Just like there are many methods to teach a subject to a class, there are just as many ways students learn and retain new information. Since being introduced in the 1970s, the concept of individualized learning styles has left an influential mark on education. Learning styles refer to the various methods students use to learn or understand new subjects and how new concepts are understood, expressed, and retained. For educators, this can be valuable when assessing whether a lesson is working or not.
The most common framework widely referred to is the VARK model by Neil Fleming, which includes four learning styles: Visual, auditory, reading-writing, and kinesthetic.
To help differentiate the different learning styles in your class, consider the following questions:
Do you have a student who doodles during lessons? Do they draw diagrams, and use symbols and colours to express knowledge? This student is a visual learner.
Do you teach any students who tend to read aloud and verbally explain new concepts? Do they prefer group discussions and audiobooks? They are auditory learners.
Do you have a student who reads and journals a lot? Do they re-word texts and definitions; and express themselves well in writing? This student is a reading-writing learner.
Do you teach any students who need to move around during lessons? Do they struggle to sit still and like to act out lessons or scenes from books? They are kinesthetic learners.
When it comes to STEM lesson plans, accommodating the different learning styles of your students gives them the opportunity to discover what works best for them. It will also help you discover how to engage their learning styles so that the entire class feels encouraged to explore further STEM education.
How to Engage Visual Learners in STEM Lessons
The visual learners in your classroom are more likely to be artistic, and STEM isn’t often associated with that skillset, but that is far from the truth.
In recent years educators have adapted STEM lessons to incorporate the arts, adding the “A” to “STEAM”. Integrating art concepts and practices into science, technology, engineering, and math fosters an inclusive environment that allows students to engage and contribute in meaningful ways.
What better method can convey a complex idea than a visual aid? How many textbooks have you seen that include no images, graphics, diagrams, or maps? Yet visual tools are often a missing element in STEM education.
Engage the visual learners in your classroom with interactive design elements in STEM lessons. The robotic Climate Action Kits by InkSmith include lesson plans with interactive slides designed for visual learners. Students can categorize and match while dragging and dropping answers. Courses include additional arts and crafts components in which students can use their design prowess to build robotic prototypes. These projects enable students to use their strong visualization skills while developing critical analytical thinking and problem-solving skills.
How to Engage Auditory Learners in STEM Lessons
The aural learners in the classroom prefer receiving information verbally and tend to engage well in group discussions. They may also be musically inclined in that they learn song lyrics and melodies quickly.
Like visual learners, auditory learners are not commonly associated with STEM proficiency, but that doesn’t mean they can’t excel in these subjects.
Since aural learners rely on sound to understand concepts, a great way to engage them in a STEM lesson is to incorporate audio recordings and videos in presentation materials. The Climate Action Kit lesson slides include audio recordings describing each part of the diagram. The short video clips interspersed throughout lessons give auditory learners a greater chance to engage and learn.
How to Engage Reading-Writing Learners in STEM Lessons
Students who are strong in the reading-writing learning style will display their knowledge of the written word by memorizing definitions and re-wording them for better understanding.
It can be easy to think that reading-writing learners are the ideal students to assign research reports, but that would be short-changing their skillset and future career potential. Afterall, a well-written research paper is not the best way to discern comprehension, nor is it aligned with developing career-ready skills.
Yet literacy skills and STEM go hand in hand and are vital for success in any career. They may be viewed as two separate disciplines but can easily be integrated. Reading-writing learners are adept with critical thinking which helps to interpret technical texts, improve STEM vocabulary, and clearly communicate complex concepts to others.
The key to engaging these students in STEM lessons is to tie literacy to STEM. In our Climate Action Kit courses, we included writing prompts and literacy connections with slides such as “See, Think, Wonder” and “Shared Reading”. Reading-writing learners gain a deeper understanding of STEM concepts when they have time to read, write, and reflect on a subject.
How to Engage Kinesthetic Learners in STEM Lessons
Kinesthetic learners learn best through movement and motion, making them more associated with STEM education than any other learning style. These tactile students grasp concepts well when they can move about or touch and manipulate objects using digital tools, like a computer, or physical components, like robotics hardware.
A traditional classroom environment can be tough for a kinesthetic learner. During lessons they can struggle to sit still because they process information better when they are free to move around the room. Considering the hands-on style of STEM activities, it’s no wonder that these students are known to do well in STEM education.
The most obvious way to engage kinesthetic learners in a STEM lesson is to incorporate a robotics kit, such as the Climate Action Kit. With the many projects included, students can create using the physical hardware components and interactive drag-and-drop style coding; there are limitless ways to stimulate a tactile learner in STEM.
A well-designed STEM lesson plan that engages all styles of learning provides students with different options and methods for both consuming information and completing projects. There’s no one learning style that rules above the others, and when students are given freedom to choose what works for them, a STEM lesson opens educational opportunities for every learner.
Climate Action Kits unlock a world of potential both for individual student development and classroom engagement for educators. This robotics kit will help educators inspire their students to recognize and solve problems in a creative and empathetic way.
At InkSmith, it's our mission to bridge gaps in STEAM education by empowering educators to introduce 21st-century technology into their classrooms. We offer the latest in educational technology projects, from robotics kits, 3D printers, and laser cutters, as well as educator training to make their introduction into the classroom seamless.