Designing Effective Projects : Thinking Skills Frameworks
Learning Styles

Differences in Learning
Today’s teacher knows that the ways in which learners learn vary greatly. Individual learners have particular strengths and weaknesses which can be built upon and enhanced through effective teaching. Project-based learning with ICT is a powerful way to use learners’ strengths to help them become better thinkers and more independent learners.

Project tasks that allow learners to use their individual learning styles are not a direct path to higher-order thinking, however. It is possible to create products that reflect shallow and superficial thought. (Ennis, 2000). Nevertheless, the motivating factors associated with choice when individual learning styles are addressed in projects, suggest that teaching thinking skills in the context of individual learning styles increases the likelihood that learners will learn them.

The use of ICT in projects also provides opportunities for learners to make choices about how they learn, allowing them to take advantage of the strengths of their learning styles. Using software and hardware to create videos, slideshows, publications, and musical compositions can help learners learn thinking skills and subject matter content in ways that acknowledge their talents and interests.

Visual-Auditory-Kinesthetic Learning Styles
The simplest and most common way of identifying different learning styles is based on the senses. Commonly called the VAK model, this framework describes learners as visual, auditory, or kinesthetic. Visual learners most effectively process visual information; auditory learners understand best through hearing; and kinesthetic/tactile learners learn through touch and movement. A study conducted by Specific Diagnostic Studies found that 29 percent of all learners in Senior and FET Phase are visual learners, 34 percent learn through auditory means, and 37 percent learn best through kinesthetic/tactile modes (Miller, 2001).

VAK Learning Styles

Visual Pictures, videos, graphics, diagrams, charts, models
Auditory Lecture, recording, storytelling, music, verbalization, questioning
Kinesthetic Acting, role-play, clay modelling

Many online inventories and questionnaires are available to help people determine their preferred learning style. Although most are not scientifically reliable, they provide insight into learning preferences. Teachers must exercise caution, however, in relying on learners’ self-assessment of their learning styles. Researchers Barbe, Milone, and Swassing (cited in Cotton, 1998) argue that learners’ preferences are not necessarily the area in which they are the strongest. In addition, all learning styles are not necessarily appropriate for all content. While it may be possible to learn something about driving a car by watching or hearing someone discuss it, few of us would want to be on the road with people who haven’t had considerable hands-on learning experiences in a motor car. Choosing teaching methods based on sensory learning styles requires deep subject matter knowledge and good teacher judgment.

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