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One size doesn’t always fit all

By DAN BAUMAN • Feb 16, 2019 at 6:00 PM

The human brain is amazing and powerful. The human brain has been the subject of research for hundreds, maybe thousands of years. Scientists have studied the brain’s composition, function and potential.

Cognitive scientists, neuroscientists and educational researchers have had a tremendous impact on the understanding of how the brain works. Brain research has, and continues to have, a tremendous impact in the field of education.

Many of us have a past vision of school sitting in a class listening to our teacher “stand and deliver.” We may remember his or her voice echoing through our heads. Some of the information never made it to our brains. We were the product of “sit and get.” Hopefully those days are long gone. Through years of research, we now know that the one-size-fits-all approach is not effective. We have come to recognize that the human brain learns in different ways.

In 1983, Howard Gardner, a Harvard professor, conducted a research study of multiple intelligences. Gardner suggested that all people have different kinds of intelligences. Gardner identified eight intelligences:

• Visual-spatial (good at visualizing things)

• Linguistic-verbal (good at writing, speaking, memorizing and reading)

• Interpersonal (good at understanding and interacting with people)

• Intrapersonal (good at studying theories and ideas)

• Logical-mathematical (good at solving problems and participating in experiments)

• Musical (enjoys musical instruments and singing)

• Bodily-kinesthetic (good at dancing, sports and creating things with one’s hands)

• Naturalistic (interested in nature and exploring the outdoors)

Into which category do you fall? Some of you may fit into multiple categories.

Why is it so important to recognize that there are multiple preferences of learning? In today’s classrooms, there are students who are identified as diverse learners. All students don’t learn the same way. It would be easy to default back to the one-size-fits-all approach, but research and training suggests otherwise. Classrooms have become differentiated learning environments.

Differentiation is an approach that addresses the various learning styles and needs of all students in the classroom. Classroom teachers design their lessons and instruction to meet the needs of their students. In any given classroom, there are students who are English language learners (ELL), students with disabilities (SWD), gifted and talented (GT), etc..

Each student has his or her individual needs. These are the challenges of today’s classrooms. It may be the greatest challenge in the field of education. It is also what makes education exciting. How are classroom teachers meeting the diverse needs?

I have the greatest opportunity to see the incredible things teachers are doing in their classrooms to reach student interest and learning styles. On any given day, I see:

• Marcy Burns’ students outside collecting weather data for projects.

• Lindsay Webb’s students creating pages for their interactive notebooks.

• Luke McCoy facilitating a self-organized learning environment (S.O.L.E.)

• Kathleen Spettle’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) students testing their design and finished projects.

• Amy Martin and Jonathon Kijowski preparing students for their Egypt projects and presentations.

• Jennifer Garwood holding Market Day in social studies

These are just a few of the creative activities that take place in our classrooms. The list could go on. Our classrooms of today have become more diverse and challenging. Almost all of us have a learning preference. Learning can be fun if we identify our learning preference and seek activities that we enjoy. One size does not always fit all.


Local columnist Dan Bauman is the Main Street School principal.

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