One shoe size cannot fit all: Students Learn differently, even in a multicultural classroom

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There is so much to explore regarding the impact of students’ learning style during my teaching experiences in the UAE. I will now attempt to align a few learning theories with my experience. Keefe (1979) defines learning styles as “the characteristic cognitive, effective and psychological behaviour that are seen as relatively stable indicators of how learners perceive, interact with and respond to the learning environment”. It is argued that culture do contribute to varying learning approaches in the case of British, Indian and East African managers (DeVita, 2001), which continues to suggest that multicultural classrooms do influence the way we teach. To add, a variety of learning styles have been argued to be good practice for multicultural classrooms (Fielder, 1993).  My 60-minute Teaching Experience log portfolio task for my Greenwich studies highlighted the need to switch from one tool to the other during classroom sessions, which was a noted weakness in my early presentations.

Kolb’s theory also argues that students’ learn differently, and according to Mc Cleod (2013), some students’ learn by watching, others by reading, lecturing, others by thinking critically, some who prefer practical examples through simulation and those who prefer the hands-on approach by the lecturer. However, the idea that students may tend to favour one   learning style over others according to Kolb (1984) could not be based on my experience. Instead I found that students preferred a blend of approaches and would become bored if several weren’t used at a time.

Expanding the discussion on learning styles and my experiences, students in one session were allowed to discover some concepts by themselves, an approach that might be fitting or suitable for Kolb’s (1984)  learning styles of Divergers who prefer brainstorming and Accommodators who learn better through experiments (Healey and Jenkins 2002). According to Kolb’s experiential cycle, this approach would give students the opportunity to think   through what was called, Abstract Conceptualization, based on Jenkins (1988) Kolb’s cycle. Then there was the inclusion of PowerPoint presentations, which was likely to be suitable for visual-verbal learners who learn better with diagrams, flowchart and pictures (Graf, Viola Leo and Kinshuk 2007). This learning style would have formed part of the FSLSM or the Felder –Silverman Learning Style Model. Both theories argue that students learn differently and that various methods must be applied to suit the learner. There is some argument though, regarding their relevance in a multi-cultural context. Forrest (2005), a critique of Kolb’s theory, claimed that much of the research done by Kolb’s were based on western cultures, without consideration for other cultural dynamics in the classroom, a known theme in my reflection. Subsequently, unlike Kolb, De Vita (2001)claimed that a multitude of learning styles was likely to co-exist in a multicultural classroom which was discovered using the Felder and Silverman’s model (1988).

For educators, whether in a multicultural environment or otherwise, we are, reminded that our audience is dynamic with varying abilities and preferences. Blending your teaching style with all these variances could be contentious, which will be explored later on. However, reflecting upon the range of learning models could be quite helpful in your delivery and could very well enhance the student experience.

Post by Mr. Paul Gulston

References:

De Vita, (2001)Learning Styles, Culture and Inclusive Instruction in the Multicultural Classroom: A Business and Management Perspective [Online]. Available at:https://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/39796933/Learning_Styles_Culture_and_Inclusive_In20151108-15392-7rjj5t.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAIWOWYYGZ2Y53UL3A&Expires=1514733184&Signature=KNWEKx8g3JjNQ4g8Nhsw1lg5MeI%3D&response-content-disposition=inline%3B%20filename%3DLearning_Styles_Culture_and_Inclusive_In.pdf

file:///C:/Users/WestfordSOM/Downloads/394-1127-1-PB.pdf(Accessed: 10 December 2017).

Felder and Silverman (1988) ‘In-Depth Analysis of the Felder-Silverman Learning Style Dimensions’ Journal of Research on Technology in Education,2007, 40(1), 79–93[Online]. Available at:https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ826065.pdf(Accessed: 23 December 2017).

Fielder, (1993)Does Active Learning Work? A Review of the Research’ Journal Engr. Education[Online]. Available at:http://www4.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/public/Papers/Prince_AL.pdf(Accessed: 22 December 2017).

Forrest, (2005) ‘Kolb’s Learning Cycle’  Fenman/ TJ Article for Train the Trainer: 2005.  [Online]. Available at:file:///C:/Users/WestfordSOM/Downloads/Kolb_article_for_Train_the_Trainer%20(1).pdf(Accessed: 22 December 2017).

Graf, Viola Leo and Kinshuk, (2007) ‘In-Depth Analysis of the Felder-Silverman Learning Style Dimensions’ Journal of Research on Technology in Education,2007, 40(1), 79–93[Online]. Available at:https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ826065.pdf(Accessed: 23 December 2017).

Jenkins, (1988)Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory and Its Application in Geography in Higher Education’ Journal of Geography[Online]. Available at:http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00221340008978967(Accessed: 22 November 2017).

Keefe, (1979)Learning Styles, Culture and Inclusive Instruction in the Multicultural Classroom: A Business and Management Perspective[Online]. Available at:https://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/39796933/Learning_Styles_Culture_and_Inclusive_In20151108-15392-7rjj5t.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAIWOWYYGZ2Y53UL3A&Expires=1514741206&Signature=6YSlvYVXUu2Om%2FRgoiIykCV6flA%3D&response-content-disposition=inline%3B%20filename%3DLearning_Styles_Culture_and_Inclusive_In.pdf(Accessed: 22 November  2017).

Kolb, (1984) ‘Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory and Its Application in Geography in Higher Education’ Journal of Geography[Online]. Available at:http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00221340008978967(Accessed: 22 November   2017).

Mc Cleod, (2013)Kolb – Learning Styles[Online]. Available at:http://cei.ust.hk/files/public/simplypsychology_kolb_learning_styles.pdf(Accessed: 22 November   2017).

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