"Intellectual distinction is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for election to a Rhodes Scholarship. Selection committees are charged to seek excellence in qualities of mind and in qualities of person which, in combination, offer the promise of effective service to the world in the decades ahead. The Rhodes Scholarships, in short, are investments in individuals rather than in project proposals..."

Friday, May 25, 2012

Learning Styles vs. Hemispheric Dominance (3 Part Post)

I've been doing a lot of reading on how kids learn lately, since half of my kids are "different learners" and, while I was one growing up, I just figured they had some "disability" like I felt I had.  I no longer think that is the case.  I think our education system has (long) determined there is one way, a right way, to learn.  When teachers (yes, and sometimes parents) run up against this, they label the kids as broken.  They become - Dyslexic, Dysgraphic, ADD, ADHD, slow, unmotivated...you get the drift.  While I don't disagree that those terms are valid medical terms, I think we've missed the mark.  I think kids learn differently.  One of my  favorite talks to give is "How to Get Your Kid to See the Light" which is about learning modalities.

When we take in information, we have a preferred input modality.  So, as a student is learning a new topic, they may learn more, faster or better using that preferred modality.  In fact, in 1994, there was a study that showed that kids that were taught to their preferred modality scored in or above the 70 percentile.  When a teacher or student (or preferably both) understands and teaches to a student’s preferred modality better learning is achieved.  

Once the information is received however, how it is processed depends largely on the hemispheric dominance of the student.  Our brains are made up of two hemispheres – the right and left sides.  Both sides contain identical sections (lobes) which perform specific functions.  However, fMRI studies show that each side processes things differently and we use both sides.  However, we typically have a preferred side.  The right side of the brain functions in a “whole to parts” method.  The left side learns things “parts to whole.”

A beautiful ad from the Mercedes Benz company showing a visualization of the difference between left and right brain hemispheres. 
The ad above has great descriptions.  They are hard to read, so I will transpose them here:
I am the left brain.  
I am a scientist. A mathematician.  
I love the familiar.  I categorize.  I am accurate. Linear. 
Accurate.  Strategic. I am practical.  
Always in control. A master of words and language.
Realistic.  I calculate equations and play with numbers. 
I am order.  I am logic.  
I know who I am.

I am the right brain.
I am creativity. A free spirit. I am passion.
Yearning. Sensuality. I am the sound of roaring laughter.
I am taste.  The feeling of sand beneath bare feet.
I am movement.  Vivid colors.
I am the urge to paint on an empty canvas.
I am boundless imagination. Art. Poetry. I sense. I feel.
I am everything I wanted to be.

Depending on your preferred side, you may store data in your brain differently.  Left brain learners store information in stacks (nicely organized).  Right brain learners store information all across the brain, building global connections (spread out, yet still connected.)  As someone learns something, depending on their preference, the web related to that learning experience either builds vertically (left brain) or horizontally (right brain). 

A visual left brain thinker needs to see details building up to a whole and visual right brain thinkers need to see the big picture and then have it broken down.  Think left brain thinkers need pieces to build up to “whole” understanding and right brain thinkers need to see the “whole” picture and take it apart to understand something.   So while both are visual, how the information is given must be considered also: Whole to parts (right brain) or parts to whole (left brain.) 

Here is an example.  Perhaps you want a child to work on math facts .  Right brain children need manipulatives, starting with the end in mind, dissecting the math process to arrive at the equation.  For example, if you want the right brain child to learn their addition facts, start with the answer (10) using manipulatives.  Then, have them see all the different ways they can make the answer (10 -> 0+10, 1+9, 2+8, 3+7, 4+6, 5+5).  Whole to parts, not parts to whole.  It doesn’t make sense to a right brain child to learn all the 1+ math facts.  Whereas a left brain child learns math facts best focusing on a part at a time (1+ facts, 2+ facts, 3+ facts, etc.)  Or in learning place value, a left brain child builds on learning each set of numbers in the units, then learn about tens, then hundreds, etc.  A right brain child might need a set of blocks with a “100’s” cube, “10’s” sticks and single cubes.  Giving them a bunch of blocks, you then break it down into how many 100’s, 10’s and singles there are instead of starting from the singles and back up again.

Left brain and right brain kids also develop so completely different from one another.  Left brain kids understand two-dimensional thinkers focusing on symbolic and word concepts first, then learn three dimensional thinking, focusing on creative and global concepts later.   Right brain kids are, in contrast, three-dimensional thinkers first learning the world through creative and global concepts, then evolving their two-dimensional thinking skills much later learning things first symbolically, then word development follows last.

Next, we'll look at how this affects reading...stay tuned.


RealMom4Life said...

oh, this soooo explains some of my kids. Seriously, I do believe this simple bit of info will help us a lot! I was trying to help my right brainer study for a test on the lymphatic system. I am a left brainer. I was trying to use her notes to quiz her and it was so frustrating to me. I had to get the book just to quiz her, her notes were so global I couldn't figure out how she understood that! I did the same thing with my left brain son a week ago and simplyused his notes. they were down to the basics...not global...in the end we pulled it all together. My poor right brainer, I think one of the reasons science and math is hard for her goes beyond it being more of a left brain subject. She is also being taught by a very left brain mom who looks at her notes and thinks she really needs to get better organized to understand this. What she needs is for me to work hard at understanding HER approach. OR...her right brained English loving SCIENCE major sister to help bridge the gap. Quite interested in future posts on this as well. I havr some kids who can more easily handle both, but also some on the extremes. Thanks!

The Road Scholar said...

You are so welcome. I was a right brainer who went to a Catholic elementary school and felt "broken". When I got to high school, it seems something clicked. What happened is my brain finally matured and was better able to think more logically and be a little more organized, something that most right brainers don't get until high school.
I will be posting more soon!