Traditional Learners & Learning Styles


The term "traditional learner" describes a student suited to learn within the boundaries of a physical classroom using a predefined curriculum. The Rochester Institute of Technology describes this as an instructor-centered environment, where the instructor controls materials and the learning pace for students to acquire and memorize knowledge. Learning styles refer to the way a person absorbs information through his senses and how he mentally processes new information.

Learning Style Models

  • Simon Cassidy recognizes 23 learning style models developed since 1962 in his 2004 analysis "Learning Styles: An Overview of Theories, Models, and Measures." Each of the learning styles are compared according to variables such as skills for cognitive reasoning, learning and social interaction.

    Richard M. Felder of North Carolina State University narrows down that number by noting four main models of learning styles: Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator, Kolb's, Felder-Silverman and Hermann Brain Dominance Instrument. Every traditional classroom has students who fit within at least one type of each model, and it's impossible to cater to each student's dominant skills. Felder notes that teachers must be aware of student strengths and weaknesses and work to satisfy each learning style at least part of the time.

Ideal Students

  • Traditional learners are more comfortable in a classroom environment and with a learning style that is visual or auditory dominant. Visual learners do best with reading text and teacher's notes on the board or in handouts. Auditory learners absorb text or visual information better when in conjunction with the instructor's lecture and classroom discussions. Dr. Jane Bluestein, Ph.D. and author of "Creating Emotionally Safe Schools" outlines the ideal student, which are the characteristics of traditional learners suited to instructor-centered environments.

Misread Students

  • Not all students have learning styles suited to instructor-centered classrooms, regardless of age or previous education. Misinterpretations of active learning styles are on Dr. Bluestein's list of characteristics commonly misdiagnosed as Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder by traditional schools. These children have difficulty sitting quietly because they need to touch, manipulate and talk about what they are learning. They fit the model of non-traditional learners.

Effectiveness Questioned

  • In a 2008 study published in the "Journal of the Association for Psychological Science," four psychology professors set out to find scientific evidence regarding the effectiveness of accommodating learning styles in the classroom. Harold Pashler, Mark McDaniel, Doug Rohrer and Robert Bjork concluded that as of that time, there was no adequate evidence to justify incorporating learning style assessments into general educational practice, and limited educational resources are better spent elsewhere. Although it's debatable as to whether or not it's worth the expense, an awareness of learning styles can be a helpful tool for educators when traditional students are experiencing learning difficulties.


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