May 31, 2005
A Primer on Learning Styles
Have you read Willamette University College of Law Professor MH Sam Jacobson's excellent article, "A Primer on Learning Styles: Reaching Every Student," 25 Seattle UL Rev. 139 (2001)? (I haven't found a copy on the web yet - this is a chance to use the Blog sponsor's product, or other fine research tool of your choice.)
"When teachers teach in ways that acknowledge and validate different styles of learning," Professor Jacobson reminds readers, "students do better." Although that seems like the type of "duh" statement that probably qualifies as a Maddenism ...
... [John Madden, NFL commentator and former Oakland Raider head coach, famous for such remarks as "Any time you have a game, you have to be ready to play," "You can only make one play at a time," and my personal favorite, "It's kind of hard to keep your head from being lopsided if you have half of the field in your helmet"] ...
... nevertheless, it needs to be said.
The students we serve are often very frustrated by what they perceive as their inability to "learn" the material. Often, this reflects only an inability to learn material taught in a user-not-so-friendly manner. "If students are not fully absorbing critical information, the most sophisticated processing of the information will not matter since it involves inadequate input. It would be like playing solitaire without a full deck." An acceptable level of absorption occurs for "... some students ... [only] when they absorb information in a particular way."
Professor Jacobson walks the reader through several levels of classification of personal characteristics that contribute to student learning styles, including intelligence, personality, information processing and social interaction, and instructional preferences.
This article is a brief but detailed primer on the subject. If you don't have a background that includes this information, grab ahold of this article before you head for the Las Vegas conference next week.
In the fall, you can explain to your students how law school is like baseball ... as Yogi Berra put it, "Ninety percent of this game is half-mental." That's even more difficult to handle, I suppose, if you have half the field in your helmet. (djt)
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