The Right “Fit”

According to the commonsense, a “good” student is one who sits quietly, listens to instructions and follows them in a timely manner.  The “good” student completes the task(s) in the prescribed manner within the timeline given.  Students who are privileged by this definition are those who are capable of listening to, understanding and following instructions exactly as instructed.  They are the Type A personality students!  Unfortunately, the commonsense mindset makes teachers believe that every child should behave in this manner, thus making it difficult to understand when they behave differently.  Those students who cannot, or do not adhere in the way considered appropriate to the commonsense definition, are then considered a problem.

Just because a student does not “fit” into the commonsense idea of a “good” student does not mean that they are “bad.”  It is important for teachers to reflect upon the way they structure their class and lessons to ensure that they are engaging all types of students to promote an optimal learning environment for all.  Even the slightest change can make a significant positive impact on a student’s learning and behavior.  For example, implementing a variety of instruction techniques, or allowing students a choice of projects, allows a greater chance of success for all students.  Taking the time to observe and to listen to your students is crucial, not only for their individual success, but also for your effectiveness as a teacher.

Dr. Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences outlines eight different potential pathways to learning.  He suggests several ways to present material to facilitate learning for those who have difficulty following the more traditional approach.  Often, these students are not considered to be “good” students and will be much more successful if material is presented in a way that uses a different Multiple Intelligence. Howard’s theory encourages teachers to use a wide variety of techniques that include music, cooperative learning, art activities, role plays, multi-media, field trips, etc.  This variety of instruction and opportunities for students allow for learning that better suits each individual student’s needs.

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2 thoughts on “The Right “Fit”

  1. Giving students choice is key to individualize learning. Because of the differences in learning styles that you mention, students need choice in both instructional methods (process) and ways of demonstrating their learning (products). This is challenging for both beginner and experienced teachers. Developing a range of assignments or products based on multiple intelligences is a wise strategy. For me, the difficult part is always how to teach new course information other than by telling – the good old lecture approach. It requires more teacher preparation time to develop alternate ways to present material and also more class time for students to discover the material through other methods.

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  2. Implementing more types of learning experiences for students to have a great chance of succeeding is a great plan. This will bring more students into the conversation when learning is happening to include everyone with different learning styles. In what ways do you think a teacher could change students minds if they have already been put into the category of “bad” by other teachers in the past?

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