The Learning Style Inventory™ for Students
• Statistically validated questions
With so much riding on the decisions teachers make in their classrooms, effectiveness is bound to play a central role, to become the name of the game: What skills are being modeled and taught? Is there research that supports this practice? Will it lead to measurable gains in student performance?
However, effectiveness is not the only game in town. There is another impulse—perhaps the noblest one of all—residing in all of our cherished democratic institutions. Theodore Roosevelt describes this impulse best when he reminds us that, “This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in.” Indeed, our Bill of Rights, our attempt to create a “blind” legal system, our belief in public education—all of these are potent reminders of the commitment we have made as a society to the ideal of fairness. While a wide range of social and economic factors slant the playing field to the advantage of some students and to the disadvantage of others, in our schools and in our classrooms, we seek to give every student an equal opportunity to succeed.
The great science writer K.C. Cole (2004) writes “Few people stop to think about the shape of the stage on which we play our lives, mainly because it’s normally invisible.” How can we measure what we can’t see? Well, as Cole points out, a good place to start is by looking at the patterns of achievement: Who tends to be successful on our playing fields? Who consistently fails? More specifically for educators, the question is this: Does the playing field of education – our classrooms, our instructional methodologies – seem to be tilted in favor of some learners’ style and preferences at the expense of others?
According to Robert Sternberg, professor of psychology and education at Yale University, the answer is “yes.” That’s the bad news. The good news is that Sternberg’s research shows that we can change the shape of the playing field and provide real opportunities for students to succeed by teaching with students’ learning styles in mind. Sternberg (2006) and his colleagues conducted a remarkable series of studies involving diverse student populations including students from Alaskan Eskimo villages, rural Kenya, and a wide range of student populations from across the United States. In these studies, students were taught in five different ways:
- A memory-based approach emphasizing identification and recall of facts and concepts
- An analytical approach emphasizing critical thinking, evaluation, and comparative analysis
- A creative approach emphasizing imagination and invention
- A practical approach emphasizing the application of concepts to real-world contexts and situations
- A diverse approach that incorporated all the approaches
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