The Five Ways of Learning

It’s well known that individuals learn in at least one of five ways:

  • Aural
  • Verbal
  • Visual
  • Experiential
  • Tactile

Aural learners retain what they have heard. If they have only read it, they may not retain it. I had a history teacher who was wise enough to have us read a chapter each night, and the next day he would verbally reiterate the material in the chapter. I read the chapters, but I learned from his telling. I guarantee there were others who learned not from his telling, but from reading the chapters.

Verbal learners retain what they themselves have spoken. They need to repeat or discuss what they are learning (not just hear it) to set it in their memory.

Visual learners retain what they have seen; they may learn from watching videos, demonstrations or procedures. I’ve heard some students say that watching videos is a waste of time, but those are usually the ones who learn best some other way.

Experiential learners have to do a specific activity to retain information, rather than just being told about, watching, or reading about it.  Role-playing is a good tool for experiential learners.

Tactile learners are similar to experiential learners with the addition that the experience must involve touch. For instance, some people can’t remember telephone numbers verbally, but can dial them because their fingers know the patterns. Tactile earners often learn to play musical instruments well if not made to concentrate on the printed music as much as on the kinesthetic patterns of the music.

Good teaching uses all these elements, not just the one the teacher learned with, and not just the one that a particular student best relates to, but all of them for every student. Although each student will have a favored way of learning, all benefit using all the senses in the learning process. The tactile and experiential elements are covered by playing the instruments; the verbal part is what you say, ask, and discuss; the aural part is the music they hear; and the visual part is what is in books as well as the melodic and harmonic patterns they see.

Defining Expectations

Many students come to their first few lessons not knowing what to expect of the teacher or what the teacher expects of them. They may have had experiences with other teachers that are very different, or they may have never had lessons before. It helps a student relax and learn more easily if the teacher communicates specific formats and guidelines in the first lesson. These can be printed and handed to the student and/or parent. Here are some suggestions:

 A Student’s Responsibilities:

  • To arrive on time, and stay until the scheduled ending time
  • To be attentive
  • To respect the teacher and the material being presented, and consider the efficacy of the material offered
  • To do all the work as requested, and to practice at home between lessons
  • To treat other students with respect
  • To participate, not just observe
  • To wear no perfumes or heavily scented products to lessons or classes
  • To speak up / ask questions when clarification is needed
  • To voice any and all concerns, and to do so politely and respectfully
  • To let the teacher know more than 24 hours in advance if you must miss a lesson
  • Never come to a lesson when you or someone in your family is sick with or coming down with a contagious illness, even a cold. If you’re getting over an illness but are still coughing or sneezing, please stay home.
  • If you haven’t been able to practice since your last lesson, come to your lesson anyway  –  there is always something to learn. However, chronic lack of practice should be discussed with the teacher.

The Teacher’s Responsibilities:

  • Think of yourself less as a disseminator of information and more as a facilitator of learning.
  • All Students have within them the ability to which they aspire. Each individual will recognize and allow it to blossom to whatever degree they believe they are capable. Show them their capability.
  • Most people are more creative than they think they are. Bring out that creativity in each student.
  • People enjoy good leadership. Be a confident leader, yet be humble. Remember that any one of your students may know more that you do.
  • A great teacher has a good sense of humor. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
  • People remember best what they have been led to discover for themselves. They remember least what they’ve merely been told. Make learning experiential. Discussion, questions, participation, and activity are all part of the experience.
  • Every student learns differently. No one formula works for all. Flexibility and creativity are a teacher’s best tools. Use aural, written, tactile, and experiential teaching techniques so all individuals’ learning abilities are addressed.
  • A real teacher is compassionate  –  recognizing, acknowledging, and honoring individuality.
  • A true teacher learns from teaching. If you knew all there is to know, there would be little reason to teach.
  • Show respect for, and encouragement to, every student.
  • Answer students’ questions respectfully.
  • Consider complaints fairly.
  • Smile a lot!
  • Require no more and no less of each student than they are capable of reasonably doing, accomplishing, or learning.
  • Provide breaks, rests, and opportunities for refreshment regularly.
  • Foster students’ respect for each other.
  • Present all available viewpoints on the subject material, not just that which matches your opinions.
  • Provide information for further study and additional sources of the subject material.