All children are different. Human beings go about things in their individual way and this makes them unique. Therefore the learning styles differ per person as well. The road children take to acquire knowledge is intrinsic to their personality.
Every person has a core, what Montessori called ‘The secret of childhood’. We are who we are. And we also want to stay whom we are. To feel true to our heart, we cannot become different to our origin. To become happy, we need acknowledgement for whom we are. This basic concept translates into predominant characteristics through which we are recognisable by others. It also translates into preferred learning styles.
This is where education comes into the picture. If we all agree that everyone is different, then this needs to be acted upon on a daily level. The traditional segmentation of large groups of children and students by birth date is unnatural. As if they would all be the same when divided by ‘batches’ of the same age. Yet, due to the adults having gone through the same system, and therefore accepting it as ‘normal’ it is still the way that most students are taught. But how can a teacher accommodate the needs of a large group of three year olds? How can a secondary teacher cater for the different learning styles of a class of 25 teenagers? The TED Speaker Series most-watched video clip is by Sir Ken Robinson named ‘Do schools kill creativity?’ He explains the educational paradigm shift that must take place in order for future generations to succeed and grow with our changing times.
You might also like to see the RSA Animate – Changing Education Paradigms.
Borrowing ‘Learning Style’ definitions from the book, ‘Math for Humans’, author Mark Wahl described four distinct temperaments, or ways of taking in and approaching the world. Let’s see if you can recognise your child’s (and your own) learning style with these short introductions:
Beavers like routine, logic and consistency. They love to go about their work in a methodical way. They like lists, adhere to the timeframe, do as you ask and feel comfortable within a framework. Within a team they are reliable and solid workers. They are challenged when they are required to come up with innovative ideas, creative concepts and open-ended questions. It annoys them when others frolic around and do not seem to be responsible for a solid outcome.
Dolphins are very much in tune with the emotional life of others, they like to assist, help where they can and often have a very positive influence on a group. Their work is colourful, unique, creative and well cared for. Due to their eye for detail, adhering to a time frame can be a challenge. They love brainteasers but dislike memorisation and tedious study that needs drilling. Those ‘boring questions’ do not deserve their energy.
Knowledge and reflection! These children are deeply interested in the functioning of the earth, mechanics, and the sciences in general. Knowing why and how phenomena take place absorbs their thinking. A deep, individual concentration assists their hunger for facts. Needing to be a team member or even a leader can be a source of great stress. They like to be left alone and are often not aware of the needs of others. Social interaction seems a ‘waste of time’, keeping him/her away from the more important things in life.
They are multi-task people, who know what others are going to say. They are keen and witty and understand concepts very fast. Give the fox a problem and solutions are found very fast. A fox never takes the same road to the chicken coop twice! Give the fox a book or series of calculations to work through and you will have a minimal response. They need to be able to wander on new roads, tease their mind and be innovative. Otherwise they will switch off and classify the surrounding as uninteresting.
In the Montessori classroom
In the Montessori classroom we help children grow up harmoniously. What does that mean? The teachers acknowledge the individual learning styles of each child while at the same time helping the child to develop the other sides of their personality. Why would one want to do that?
Self-esteem is boosted when the child feels respect for who they are and how they function. Their success in life is optimised by developing the techniques necessary to be able to work and communicate with those who are different. Being able to adapt to various situations instead of feeling threatened, allows the personality to unfold and function according to their potential!
Mark Wahl’s use of these four animal characteristics were based on the influential findings of Howard Gardner who introduced the idea of multiple intelligences.
For more information please leaf though our special publications on Learning styles. Here you will find the personality traits described per age range as they surface differently as the child grows older. Each document also describes how our school caters for the different learning styles and how we help develop the strengths and the skills of the other personality traits. Ideas for the home environment are included: