In addition to McCarthy's 4MAT system, there are learning-styles
experts who further classify learners as visual, auditory, or
tactile/kinesthetic. Visual and (especially) auditory learners tend to
do well in the classroom. Tactile/kinesthetic learners typically do
As prerequisites to teaching the kind of 'mental flexibility'
discussed in Section I, teachers need to:
In other words, students need to have their unique styles recognized
as valid and acceptable.
- nurture all learner styles and modes
- help students understand their own preferences and utilize learning
techniques compatible with their own styles
- communicate to students an appreciation of learner differences
This may be most true of those students most likely to fail.
Research increasingly suggests that the majority of students classified
as "at risk" of academic failure fit the description of concrete/common
sense learner style, and favor the tactile/kinesthetic mode. Kinesthetic
activities make abstract concepts concrete. This is extremely important
for students who have difficulty dealing with abstractions.
Moreover, whether the learner's preferred modality is auditory,
visual, or tactile/kinesthetic, it is known that none of us always
remembers what is seen or heard, and all of us remember best what we have
had an opportunity to do. An old Chinese proverb expresses this: "I
hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand." Tactile
and kinesthetic engagement enhances anyone's learning!
A Living Laboratory: Volcanoes provides activities that
stimulate visual, auditory, and kinesthetic intake and processing of
information. For example, students learn about the eruption of Mount St.
Helens, the sequence of events, and the component parts of the phenomenon
through (1) assigned reading material, (2) a lecture presentation, (3)
viewing a film, (4) participating in a small-group discussion and
project, and finally (4) preparing and dramatizing a simulation of the
eruption. (See Eruption Simulation)
This approach is researched-based. Studies in neurophysiology have
shown that physical experience creates especially strong neural pathways
in the brain. When students participate in tactile/kinesthetic activity,
the two hemispheres of the brain are simultaneously engaged. This type
of learning experience helps assure that new information will be retained
in long-term memory.
The tactile system is essentially touch. It is activated through
receptors in the skin. Our tactile sense gives us information about
size, shape, texture, and temperature. In the study of science, a
well-developed tactile sense is essential. It is a sense that could be
better utilized in the other disciplines as well.
The kinesthetic system is activated through movement, with its receptors
located in the tendons and muscles. It is the kinesthetic system that
recognizes, for example, when a dance sequence you are practicing has not
been properly executed.
Among the general strategies by which these senses can be engaged in
the learning process are role play, dramatization, cooperative games,
simulations, creative movement and dance, multi-sensory activities,
manipulatives and hands-on projects. (For examples, charades might be
played as part of a vocabulary-building lesson; an historical event might
be role played or dramatized; learning of new information might be
demonstrated by creating a mural, diagram, model, diorama, or decorated
time line; students might be assigned to sort and arrange in proper
sequence index cards with information and dates related to the topic
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