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Working with Learning Styles

By Dr. Kathie F. Nunley

A common concern among teachers is: Are we doing a disservice to students by allowing them to work exclusively in their learning style? If the student is allowed to complete all assignments in their own style, it probably is denying them some growth.

Obviously the real world doesn't always accommodate learning styles. Job sites often require a great deal of flexibility in performance and problem solving. Students need to challenge themselves and increase their comfort in a variety of learning styles. Teachers want to offer a variety of learning styles in class assignments, but the real trick is knowing when to match and when to mis-match learning styles.


Matching a student's style of learning is particularly important in the beginning of the year, especially when working with students who have experienced little success in school, students who are struggling with concepts or students who have developed years of learned helplessness. Matching the learning style of the student to the assignment is a marvelous way to get students engaged and allow them to experience success.

Spinning woman

Are You Left or Right Brain Predominant? has this image that will help you determine your brain orientation. If you're a visitor to this site, chances are you will see the woman rotating clock-wise. If you see it counter-clockwise, chances are you are left-brained. Some people will see her reverse if they look away from the image.

However, once a student sees that he or she can have a successful learning experience, the teacher should try to encourage the student to work in a wide range of learning styles, even those out of the student's comfort zone. This is known as mis-matching learning styles. The easiest way to do this is through a wide variety of assignment choice offerings, as in Layered Curriculum™.


Students can pick their way through the menu of assignments picking and choosing their way to a grade. There should be several choices in each type of learning style, but not enough to allow the student to complete the unit using only their preferred style. This engages the student right off, by allowing them to work and experience success, but at the same time, forces them to branch out in other directions as they complete the unit.


Kathie F. Nunley is an educational psychologist, author, researcher and speaker living in southern New Hampshire. Developer of the Layered Curriculum method of instruction, Dr. Nunley has authored several books and articles on teaching in mixed-ability classrooms and other problems facing today's teachers. Full references and additional teaching and parental tips are available at: Email her at:


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