Learning Obstacles

Learning Styles

Question: My child receives low scores on almost every history test. How can I help him, or is this a subject he will never be good at?

As a tutor, I have found that no two children learn in the same way. This creates a variety of questions: How do we take a classroom full of students of varying learning styles and have one teacher reach them all? Or, how do we formulate a standardized test that reflects each student’s knowledge?

I believe that some students thrive in a classroom setting or on a standardized exam while other students are lost in this type of assessment system. Even though more teachers are becoming aware of a variety of learning techniques to help students who have auditory, visual, attention, or other issues, I worry particularly with the budget cuts and increasing class sizes in public schools whether teachers will have enough time to explore alternate learning styles to the fullest. Therefore, it is up to the parents at home to understand their children’s weaknesses and help them to realize that they can learn anything, although not necessarily in a traditional way.

Two of my students who used to label themselves as “bad in history” come to mind. When studying for a history test, they would read the chapter multiple times and then take the exam. One student’s memory issues were uncovered as he struggled to remember the information he read, almost as if he had never seen the material before. However, after seeing pictures of the historical concepts, he stored a much greater amount of the information, so we started integrating pictures into an outline that we created with the main points, sub-points, and definitions presented in the chapter. For the other student, who had developed a severe dislike of history as a result of her poor grades, I dressed up as a gold miner using a gruff voice and acted out the entire chapter. Both had noticeable improvements on their test scores and enjoyed the subject for the first time.

The message here is that there is not only one way to process information and that we must honor our children’s strengths and weaknesses, helping them to discover effective ways to learn.