I do it over and over and over and . . . you know.

Have you ever noticed the way you learn?

A chart used to identify the learning styles o...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I never knew that there were different styles of learning until I got into college, and then suddenly there were these courses about how to organize your workflow and how to do homework, and there was talk of learning styles – really?

This made me question the school system that I grew up in. Not that I hadn’t done so already, along with (it seemed) all of the handful of friends I graduated with; you have to wonder how a class that started at over 300 students was whittled down to a graduating class of 180, the rest being dropouts – subsequent GEDs or not. Did they ignore the whole concept of “learning styles” and thus marginalize the way some students learned? The class environments were traditional to a tee, with the teacher’s desk at the front, the students in a square grid on a square floor and classes were a combination of lecture, quiet work, and homework. There was the occasional skip off the beaten path, and this was a little fun thing to do, not something considered to be a revolutionary teaching method – at least not by the students. We were guided by nth-generation believers.

We must also have been on the cusp of a real revolution; and it fits into the puzzle for me, because it seems like everything happened right as, or right after I graduated. The bevy of old Mac toasters in the corner of the school library was eliminated, and the school built a new computer lab right off the commons the summer after I graduated, complete with Windows PCs powered by Windows 95; the future was now, back then. And I don’t remember at the moment but there were a few more things that occurred where I seemed to say out loud, “and right after I’m gone they do this?” It felt unfair.

English: Dominant learning style of target aud...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What was really unfair was figuring out years later that a possible reason that so many people I knew in high school had dropped out, lost interest, and pretty much flopped at high school was because of the nonexistent emphasis on working with learning styles. I was one who managed to flounder all the way through, after a couple years of struggling with narcolepsy and then nearly giving up, skipping most of the eleventh grade and catching back up in senior year, only to graduate with a quarter credit (from driver’s education, oooh!) over the number of credits required.

To be honest, I couldn’t say whether the school system I grew up in went to learning styles, but I assume so, because it’s a trend in teaching. I don’t mean to say that as in it’s a fad that will fade away; if it’s appropriate to do so, then hopefully the method will remain and become stronger and better understood over time. The idea of teaching to learning styles appeals to me, although in pedagogy classes it looks like a real challenge to diversify a single lesson plan in such a way as to hit all of the learning styles. My real takeaway from learning about learning styles was to learn that I’m a person who learns by doing things, hands-on.

Unidentified man with table saw
(Photo credit: Boston Public Library)

And not to pigeonhole myself, I’m quite strong as a learner to begin with; I’ve always had the ability to catch on fast, do things well, and find ways to hack it and make it better. But I’ve also always had a strong preference to start at the beginning, know what I’m getting into, and to work from start to completion through a single task at a time. Most of all, I prefer to WORK ALONE. I’ve long been working on that one, but I’m such a quiet person it feels better to zone out and focus on the task at hand. I grew up that way, I read and drew pictures a lot, played with building toys – so is it any surprise that I can just zone out and work work work?

I wasn’t even going to answer this prompt, but then I read Rarasaur’s post about drawing circles, and I really enjoyed the narrative about her parents being teachers and teaching their children to discover their learning styles. My response was this: “I actually learned to draw circles by tracing around the edges of quarters and overturned glasses and cups and whatever became a handy guide for me until I had enough dexterity to do them freehand.” And I realized, that’s me. I learn by doing, but moreover I use emulation to learn quicker. That means that I can learn by seeing it done, I can learn by hearing about how you do it (as long as I can take notes because my memory is woo-hoo!) and I can learn by following written instructions, but I learn best by doing it myself with these aids, and with examples from the world I know and trust. Having done it a few times, I then can begin to put my own spin on it. I guess that makes me luckier than some who might be completely closed off to certain avenues of learning, because I could have been one of those 120 high school dropouts from my class if I were not so versatile.

What do you think? Does that sound like a precise learning style to you, or am I just blowing smoke? Let us know in the comments!

This post was prompted by yesterday’s Daily Post prompt.


  1. Very interesting. You’ll have to do a post on what all those learning styles are. I don’t know what mine is nor the styles from which I would choose.

    I know I need things to be quiet to learn. I like reading instructions, too. But, like you, emulation is key. You don’t really need to ‘tell’ me how to do something, but show me the end product and I’ll try my own way to get there. Doesn’t always work. It seems, the thing that helps me most is an inherent interest in the subject or task.

  2. That’s awesome about how you learned to draw circles. I’m glad you fleshed out your comment into a full post because I was curious if it was just circles or all things in life. 🙂 See, I can trace a cup to make a circle– but if you take away the cup, I’m right back to not knowing how to draw a circle, ha! 🙂 Many of my friends are like you, though– which makes it fun for me because I can study and get good at something (like knife-throwing) and then teach it to a group of people in hardly any time at all. I like to surround myself with learners such as yourself! 🙂

    • Ha ha, it sounds like you know how to find the fast learners! If you think about it, that might even be an automatic preference for success – like natural selection – and I can’t say I blame you because I think we take a lot of work out of teaching as long as we want to learn. 🙂

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