A case of different strokes for different folks

21st May 2004 at 01:00
Bar charts attached to the desk of every Year 4 pupil at Evelyn primary in Prescot, Merseyside, show which learning style is most suitable for each child.

Teachers are able to view pupils' individual ratings at a glance for the three categories used by the school in Knowsley. The ratings offer a picture of pupils' learning strengths.

A recent audit shows that 69 per cent are predominantly kinaesthetic learners - they learn best through physical activity; 22 per cent are auditory learners and 9 per cent learn best by visual means.

Headteacher Carole Arnold has adapted her school's teaching methods in accordance with these ratings. She has introduced role-playing areas into junior classrooms to allow pupils to learn by moving around and acting things out rather than just listening or looking.

"I think it is a general trend now that children do like to move and do things when they learn," she said.

"It could be because what they watch on television is very dynamic. I think it is the media world we live in - we are all becoming kinaesthetic learners."

Evelyn primary's figures broadly match those for Knowsley as a whole. The authority has also found that the bulk of its pupils are best suited to kinaesthetic learning, with one primary reporting a figure as high as 80 per cent.

Professor Frank Coffield of London university's Institute of Education argues that teachers should move away from individual learning styles towards broader notions of how pupils learn.

For example, he says, if pupils see themselves as kinaesthetic learners only, they might neglect to develop other ways of learning.

But Ms Arnold says this is not a problem in her school as all lessons contain visual, auditory and kinaesthetic elements.

Knowsley, now three years into what it calls its "mind-based learning" programme, is still second from bottom in the national five A*-C GCSE league table. But it has seen a rise in the proportion of pupils reaching that benchmark - from 25 per cent in 2000 to 33.4 per cent last summer.

William Stewart

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