and process information in very different ways. In fact, their learning styles are based on those two fundamental cognitive functions. Learning styles theory suggests that how much individuals learn has more to do with whether the educational experience is geared toward their particular style of learning than whether or not they are "smart." So, we should ask, How is this youth smart? rather than, Is this youth smart? Here are some general learning style classifications.
Concrete perceivers and abstract perceivers
Concrete perceivers absorb information through direct experience -- by doing, acting, sensing and feeling. Abstract perceivers, however, absorb information by analyzing, observing and thinking.
Active processors and reflective processors
Active processors make sense of an experience by immediately using the new information. Reflective processors make sense of an experience by reflecting on and thinking about it before acting on it.
Some authors suggest that practitioners should tailor their teaching styles to be more congruent with the youth they are working with. Others have suggested that a moderate learning-teaching style mismatch encourages and challenges learners to expand their capabilities.
Best practice might involve offering educational experiences that employ a variety of teaching styles. In that way, youth workers and educators can emphasize and reward the full spectrum of learning styles so that all young people have equal opportunities to learn. To do that, practitioners could place curricular emphasis on intuition, senses, feelings and imagination, in addition to skills of analysis, reason and sequential problem-solving.
In terms of instruction, practitioners may design their instruction methods to connect with all learning styles, using various combinations of experience, reflection, conceptualization, and experimentation. Practitioners may also incorporate a wide variety of experiential elements into the learning environment, such as music, sound, movement, visuals, texture, experience, and talking or signing.
How smart is this young person? A question framed in that manner implies a number of things. First it acknowledges that all youth are smart; they simply have different forms of intelligence. It also suggests that practitioners are responsible for taking initiative to find out how young people learn. It also suggests that youth should know their own preferred learning style so that they are prepared to drive their learning. Lastly, it is a strength-based way to view young people and their learning which may set the tone for positive youth development, quality of youth-practitioner relationships and effective learning environments.
What are your thoughts on learning styles?
Jennifer A. Skuza, PhD, assistant dean
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