to be as much a part of them as their own sense of sight, hearing or touch, but that does not mean we could approximate a child's learning experience as being just the information they glean from these senses. Success is too much of a qualitative and abstract entity to associate with absolute learning (i.e. 'amount' of learning), so as well as the child's relative capabilities before an assessment, we must also take into account their relative styles of learning leading up to the test, all of which could bias the marker, who themselves have a unique learning style. ...read more.

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