Are you a listener or a reader? How do you learn?

Are you a listener or a reader?

What an interesting question.  Peter Drucker’s Managing Yourself offers some interesting questions.

He said you need to know whether you listen or read.  He said Dwight D. Eisenhower was a reader and as a general he was well-loved by the media, but when he became president they despised him and scoffed at his inability to answer their questions.  Turns out that as a general all his questions were given to him half an hour before the conference started and so he was able to read the question and respond to them thoughtfully.  But as president, he was only asked the questions.  He came off as uneducated and poorly informed because his brain didn’t process oral information as well as it did written information.

This is me.  I do that.  If you talk to me, I can follow you.  But if you ask me something complicated, I have to write it down and read it to get it.  And I am slow to answer orally, but I can answer quickly and well in written communication.  I think there is something about oral communication that makes me feel put on the spot and I feel pressure and don’t do as well.

Lyndon Johnson had been, Drucker said, a superb congressman, but was a poor president.  As a parlimentarian he had to listen well and speak well.  When he became president, though, he inherited the habits of JFK’s staff and they wrote for him.  He didn’t read well and half the time he didn’t get what they were telling him in writing.  

This is an interesting idea with repercussions not just for us but for our students.  I have an older student who acts like she has no clue that I said to do things.  I’ve started trying to write down her assignments, since she doesn’t go read the syllabus.  We’ll see if that really makes a difference.

How do you learn?

He goes on to talk about people who learned by writing (Winston Churchill) and who learn by speaking (himself).

I learn better when I have to teach someone.  If I teach someone, I know things.  This is the best way for me to learn.  It is part of why I enjoy teaching.  I learn so much when I teach.

Tip 24: Two theories of learning

This last year I was introduced to entity and incremental theories of intelligence. In one, the student says, “I am good at this.” (Or bad at it.) In the other the student says, “I worked hard at this and I got it.” (Or didn’t work hard enough and didn’t get it.)

While it is true that some things a student may never get (I, for one, have never gotten geometry.), most things the student can get if they will keep trying.

According to research incremental theorists are more likely to succeed across diverse fields. Someone who is “good at math” may not use the same skills that make them good at math in English because they don’t realize those skills transfer.

The researcher I read said that process-oriented feedback from the teacher can help our students realize that they have incremental intelligence. “Good job! You are becoming a better writer. Keep up the good work.” Or “Study a little harder for the next test. Ask any questions you need to during our review.”

This difference made sense to me. I’ve decided to try it out. This is the first semester I have tried doing incremental encouragement, so I do not know how well it will work. But I think it would have helped me as a student.

My notes
Entity: I am good at this
Incremental: I can do this if I try
How to encourage students: process-oriented feedback
“Good job! You are really becoming a _____. Keep up the good work.”

“Study a little harder for the next one and you’ll do well. Ask any questions you need to.”

Auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learners

I was looking up information on learning styles because it was relevant to the class I am taking. I found this fascinating information.

Auditory Learners:
Learn through hearing
Talk to themselves while working
Move their lips and pronounce the words as they read
Enjoy reading aloud and listening
Can repeat back and mimic tone pitch and timbre
Find writing difficult, but are better at telling
Speak in rhythmic patterns
Prefer lecture or seminar to reading a book
Like talking more than writing
Repeat information over and over to memorize it
Make up little rhymes to remember thing
Are talkative, love discussion and go into great lengthy discussions

Verbal Cues:
“Spell it out for me.”
“I don’t hear what you are saying.”
“Listen to me.”

Visual Learners:
Learn through seeing
Are neat and orderly
Are good spellers and can actually see words in their mind
Memorize by visual association
Make up little rhymes to remember things
Prefer a map to listening to directions
Underline and annotate reading material
Concerned with form and format
Love the use of the overhead and PowerPoint

Verbal Cues:
“Let’s take a look at it.”
“I don’t see what you are saying.”

Kinesthetic Learners:
Learn through touching
Prefer a map to listening to directions
Underline and annotation reading material
Concerned with form and format
Use finger as a pointer when reading
Gesture a lot
Can’t sit for long periods of time

Love the use of the overhead and PowerPoint
Enjoy role-playing
Look for physical rewards
Memorize by associating events with ideas

Verbal Cues:
“Let’s move on.”
“I don’t get it.”

Other points
Auditory: Distracted by noise, like music more than art, move lips while reading.

Visual: Not distracted by noise, fast reader.

Kinesthetic: Pointing, expressive facial appearance and posture, move about.

Auditory: Like music more than art, prefer talking instead of reading.

Visual: Prefer books to lectures, like to doodle while talking on phone.

Kinesthetic: Prefer groups to lectures, like to take a walk to sort out ideas.

On writing, if a student is Auditory:

  • likes group interaction to generate ideas
  • appreciates verbal responses (conversation) to their work-in-progress
  • likes “talking through”
  • a paper idea/plan (explaining it) before writing
  • tends to include quotations and dialog in writing
  • verbally rehearse their writing (interior monolog), may even mumble to themselves when writing

On writing, if the student is visual:

  • Likes to view models of papers assigned
  • Appreciates written responses to their work-in-progress
  • Prefers creating a graphic picture of the writing—a paper plan or outline—and graphically oriented invention strategies—flow chart, clustering, balance sheet, schematics, pro-con, etc.
  • Cares about handwriting
  • Tends to write carefully, correctly, much proofing during invention and drafting stages, but this penchant for appearance results in meager production

On writing, if a student is kinesthetic:

  • prefers and profits from active reading (underlining, annotating a text) instead of reading straight through
  • prefers writing in short bursts
  • prefers active invention strategies that both reduce the writing task into discrete steps and manipulate material
  • tends to write quickly, spontaneously, and abundantly, but without much regard for correctness or appearance (however, an extremely productive behavior)
  • handwriting often unintelligible to a reader

from a LENS Workshop

But when I was reviewing my blog/using my outboard brain, I found that I read and referenced a cognitive scientist’s discussion of learning modalities. He says that learning styles don’t make that much difference in learning.

I believe that in one way (and it makes teaching easier) and in another way I think it must have some impact.

I think perhaps the information in this post says how it has impact.

Good resources

Good resources for teachers are available on the net

on preparing or revising a course

If the course is new to you and has never been offered before, review textbooks on the topic of the course. Reviewing textbooks will give you a sense of the main themes and issues that your course might address, which is especially useful if you are preparing a course outside your areas of specialization. (Source: Brown, 1978)

Identify the constraints in teaching the course. As you begin to design the course, ask yourself, How many hours are available for instruction? How many students will be enrolled? Are the students primarily majors or nonmajors? At what level? What material can I safely assume that students will know? What courses have they already completed? What courses might they be taking while enrolled in mine? Will readers or graduate student instructors be available? What sorts of technological resources will be in the classroom? (Sources: Brown, 1978; Ory, 1990)

on Principles of Adult Learning

Adults have accumulated a foundation of life experiences and knowledge that may include work-related activities, family responsibilities, and previous education. They need to connect learning to this knowledge/experience base. To help them do so, they should draw out participants’ experience and knowledge which is relevant to the topic. They must relate theories and concepts to the participants and recognize the value of experience in learning.

Adults are relevancy-oriented. They must see a reason for learning something. Learning has to be applicable to their work or other responsibilities to be of value to them. Therefore, instructors must identify objectives for adult participants before the course begins. This means, also, that theories and concepts must be related to a setting familiar to participants. This need can be fulfilled by letting participants choose projects that reflect their own interests.

Research on journaling

The thing that interested me most in Beach’s work was the summaries of research on journaling.  I do a lot of personal journals, have assigned them to classes over the years, and am presently doing a kind of one for you.  I want to read his work and see if I fit the profile his study came up with on learning styles.  I think it would be particularly interesting for me because my reasons for writing and my styles have changed considerably over the last sixteen years and those changes can be traced over time.  (Wonder if I could make that into a paper?  Probably not.  Although I do have several tests I have taken repeatedly across the last sixteen years, like Myers-Briggs.)


Not sure if it is actually in this, but I have it, so I am guessing yes.

Beach, Richard, and Lillian S. Bridwell, eds.  New Directions in Composition Research. New York:  Guilford, 1984.