Differentiating Learning by Personality: Nine Types of Learners

If there is one lesson we learn pretty quickly in both parenting and education, it is this: every child is very different.

Reading comes easily for some children, others click instantly with mathematical concepts and methods of encouraging growth differ greatly between students.

As a parent, you work hard to guide learning at home – by investing into extra-curricular activities, assisting with homework queries, fielding strange questions about the universe, perhaps even paying for extra tutoring on the side. At the heart of it, you hope, no doubt, that this effort is helping them – moving them to that next stage in learning and confidence.

One concept that has the power to radically revolutionise the educational space is that each child really does learn differently. We’re not talking about the theory (now debunked) that some children learn visually and others learn better by listening, but how, at a far more basic level, each student is attuned to gather information according to their fundamental fears and motivations.

Instead of expecting all students to come towards information in a certain way, at BHCS we are moving towards incorporating a layered understanding of personality into everyday lessons.

While some students might appreciate learning by taking notes and figuring out a problem step by step, others thrive when getting their hands dirty and debating an issue. For some kids emotional connection in learning is crucial, while this factor is less important to others who may prefer to come to solutions independently and through careful questioning. Where some people see patterns instantly and become bored if required to work through problems step by step, others tend to approach learning best when it is immersive but also grounded in routine.

We can identify nine different types of learners in each classroom.

Emerging from one of the three holistic centres (head, heart and body/hands), each student gravitates towards knowledge from a different starting point. Those who begin with the thinking centre (head) appreciate learning by observation, by careful questioning or by pattern association. Students who lead from the heart require more of an emotional connection with the teacher or subject matter, with an emphasis on learning from role models, receiving immediate feedback or ensuring that they are in an optimal emotional zone before diving in. The body/hands centred students benefit from firm boundaries which helps define learning for some, give resistance to come up against, or a container to provide predictability.

Understanding students in this way enables us to avoid a common (and tragic) outcome in the education system where some types of students flourish and others become labelled as ‘bad’ or ‘unmotivated’. We believe there are no bad students and that each child has the capability to tackle learning in a positive way, improving abilities and brain power via a differentiated process.

So, when we are tempted to use a strategy at home simply because it worked on another child, let’s take a moment to evaluate. Let’s ask ourselves this: How can we best serve the child who stands before us? Let us pledge to walk alongside and learn from them as they take step after step on this grand learning adventure.


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