Thursday, 19 December 2013



Gone are the days when school was all about the 3Rs - reading, writing and 'rithmetic.  Whilst debates about the content of our National Curriculum and the value of testing children throughout their schooling continue, there is an increasing recognition that there are skills which are essential for all individuals develop.

These skills come under many guises, for example; whole brain thinking, critical thinking skills, Bloom's Taxonomy.  Essentially they are the skills that make us life learners, they enable us to develop resilience, to adapt to our situation, to be enterprising and to solve problems.  In brief, these skills enable us to analyse, evaluate and be creative; to remember, understand and apply our learning to our everyday lives.  (Revised Bloom's Taxonomy).  When used in the classroom, these skills encourage an individual, to develop their self- confidence as learners in an environment where " It's OK to not to know but it's not OK to not try."

In addition, the understanding of how we learn has greatly developed.  It is generally accepted that there are many types of intelligences known as multiple intelligences of which there are eight in all. Put simply these are:

LINGUISTIC- individuals who like to read, write and to memorise and retell stories and facts.
LOGICAL/MATHEMATICAL - individuals who like to think and explore numbers and patterns, classifying and grouping information.
SPATIAL - individuals who like to draw, build, design and create; they enjoy working with colour and pictures and tend to be good at visualising.
MUSICAL - individuals who like to sing, hum, listen and respond to music as well as play instruments; they easily pick up rhythm and remember melodies.
BODILY/KINAESTHETIC - individuals who like to move around; they are generally good at physical activities, including sport and crafts.
NATURALISTIC - individuals who like to be outside, who are interested in conservation and animals, enjoying studying how things work and natural phenomena.
INTERPERSONAL - individuals who enjoy working with others; enjoying collaborative learning.
INTRA-PERSONAL - individuals who prefer to work on their own and have their own interests and goals.

The majority of schools and teachers are aware of these multiple intelligences and the importance of learning skills.  Within the school environment as well as the curriculum they endeavour to promote these skills and to develop all individuals as life learners.  In the classroom, most teachers plan lessons that include VAK (Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic) activities which provide opportunities to develop an individual's multiple intelligences.

Visual learning activities include drawing, copying, making diagrams, using highlighters and colour coding. Learners who respond well to visual activities often like to follow written instructions or to use flashcards. They may doodle and often choose to sit at the front of the class.  Generally they will find it harder to listen to verbal instructions and may lose concentration if there are no visual stimuli.

Auditory learning activities include discussion, watching and listening to videos, remembering facts and using rhythm or word association.  Learners who respond to auditory activities do well in oral tests, choose to write about what they've heard and prefer verbal instructions.  They are able to discuss or explain their thoughts and learning with others. Some will find it harder to complete written questions and answer type activities and tests. 

Kinaesthetic learning activities include drama, science investigations, solving real life problems, studying with others and learning in short blocks. Kinaesthetic learners prefer interactive, "hands on" activities and multiple choice type exercises.  They have a tendency to find it hard to sit still for long periods of time.  Consequently they may find it difficult to do well in writing long essays.

The above provide a brief definition and description of VAK.  If you wish to identify yourself as a VAK learner, or to understand what type of intelligence describes you best, there are quizzes to help you which can be found through various search engines. 

As individuals we have our strengths and weaknesses within these types.  Knowing our selves as learners has a value not just at school and in passing tests, but throughout our lives. It not only identifies our strengths and our areas to develop, but also supports us in acquiring new skills and knowledge as well as developing our communication skills. Albert Einstein recognised this when he wrote;
Everybody is a genius.  But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."

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