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How Do Children Learn Best?

“There are many evidence-based teaching methods that improve learning, learning styles are just not one of them…”

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Children learning
Children learning at a bootcamp

No child is the same and so how can we expect to teach them all in the same manner? Hence the idea of various teaching styles.

Unfortunately, according to a research article in Change Magazine (Sep/Oct 2010), there is no credible evidence that learning styles even exist. The article specifically refers to the VARK teaching styles that are in vogue: 

“Students do have preferences about how they learn. Many students will report preferring to study visually and others through an auditory channel. However, when these tendencies are put to the test under controlled conditions, they make no difference – learning is equivalent whether students learn in the preferred mode or not. A favourite mode of presentation (e.g. visual, auditory, or kinesthetic) often reveals itself to be instead a preference for tasks for which one has high ability and at which one feels successful.”

So how best to teach learners then? 

According to Dr Derek Muller, the creator of Veritasium, a YouTube channel about science, there’s a lot of research available that supports multimodal approaches (teachers combining various styles to best convey and explain complex concepts):

“There are many evidence-based teaching methods that improve learning, learning styles are just not one of them…. The best learning experiences are those that involve multiple different ways of understanding the same thing.”

Ultimately, he concluded that the most important thing for learning is not the way the information is presented but what is happening inside the learner’s head. “People learn best when they are actively thinking of the material, solving problems or imagining what happens if different variables change.”

The Love Trust’s approach to multimodal teaching

To better serve children, especially the most vulnerable children in our society, The Love Trust has developed a multimodal approach that aims to help learners at their Nokuphila School in Thembisa better understand their work material and overcome various barriers to learning through psychosocial support tools, learning aids, teaching programmes and complementary teaching methodologies.

This type of dedication and awareness to their learner’s physical, psychological and cognitive state when teaching new and complex material is crucial for children from impoverished homes.

Particularly where access to new and creative learning experiences are harshly limited, schooling among adults in the family low to non-existent, and children who often suffer forms of emotional, psychological, and physical trauma.

Children Lear under Love Trust
Children at a playground

The Love Trust accomplishes this through heightened learning experience and opportunities that engage children’s minds through creativity, problem solving, imagination and physical interactions that help them understand and grapple with abstract concepts:

Personalised teaching: 

Special care is dedicated to learners who are identified as struggling. This involves investigations by specialists to uncover what the barriers to learning these specific learners have and which might mean adjusting the teaching methods to accommodate that learner’s specific needs, enquiring into the situations at home through a social worker, and providing practical as well as psychosocial support.

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Sport, art, culture and music:

Through physical activity and exposure to other disciplines such as music (like their Yamaha recorder programme) and art, learners develop intra- and interpersonal skills that contribute to strengthening their confidence in their ability and reflected in their scholastic performance.

Technology: 

Nokuphila School makes use of learning technologies that includes Smart Boards, an eLearning platform and a state-of-the-art computer room where learners can master ICT and robotics skills on par with many schools in more affluent areas of South Africa.

Gamification: 

Teaching through play is a crucial part of child development at Nokuphila School. So much so that they include parent training lessons where parents are shown how to engage with their children from an early age through playing educational games such as Lego building blocks.

Bilingual education: 

Although their curriculum is in English, Nokuphila’s curriculum includes isiZulu lessons taught by mother tongue home language speakers who not only make the children more comfortable speaking in their mother tongue but also the correct vernacular.

Caring personnel: 

Nokuphila prides itself in the quality of its staff, not only in terms of their academic achievements and constant drive for self-improvement but for their dedication to relate, empathise and engage with learners on a meaningful level.

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