The students we were taught to teach

Traditional classrooms tend to favor students with the following characteristics or strengths:

  • Strong in linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences
  • Academically on grade level (not too far ahead or behind)
  • Learning Preferences:
    • Prefers working in a quiet environment
    • Best time of day: Early morning, afternoon
    • Social: Prefers working quietly alone or in a group (limited need for interaction)
    • Can handle highly-structured environment (seated in chairs, sitting up straight, not rocking or fidgeting)
    • Limited intake needs while working (food, drink, gum, snack)
    • Low mobility needs
  • Modality Strengths: High auditory, high visual; low kinesthetic
  • High verbal skills; ability to respond immediately when called on (low need for time to process quietly, internally, before responding)
  • Attending behaviors: Eye contact, little talking or movement (note-taking OK particularly in linear, traditional form)
  • Temperament traits:
    • High in adaptability, persistence, regularity
    • Low in distractibility, intensity, sensory awareness (sensitivity to sound, light, smell or touch)
    • Low to moderate in activity/energy levels
  • Personality Traits: Concrete thinking, logical, rational, organized, prompt, able to follow rules and procedures.
  • Dominance profile: Left-brain dominant, full sensory access: dominant right hand, eye, ear and leg. Note: Students who are right-brain dominant, full sensory limited (all functions right-dominant) may be at the greatest disadvantage.
  • Also: Studies show other factors (gender, culture, socio-economic status, appearance, popularity, membership in highly-valued groups or teams, for example) to be relevant in certain instances

Excerpted and adapted from Creating Emotionally Safe Schools, by Dr. Jane Bluestein (Deerfield Beach, FL.: Health Communications, Inc, 2001).

Nearly all the ‘dropouts’ of society have learning styles different from their school’s main teaching style.
—Gordon Dryden

Dominance Profile Full Access

  • This image shows the dominance profile of a learner who is likely to be strong in verbal, visual, auditory, and kinesthetic channels.
  • As children in traditional school settings, these individuals tend to be fairly comfortable and successful.
  • They are generally able to take information in through all modalities and can respond verbally when called on without needing much extra time to process or retrieve information. (These abilities are also influenced by temperament and personality factors, as well as other stress factors in the environment or the child’s life.)
  • This profile represents a large number of students who are classified as Gifted and Talented.
  • Although only a small portion of the population (less than 5%) is likely to have this profile, the strategies that most educators acquire in their training are best suited for individuals with the attributes represented by this image. (Exceptions would include teachers with an Early Childhood or Special Ed background.)

Dominance Profile Full Limited

  • This image shows the dominance profile of a learner who is likely to be challenged in verbal, visual, auditory, and kinesthetic channels.
  • As children in traditional school settings, these individuals often struggle to process information the way it is typically offered.
  • They are likely to need more time to respond when called on, which may prompt some adults to believe that they either do not know the answer or that they were not paying attention, although it is far more likely that these learners just need a little more time to process and retrieve information.
  • These individuals may have a hard time sitting still and focusing in traditional settings. (As with the Full Access profile, these abilities are also influenced by temperament and personality factors, as well as other stress factors in the environment or the child’s life.)
  • This profile represents a large number of students who are classified as Special Needs (including ADHD, learning disabled, and behavior disordered) and often do well in classrooms, schools, and programs that are geared to the needs of non-traditional learners.

Incidentally, modality and sensory preferences do not seem to correlate with what we call intelligence. (Albert Einstein was Full Sensory Limited.) There are numerous factors that influence how individuals learn— some hard-wired into our neurology and others (like parents getting divorced, or a threat received in the hallway) more situational. The reason I’ve included this post is to remind parents and teachers that we don’t all look the same when we are learning, and if kids aren’t getting what we are trying to teach them, let’s be willing to come at it from a different angle and let kids practice in a way that is natural for them.

Special thanks to Dr. Carla Hannaford for this information, some of which is adapted from her book, The Dominance Factor: How Knowing Your Dominant Eye, Ear, Brain, Hand, & Foot Can Improve Your Learning (Marshall, NC: Great Oceans Publishers, 1997).

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Related resources:

Ways to Reach More Students
ADHD Look-Alike Conditions
Multiple Intelligences
Working With Different Modality Strengths and Limitations
Water and the Body
Survey: Is Your School (or Classroom) an Emotionally Safe Place?
The Animal School
Literacy: What’s Movement Got to Do with It?
Some Kids (Really Do) Study Better When…
I’m Hyperactive, You’re Hyperactive

Also: Why French Kids Don’t have ADHD. Article by Marilyn Wedge, Ph.D. in Psychology Today

Products:

Book: Becoming a Win-Win Teacher
Book: Creating Emotionally Safe Schools
Book: The Win-Win Classroom

Audio: Practical Strategies for Working Successfully with Difficult Students

Video: Emotional Safety and Learning Styles

Podcasts:

The Fragile Learner with Hanoch McCarty
The Inclusive Teacher: Success with ADD and ADHD Students with Margit Crane
Movement and Learning with Aili Pogust

One thought on “The “Ideal” Student

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