Teaching to All Types of Learners

A great deal has been written about learning styles and understanding the different modalities one needs to use in teaching to reach students who have different learning preferences. Learning style theory has been contested in the recent literature and some argue it’s more important to think about challenging learners to learn in multiple modalities or to match teaching style with the content rather than teaching to learning styles. Regardless of the criticisms around learning style theory, it’s important to consider presenting your content in multiple formats to reach a wide range of students who come from different backgrounds and learn differently.

One Model of Learning Styles

The Felder-Silverman Learning Style Model characterizes learners in four categories. The table below gives an explanation for each and the percentage of students who prefer that approach. It is important to keep in mind that most people are a combination of all of these qualities!

felder silverman learning style model

image by Melissa Cater via the LSU AgCenter ODE blog

You don't have to design each activity or class component to reach every type of learner. However, your class as a whole should be diverse enough to reach everyone. Here are some tips for achieving that goal:

  • Use images, diagrams, demonstrations, screen projections AND provide oral and written explanations.
  • Offer a handout or online guide that summarizes presented information and gives directions to repeat the skills that were demonstrated.
  • Provide class time for active student participation.
  • Encourage students to work in groups.
  • Periodically pause to give students time to process what you've shown them and ask questions.
  • Include both conceptual and concrete information. Explain the abstract ideas and then try to connect them to something in the "real" world.
  • Present material in a logical, sequential manner, but take time to point out the connections between this information/process and other areas where this knowledge is relevant.