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Learning Modalities - When One Approach Is Not Enough

Written by Jim Meany April 21st 2017

Have you ever wondered why an instructor’s lecture can sound so much like the sonorous droning of the teacher in a cartoon series, but a simple diagram on the board makes the same material come alive? Did you notice how the subject comes into even better focus when you are the one sketching out your understanding (even if an imperfect understanding) of the concept? Or maybe you have struggled with an exam question, blanking on the answer, until you physically calmed yourself, recalled your hand movements as you took notes preparing the material in advance of the exam, and then watched the answer flow, as if by magic, from your pencil. These outcomes are not coincidences. They reflect the power of multiple learning modalities and a huge opportunity for you to advance and bolster your learning skills and style.


As with any undertaking, learning requires the collection and deployment of resources. The more tools (resources) in your toolbox, the more effective and efficient your learning process can be. Unfortunately, many students, especially those who struggle with academic achievement, do not fully appreciate the number, variety, and especially power of different learning modalities available to them. Effective learning, assimilation, integration, understanding, and retention of ideas goes beyond listening to a lecture, performing a cursory read of text or other written materials, and taking a less than inspired approach to homework. To succeed a student must tap into personal resources already available. The only extra cost will include some additional upfront time and effort that will pay huge dividends in efficiency, understanding, and recall.


Insight Tutors LLC recommends a holistic approach to learning, yet we recognize that not everyone finds each method equally useful. That’s the beauty of the system – each student is free to choose the method(s) he/she finds most effective. If you do not understand a concept from your textbook, go to the online version or to YouTube for a mini-lecture complete with diagramming or, even better, an animation. A ten-minute YouTube tutorial on a homework problem might suffice for those who have the time and patience for it, while others would benefit more from working their way through a relevant sample problem in the textbook. Study buddies can prove invaluable; if you can teach material to someone else, you will definitely know it for the final.


One often-discounted learning mechanism deserves special mention. We cannot overstate the power of “writing it down,” especially if you write it down the old fashioned way – with pencil and paper (or its functional digital equivalent, but not typing). This advice applies to annotating and paraphrasing literary and other written works (not just highlighting or underlining, which is too passive), diagramming scientific and other processes, creating “recipes” for solving math problems, drawing concept maps for historical events, and visualizing other principles and materials. The physical act of writing down a concept not only requires you to interpret, assimilate, understand, correct, and regurgitate information, all very important in themselves for the development and retention of knowledge, but it also allows you to access the extreme power of kinesthesia as your efforts link hand, eye, and mind in the process of cementing understanding for later recall and use (the value of which has been shown in studies).


Whether you retain Insight Tutors LLC to help you identify and utilize your preferred modalities or not, you owe it to yourself to ascertain, expand, and exploit the multiple mechanisms of learning that will work for you. You will be pleased with the impact they will have on your learning, including increased satisfaction with the process and a greater intellectual curiosity regarding the world around you.

Insight Tutors LLC
364 West Putnam Avenue, Suite 5
Greenwich CT 06830
Phone 203.536.0231
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