Modifying Teaching Style Improves Students’ Learning

All the research and advanced technology today that can scan the brain and it’s activities lead neuroscientists to be certain that the wrinkled cranium is divided into two hemispheres. The right hemisphere is supposed to be used for analytical thinking while the left hemisphere is attributed to creativity. Auditory/sequential learners use the right side of their brain as the most dominant, while Visual/spatial learners favor the left side. This does not necessarily mean that all visual/spatial learners are right handed, or vice-versa, although it could very be true.

Processing of our information relates to how we function in other areas of our lives. The question is – are our teachers structuring their lesson plans toward only one type of learning group while missing the advantages and potential of the other?

Teachers tend to teach concepts in a step-by-step fashion, and practice with repetition, review and timed drills. This type of lesson plan is perfect for the auditory/sequential learner, who usually gets good grades but has to work at memorizing and retaining what they learn. It does not address the visual/spatial learners, who find it hard to learn this way.

What is an Auditory/Sequential Learner?

The auditory/sequential learner is usually comfortable with just one right answer — and does not seek out alternatives. They are detail oriented, and learn how to memorize anything by repetition and step-by-step instructions. They are very aware of time, are influenced by language and what they hear, and analyze details, from simple to complex, and process this information by deduction.

Auditory/sequential students are early bloomers who follow directions well and pay attention to details. They learn to memorize anything by a series of steps or instructions by word. This type of student is well organized and likes a certain structure to life. They excel at memorizing vocabulary words or dates that are offered in a sequence.   They also are better at seeing he details of a project as opposed to seeing the overall picture.


What is a Visual/Spatial Learner?

A visual/spatial learner takes in things all at once, seeing the big picture first, and then the details. They think in pictures instead of words. When they learn something they seem to retain it better. They usually have a remarkable ability to memorize a speech, or remembering names and faces.

These students are creatively gifted, usually late bloomers, and enjoy tasks that require more complex thinking — like mathematical equations, chess, constructing massive projects with Legos, and conducting science experiments. They also excel at music, art and drama — and are emotionally sensitive to others.

Visual/spatial thinkers usually are the brightest in the class, but not necessarily the best students. They are also the students most likely to drop out of school out of frustration, and often are classified as “underachievers,” and seen as struggling, or “at risk.” The self-esteem of these students gradually erodes until they drop out because they feel “dumb” for not getting it like the others in class.

A visual/spatial learner can not tell you step-by-step how they came up with the answer to a problem, and will probably not be able to show their work if that is required. Their brain processes information differently than what is normally taught in the classroom. Repetition or sequential drilling will not help them to learn or memorize. They come to their answer to complex questions by first creating a mental picture and relating it to something they already know. Complex tasks are easier than simple ones for a visual/spatial learner, and once they learn something it sticks in their head.

According to Dr. Linda Kreger Silverman, teacher and director of the Gifted Developmental Center (GDC), “We only have two hemispheres, and we are doing an excellent job teaching one of them. We need only become more aware of how to reach the other, and we will have happier students, learning more effectively.”

What is kinesthetic learning?

The other main area of learning is kinesthetically, which means using their body and emotions. Kinesthetic learners are approximately 5% of the population. They need to experience in order to learn, and use their body, emotions and senses to do so. They learn best from hands-on work. It’s all about moving, and you will find students that have been labeled as ADD or ADHD students often classified as kinesthetic learners. They have to keep moving, and are not able to sit for long periods of time to read or just listen. They have to keep busy.

Kinesthetic learners can often be found to be dyslexic. They are also known as do-ers, because the are better at doing activities than sitting and listening to explanations, lists and books.

Which style of learning is best?

It would be ideal if the student were able to cross-train their brain and use all styles of learning. Some students are a combination of all three learning styles, and often excel in more than one area. Neither style is all good or all bad, so a combination of learning techniques is best.

What can teachers do to improve study skills in each of these groups?

Observant teachers have found that very often the visual-spatial learners do the best on IQ and aptitude tests, and the worst. They can blow you away with their ability to visualize the answers rather than take the time to work out a problem. “They are system thinkers who can orchestrate large amounts of information from different domains, but they often miss the details,” says Silverman. By offering hands-on activities to students who are kinesthetic learners you can teach them to focus and calm them down.

Visual/spatial thinkers who have found that have a weakness in the auditory/sequential skills try to conform, but this causes a lot of stress on the student and their attention starts to drop along with their grades.

The auditory/sequential learners understand verbal instructions and step-by-step learning, which is the method most teachers’ use. They do not retain as much, and it takes them longer to understand this way.

For kinesthetic learners, allow them to flourish through writing, crafts, art or some use of physical expression.

Teacher able to identify individual learning styles, and modify how they teach accordingly to encompass all learning styles will be more successful in getting through to their students. If teachers do not learn to modify their teaching styles to encompass both groups some of the best and brightest students will continue to fall through the learning cracks. The above video is an excellent tutorial for teachers and parents, and I highly recommend you watch it.

About the author:

Ron White is a two-time U.S.A. Memory Champion and memory training expert. As a memory keynote speaker he travels the world to speak before large groups or small company seminars, demonstrating his memory skills and teaching others how to improve their memory, and how important a good memory is in all phases of your life. His CDs and memory products are also available online at


Hay House – Tapping Into Ultimate Success:

Dr Linda Kreger Silverman — Visual/Spatial Learners:

Lesley K SwordGifted and Creative Services, Australia:


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