Monday, February 1, 2010

Are You Addressing Learning Styles with your Instruction and Assessments?

I spent part of my weekend reading a very interesting White Paper from Questionmark's Eric Shepherd and Janet Godwin entitled "Assessments through the Learning Process." It really made me think about the challenges that CareerTech teachers face within their classrooms. I believe that career and technology programs face, more than anyone, such a wide variety of students, in terms of age, background, and experiences. You will need to join their community (for free) to have access to the entire white paper, but I think you will find it worthwhile. I have a portion of the introduction below and I think you will find it thought provoking and worth your time:

Assessments through the Learning Process
Authors: Eric Shepherd and Janet Godwin
With assistance from:
Dr. Will Thalheimer, Work-Learning Research
Dr. William Coscarelli, Southern Illinois University
Dr. Sharon Shrock, Southern Illinois University
The way that training and classroom courseware are delivered has shifted profoundly during the past five years. While a great deal of attention has been given to form of delivery, it’s clear that search and retrieval practice as well as other important factors influence how and what students actually learn and apply to their specific tasks.
Some organizations have tried to move entirely to online learning opportunities, for example, and yet not everyone is well suited to this approach. A significant portion of the population, especially those considered to be Gen X or Gen Y, love to learn on the computer. They even spend their leisure time on the computer. Others learn better in the more traditional training session where people get together, break up into groups, and talk to each other. Many of us prefer the classroom setting with all of its human interaction.
It’s critical, therefore, to understand how people learn, what they have in fact learned, and whether this knowledge is useful for their particular job. That’s why the cornerstone of developing successful educational, training, and certification materials is the effective use of assessments. While assessments used to consist of reams of paper upon which students filled in tiny boxes, now companies and educational institutions have a real opportunity to use technology not only to make assessments more widely available but also to make the process far more effective.

These organizations can use assessments to guide people to powerful learning experiences; reduce learning curves; extend the forgetting curve; confirm skills, knowledge and attitudes; and motivate people by giving them a real sense of achievement.
I can't overstate the importance of recognizing the learning styles of your students. Technology has infiltrated our lives and the ways that we learn are now so varied.  This might make instruction more difficult for you, but at the same time, what a great resource. As I have said before, individuals are what makes learning exciting and we can learn something new from every person we meet and that includes learning and understanding how they learn. Take a look at the White Paper and let us know your thoughts.  J.T.

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