Wednesday, April 20, 2005

How do you operate?

These days, the schools go out of their way to raise kids’ awareness of how they learn, but back in the Dark Ages, when I was in school, no one even knew about learning styles. Some of us were good students and some weren’t. The assumption was that if you applied yourself, you’d succeed. Kids who didn’t do well were lazy or handicapped in some way.

Recently, I was prompted by some discussions at school to investigate my own learning style. Anthony Gregorc, professor of curriculum and instruction at the University of Connecticut, has conducted research into the functions of the left and right brain hemispheres. He concluded that people have different ways of perceiving and ordering information. We either perceive things in methods that are concrete-oriented (from our physical senses) or abstract-oriented (from logical, deductive reasoning). Ordering is how we make sense out of what we perceive. Ordering can either be sequential or random. He established four groups of thinking styles: Concrete Sequential, Concrete Random, Abstract Random and Abstract Sequential.

After some consideration, I determined that I was Concrete Random. But how does it help me to know? I’m in my mid 50’s now. The Age of Wisdom. Maybe, maybe not. However, it’s a time of life to reflect on the roads I’ve taken and to try to make sense of how and why I‘ve arrived at this place in my life. Why I’m very successful at some things and why I fail miserably at others. Very self-indulgent. Interesting only to me.

I know that I hate reading directions, that I’d rather look at a diagram or, better yet, look at the pieces of the furniture I’ve just bought from Ikea and figure out myself how to put it together. I find solutions to problems through some kind of leap and I don’t always know how I got there. That very ability to leap makes it difficult for me to write the story from A to B when I’m already at B. The in-between bit is boring, done, history. Now I know why I operate this way.

I had an interesting experience with a colleague this week. She was going to a meeting off campus and didn’t know how to get there by car. I offered to draw a map. She said it wouldn’t help; she needed verbal directions, preferably oral. So, I drew the map for myself. Then we went into her office and I talked her through the image I’d drawn. She listened and typed out a series of directions which made sense to her. It worked for both of us. We team teach very effectively because our styles complement each other.

Curious about your own learning style? Never mind when you left school. It still applies. Your learning style may determine how you work with others, how you overcome obstacles, and where your difficulties lie. Here are some web addresses you might investigate:
http://www.thelearningweb.net/personalthink.html
http://www.toughteams.com/papers/concrete.htm
http://chat.carleton.ca/~jsauve/channels.html
http://facultyweb.cortland.edu/andersmd/learning/Gregorc.htm
http://fcis.oise.utoronto.ca/~hmcbride/learning_styles_in_the_cla.html

1 comment:

Fitz said...

Marcia:

I finally got back online so I could check blogs, write, et al...

Nice piece! You actually had content!

Love the links, too...

michael