After reading chapter two in the Methods for Effective Teaching – Knowing the Learners textbook, it was made very clear that students are not going to fit into one distinguishable category. They are going to share bits and pieces of various researched learner types. However, I did notice that they recommend techniques for one type that would also be appealing to another. To me, this means that I don’t necessarily need to incorporate thousands of instructional strategies in my classroom each semester.
While it is important to be able to define these learning categories, the one thing that should not be forgotten is getting to know the students. Friendly chats and classroom observation will reveal a lot more than these cookie cutter categories. Because students are too unique to fall into one, these research ideas are hard to put into practice. Getting to know your students learning needs is a trial and error process. While using the teaching model ideas listed in this article such as having more graphic organizers for ELLs and visual students is a great starting point, there is no saying that those will work. A student that may “fall” into these categories may not respond well or only engages with certain types of organizers.
It is so important to not let ourselves get discouraged when something doesn’t work the way we had expected. We need to smile at our failures and be willing to trash or modify plans as we get to know the different learners who will be present in our classroom. One thing that I learned this semester is to let students in on what you are teaching and use that as a teaching strategy. If students are not left in the dark about the justification for teaching, they will feel more inclined to actively participate in the content provided. This semester I am learning about using literary theory in the English classroom. This was something that we used minimally in my previous experiences and were never directly taught about. However, explaining the theory and applying it makes it more useful to student’s everyday lives. Literary theory can also help depersonalized texts. Having students from a variety of backgrounds and cultures can be challenging when you are picking material and make it difficult to maintain a social justice oriented classroom. However, students can freely examine material with a literary theory lens and not feel pressured by the implications. For example, if you have a small group of students from a lower economic home situation, the Marxist literary theory/social class theory lens can provide a safe environment where students can get to the issues present in the content and not put those students in an awkward place. I feel that these types of strategies are just as important as tailoring lessons to fit visual, textual, kinesthetic, musical…etc. learners. Again, this may sound nice on paper, but the reality is, is that I am going to really commit myself to helping my students and not be afraid to get something wrong.