Large Class, Few Learners

During my first class at the Teachers’ Institute, I recall being asked by the Lecturer if I could tell what a large classroom means. Large classroom? At that moment, it sounded elementary to me that such a ‘trivial’ term was considered important in education. Of course, a large classroom implies an overpopulated class of students, I responded confidently. But much to my surprise, I was wrong. I was so wrong about it the lecturer couldn’t help but chuckle.

A large class, I later learnt, is not determined by population. A large class is determined by the versatility of learners. When a class is comprised of different types of learners that demand different learning styles in the course of learning, then that class is said to be large. Therefore, a class of 12 students, for example, with 12 different learners requiring 12 different learning styles can be considered large, meanwhile a class of 50, with 50 learners that demand only one learning style can not be considered large.

Learning style refers to an individual’s desired, most effective method of assimilating new information and learning new skills. Learning styles can be dynamic, depending on the task to be achieved. However, it is not a criterion for someone’s ability or intelligence, rather a choice for one model over another.

Individuals may possess some strong style preferences and tendencies, but learning styles are not fixed modes of behaviour and, based on different situations and tasks, styles can be developed and modified. Though, the extent to which individuals can extend or shift their styles to suit a particular situation differs.

In the field of learning styles in education, controversies have been raised as to whether it is better to teach using a variety of learning styles or to employ the one best suited to the content or the individual.

Also, cognitive science holds that, although, learners do differ in their abilities with different learning styles, employing the learner’s most preferred learning style doesn’t influence his educational achievement. Rather, what matters is whether the learner is taught in
the content’s best modality.

This explains why some psychologists hold that learners should be taught in the style that best suits them, regardless of content while others are of the view that the content should be taught in the style that best suits it, regardless of the individual.

Numerous learning styles and models exist; the three basic ones being Tactile
Kinaesthetic, Visual-Spatial and Auditory Sequential.

Tactile Kinaesthetic

Also called multi-sensory learning, the Kinesthetic learning style suggests that people learn through physical touch or movement. Tactile learners hear or see to learn, and then complete their learning by trying it out themselves. They primarily focus their sense of touch, focusing on physical activities to accomplish learning instructions. Tactile learners are likely to remember what they were being taught when they write it down. Their sense of touch and ability to move around help them to comprehend learning. However, tactile learners tend to have trouble recalling or following instructions. They cannot withstand mental and physical confinement because they crave movement, therefore, they can’t sit through long periods in classes.

Visual-Spatial

Learners with this style tend to think visually and sometimes desire to learn the same way. They are good at visualising the “big picture,” but they occasionally ignore the details. Visual-spatial learning style points to the learner’s ability to comprehend, analyze, and understand visual information in the world around them. Virtually, they can picture ideas with their mind’s eye. They grasp concepts before paying attention to their details. They think in pictures rather than words therefore, they learn easily when presented with visual information.

Auditory Sequential

Here, an individual learns most effectively through hearing and listening. Auditory learners secure information better when it is transmitted through sound or speech rather than written form. An auditory learner depends on speaking and listening as their dominant strategy of learning. Many auditory learners may encounter challenges when instructions or information are given in written form but can clearly understand them when the information is aural. These types of learners are generally good listeners and can effortlessly recall information that has been uttered. For instance, an auditory learner may recollect everything that was mentioned during a work meeting but has a hard time recollecting the information that was outlined shed in a work report. Auditory learners have good speaking and listening skills, excel in oral tests and are good storytellers. However, they are easily distracted by noise.

Identifying what learning style every student is unique to might be a tedious task to the teacher but it remains one of the best tools at easing learning difficulties for both learners and teachers.

By utilising the above learning modalities, a teacher is sure to retain the attention of learners during class activities. A teacher should improvise means through which all learners would be carried along, depending on their learning habits to avoid the complications of handling a large class with only a few students.

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