Saturday, May 28, 2011

What kind of learner are you?

When we are thinking about the differences in each student's learning style, it is useful to look at the E & L framework (from Ehrman and Leaver (1997, 2003)).  It provides 10 spectra on which we can place a student to get a better idea of how they will absorb information.

Think about each dichotomy as a seesaw.  How far and in which direction is the imbalance?

1) Analogue/Digital scale
Do you tend to absorb information easier through metaphors and analogies (analogue) or through cold facts (digital).

2) Concrete/Abstract scale
Do you prefer hands-on, experimental learning (concrete) or are you a book-learner?  Preferring to learn through lectures and concepts (abstract)?

3) Field Independent/Field Dependent scale
Can you focus on one small part of the whole quickly and easily?  Can you zero in on a small unit of language and focus on just that.  (Field independence is tested by finding a shape in a field of other shapes.  If you can do this quickly, you are field independent.)

4) Field Sensitive/Insensitive scale
Do you use the language environment for your learning (field sensitive) or do you focus on individual units of language out of context (field insensitive)?

5) Global/Particular scale
Do you see the forest for the trees?  Do you focus on overall meaning at the expense of the details?  If you do, you are a global processor.

6) Impulsive/Reflective scale
Impulsive learners think and respond quickly.  Reflective learners think first and then respond.

7) Inductive/Deductive learners
Do you like to create your own hypotheses and test them in the environment in order to learn (inductive) or do you prefer to draw conclusions from reliable sources to apply (deductive)?

8) Leveling/Sharpening scale
When you are looking at two things that are mostly similar, do you look for the similarities (leveling) or the differences (sharpening)?  Do you have trouble remembering the differences or can you recall them easily (sharpening)?

9) Random/Sequential scale
Do you like to work through the material in a sequential way or do you like to read random sections depending on what is interesting to you at the time?

10) Synthetic/Analytic scale
Synthesizers create something new with the pieces that they have.  Analyzers take to take apart words to see the parts that they are made up of.

Keep in mind that each one is a spectrum.  I am usually sequential but at times I will skip a chapter and head into one that interests me more, knowing that I will go back and finish later.

Each student is a different combination of these variables, each class is an average of each of these components.  Teaching is not an easy job if you are teaching right.

Source: Leaver, B.L., Ehrman, M. & Shekhtman, B. (2005).  Achieving success in second language acquisition.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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