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Do You Realize You Have a 'Learning Style'?

By Charlie Badenhop

Charlie Like most every human being, I'm guessing you learn some things well while struggling to learn other subjects. If so, join the club! This article will give you some insight into the concept of learning styles and finding enjoyment in your learning process.

When I first came to Japan I loved studying Aikido, but found learning Japanese to be boring and difficult. With Aikido, the teaching style used very much matches my learning style. I get to look and listen first, and then I perform what I have just learned, while receiving feedback on how to improve.

In learning Japanese, I started with a defeatist attitude and a poor quality learning style. I decided to learn Japanese by ignoring the "kanji" writing system, and simply listening to what had been said. I'd hear a new word, repeat it to myself numerous times, and five minutes later I couldn't remember what I had supposedly just learned! I soon stopped studying, and I must admit that giving up made me wonder what was "wrong" with me.

Recently I promised my daughter I would start studying Japanese again, if she would start studying English, so that we could communicate better with each other. This time around I'm using a very different learning style. I'm working with a computer program that shows a common interaction between two people, as their words flash on the screen and I hear two native speakers talking. When I am able to see a scene in front of me I get the feel of how a particular conversation might evolve in real life. When I also get to hear AND see the words being spoken, my ability to learn and remember improves dramatically! Not surprising, as this is called "multi-sensory" input, and is known to get high quality results. By employing a different learning style this time around, I am adapting the way I successfully learned Aikido to help me learn Japanese. Multi-sensory input is definitely what works best for me.

The next step in my learning process is the icing on the cake that is really making a difference. After doing a bit of on screen studying I engage my daughter in a simple conversation class. I start by bowing to her and asking for her guidance, as every serious student of a Japanese art would do with their teacher. More and more my daughter is getting into this role playing, and she bows back to me, responding to my respect for her. We engage in a playful ten minute class as I try out some of what I have recently learned, and she corrects my mistakes. Part of the beauty of this process is seeing how this new learning relationship between us is really carrying over into the rest of our life together. More and more I ask her advice about various matters, and more and more she is playing the role of my respected teacher, which indeed she is living in a bi-cultural household as we do. And guess what? My daughter has begun to engage me more in English, as she discovers how much fun there can be in learning. I can't begin to tell you how much the both of us are enjoying this process!

Just like me, if you discover the teaching style that best suits your learning style, you'll be amazed at how much more "intelligent" you become! This is such an important concept to teach our children. Each and every child has their own unique high quality way of learning. We need to help them discover how they learn best, and then support them in expressing their brilliance, while making sure they have FUN in the process!

Each one of us needs to learn something new every day, but we have received very little training during the course of our life in regard to "learning how to learn". When we get poor quality results as a student, most of us wind up thinking there must be something wrong with us, rather than realizing we need a teaching style that matches and full supports our natural, high quality learning style.

When I was in school I got the feeling there were basically three types of students in the world – A. Good boys and girls that listen intently, study hard, and thus get good grades. B. Problematic kids who just don't give a damn. C. Some few kids that really appear to be lacking in intelligence, and don't get many "right" answers even if they do try hard. Now that I am a good deal older and hopefully a tiny bit wiser I realize just how nonsensical such a belief system is. Each and every human being has their own unique and high quality method of learning. We need to go beyond the "fast food" mentality of serving up information to be learned and get back to the basics of helping each student understand how it is they learn best. This is a crucial task for every educational system, and the longer we ignore this issue, the more we will find ourselves blaming the students and wanting to medicate or discipline them.

In some minor but important way, my life has been transformed by the "new" method I am using to learn Japanese. I am amazed at how much "smarter" I seem to become when I use a method of instruction that mirrors the way I naturally learn best. A friend of mine said that I was so bad at learning Japanese the last time around, that this time I was bound to do better. My reply to him was, that if I was foolish enough to use the same low quality method as before, I would only wind up once again feeling frustrated and foolish.

If you don't currently do well in a certain subject, please don't misuse your time by slogging through with more and more repetition. Once you discover what your learning style is and design a teaching style to match, you will find that you become the student you always hoped you could be!


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