In our Stepping Stones newsletter, we’ve talked about the importance of engaging the different human centers to ensure a balanced development of the self. One way of doing this is by addressing the different learning modalities. In order to explore this topic, we talked with a member of our staff, Melissa Overbury-Howland, who was a high-school teacher in England prior to moving to the States.
Different research, including this BBC documentary which Melissa was a part of, has shown that we do not all learn in the same way; so there is tremendous value in understanding the different learning modalities. This is especially important when we want to make sure our children (or even ourselves) are learning in the best possible way.
There are 3 main learning modalities:
In BAMM, for example - an Integral Steps program that combines Biology, Art, Music, and Motion, children who learn about notes for the first time use the different modalities: for the kinesthetic/tactile, they march to the rhythm of the note, clapping as they feel the beat; for the auditory, they play the note and hear how it sounds; for the visual, they see the note on the music sheet in a specific color to further enhance memorization.
For adults, playing in a chamber music group is a great example of a multi-modal learning experience. You'll learn to watch the other group members and read their body language to know when to start playing together (Visual). You'll feel the music by swaying side to side, nodding your head, and moving your fingers and lips to play your instrument (Tactile/Kinesthetic). You'll read the music (Visual) and convert it to sound (Auditory), listening closely for the intonation and color of the note so you can blend together and play as a unified group.
In our examples, you may remember one experience better than the other, and that’s because that experience engaged directly with how you learn. For teachers, the different learning modalities mean that it is important to design classes like BAMM, in order to ensure everyone is learning. For non-teaching adults, it means we should be paying attention to how we or our children learn. You’ll notice when your child gravitates towards a specific learning modality because they will be noticeably actively engaged.
Active steps you can take to help address a range of learning modalities: