When it comes to myself, I tend to be a visual or kinesthetic learner. When I can be hands-on, it allows for my brain to make a connection through touch. Similar to learning to swim for the first time. It was not until I was thrown in the deep end of the pool that I fully grasped how to tread water. As my oxygen quickly ran out or seemed to with twelve feet of water below me, I felt a natural instinct to move my limbs as much as possible to reach the surface. With the safety of my parents nearby, I was able to experience the exhilaration of learning in the moment within reasonable bounds. I believe that a formal environment incorporated with informal learning techniques is what best suits my learning styles. I need the structure of formal, but also the space to be creative and not feel constrained.
When I am in a large classroom with multiple students, it is easy to feel intimidated. If the prison-like white brick walls and symmetrical columns and rows of seating were not intimidating enough, then the know-it-all student at the front of the classroom would be. Raising my hand to ask or answer a question was never an option in this setting out of the fear of being embarrassed or judged by what I had to say. Growing up, I’ve had teachers tell me, “There’s no such thing as a stupid question!” while others say just the opposite, but better to be safe than sorry, right? When I asked Rowan if he found the formal environment intimidating, he told me, “Yes, intimidation is a big factor for me in any social situation, even more so in a learning environment where the fear of failure is very real.”
I have taken multiple courses where the different learning styles have been neglected in formal education. However, I understand that it can be hard for instructors to cater to every learning type when they are teaching a mass of students. Fortunately, there are systems already trying to tailor their teaching to younger students. Shreve Island Elementary is, for example, is a school that strives “to build and nurture a community of leaders who respect differences, value academics, and strive for personal excellence” (https://www.shreveislandelementary.com/welcome). In addition, they state, “We pride ourselves on meeting the needs of diverse learners in a family-like atmosphere.” The implementation of informal techniques will ultimately help these students find academic achievement.
Overall, while students can benefit from each system separately, based on my own experiences, the experience of students I’ve interviewed, and the research I’ve done, the value of a dual system incorporating both formal and informal techniques would be immeasurable.