Parents as Catalyst for Professional Development

During end-of-year conferences, I had an enlightening conversation with the parents of twins. What made it interesting was the fact that the two siblings have completely different approaches to learning. We described one as a ‘Part to Whole’ learner and the other as a ‘Whole to Part’ learner. In the conference, they generously shared a story about their children learning to walk: One carefully analyzed the process of walking before venturing out; the other stood up and stumbled across the room without hesitation. It reminded me of my summer DES!GN project and my interest was piqued. How might I better design learning experiences to better engage ‘whole to part’ learners? Hence this blog post.
A brief inquiry led to this fantastic paper by Linda Kreger Silverman, Ph.D., Visual-Spatial Learners.

Although sharing terminology with the learning modalities and multiple intelligences, I am finding it very helpful to think of different approaches to learning existing on a continuum from Visual-Spatial to Auditory-Sequential.

Everyone is unique, but from an instructional design perspective, if I always consider the extremes of the spectrum, I should be accommodating any learning style on the spectrum.

This is different than the left brain/right brain theory, which I find to be rather simplistic and dated. The more we learn about the brain, the more it seems to be a connected, rather than compartmentalized, system. (Neuroscience is a great tumblr to follow on the subject of the brain). We can still use right brain/left brain vocabulary to describe visual-spacial and auditory-sequential learners, as in the graphic below.

graphic via mindjet

I do have questions. For one, are there people who are auditory-spatial or visual-sequential thinkers? Also, when considering learning modalities and multiple intelligence preferences, I make a point to help learners to challenge their weaker areas as well as capitalize on their stronger areas. Shouldn’t the same apply to the spatial-sequential spectrum? Wouldn’t anyone benefit from being more balanced?

School is generally well-suited to sequential-auditory learners, and my classroom is no exception. Teachers naturally feel obligated to break content down to make it palatable, but maybe we shouldn’t always do that! Perhaps sometimes we should start with a broad concept and provoke the students to break it down, or not break it down at all…

So my driving question is, what can I do to make visual-spatial learners feel more welcomed and engaged?

In general, I assume that interest-driven learning, inquiry-based learning, and independent inquiry are beneficial to all learners and visual-spatial in particular, especially in upper elementary classes. Perhaps a good place for me to start would be to learn more about whole-to-part learning processes and design some of our activities around those approaches.

This will be an ongoing inquiry for me as I prepare for the next school year. Suggestions welcome!!!!

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Bart Miller

Father, Teacher, Composer, Philosopher

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