"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..."

Monday, May 28, 2012

Learning Styles vs. Hemispheric Dominance (Part 3 of 3 Part Post)

Learning styles and hemispheric dominance are not unrelated.  One just needs to be aware of both.  The following table gives an overview of learning styles and hemispheric dominance.   Understanding both will help significantly in putting together all the pieces of the learning puzzle.

Learning Styles
(Learning Modalities and Personal Interaction)
Hemispheric Dominance
 (Left Brain vs. Right Brain)
Research shows that each learning style uses different parts of the brain. By involving more of the brain during learning, we remember more of what we learn. Researchers using brain-imaging technologies have been able to find out the key areas of the brain responsible for each learning style.
In general the left and right hemispheres of your brain process information in different ways. We tend to process information using our dominant side. However, the learning process is enhanced when all of our senses are used. This includes using your less dominate hemisphere. Listed below are information processing styles that are characteristically used by the right or left brain.
Visual - Prefers using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.  The occipital lobes at the back of the brain manage the visual sense. Both the occipital and parietal lobes manage spatial orientation.
Linear vs. Holistic Processing - The left side of the brain processes information in a linear manner. It process from part to whole. It takes pieces, lines them up, and arranges them in a logical order; then it draws conclusions. The right brain, however, processes from whole to part, holistically. It starts with the answer. It sees the big picture first, not the details.
Auditory – Processing information received from the ear or expressed with the voice.  There are two sub-modalities:
Aural - Prefers using sound and music.  The temporal lobes handle aural content. The right temporal lobe is especially important for music.
Verbal - Prefers using words, both in speech and writing.  The temporal and frontal lobes, especially two specialized areas called Brocca’s and Wernicke’s areas in the left hemisphere of these two lobes.
Sequential vs. Random Processing - In addition to thinking in a linear manner, the left brain processes in sequence -- in order. The left-brained person is a list maker. If you are left-brained, you would enjoy making a master schedule and doing daily planning. You complete tasks in order and take pleasure in checking them off when they are accomplished. Likewise, learning things in sequence is relatively easy for you. For example, spelling involves sequencing; if you are left-brained, you are probably a good speller. The left brain is also at work in the linear and sequential processing of math and in following directions.
By contrast, the approach of the right-brained student is random. If you are right-brained, you may flit from one task to another. You will get just as much done but perhaps without having addressed priorities. An assignment may be late or incomplete, not because you weren't working, but because you were working on something else. You are ready to rebel when asked to make schedules.  But because of the random nature of your dominant side, you must make lists, and you must make schedules in order to survive and meet deadlines.
Symbolic vs. Concrete Processing - The left brain has no trouble processing symbols. Many academic pursuits deal with symbols such as letters, words, and mathematical notations. The left-brained person tends to be comfortable with linguistic and mathematical endeavors. Left-brained students will probably just memorize vocabulary words or math formulas. The right brain, on the other hand, wants things to be concrete. The right-brained person wants to see, feel, or touch the real object. Right-brained students may have had trouble learning to read using phonics. They prefer to see words in context and to see how the formula works. To use your right brain, create opportunities for hands-on activities. 
Physical - Prefers using body, hands and sense of touch.  The cerebellum and the motor cortex (at the back of the frontal lobe) handle much of our physical movement.
There are two subtypes:
Kinesthetic (large motor) - prefers large movement while learning
Tactile (small motor) - likes to twiddle with things in their hands or squish things - immerses themselves in the "senses" of learning
Logical vs. Intuitive Processing - The left brain processes in a linear, sequential, logical manner. When you process on the left side, you use information piece by piece to solve a math problem or work out a science experiment. When you read and listen, you look for the pieces so that you can draw logical conclusions. Your decisions are made on logic--proof. If you process primarily on the right side of the brain, you use intuition. You may know the right answer to a math problem but not be sure how you got it. You may have to start with the answer and work backwards. On a quiz, you have a gut feeling as to which answers are correct, and you are usually right. In writing, it is the left brain that pays attention to mechanics such as spelling, agreement, and punctuation. But the right side pays attention to coherence and meaning; that is, your right brain tells you it "feels" right. Your decisions will be based on feelings.
Social - Prefers to learn in groups or with other people.  The frontal and temporal lobes handle much of our social activities. The limbic system also influences both the social and solitary styles. The limbic system has a lot to do with emotions, moods and aggression.
Verbal vs. Non-verbal Processing - Left-brained students have little trouble expressing themselves in words. Right-brained students may know what they mean but often have trouble finding the right words. The best illustration of this is to listen to people give directions. The left-brained person will say something like "From here, go west three blocks and turn north on Vine Street. Go three or four miles and then turn east onto Broad Street." The right-brained person will sound something like this: "Turn right (pointing right) by the church over there (pointing again). Then you will pass a McDonald's and a Walmart. At the next light, turn right toward the BP station." So how is this relevant to planning learning strategies? Right-brained students need to back up everything visually. If it's not written down, they probably won't remember it. And it would be even better for right-brained students to illustrate it. They need to get into the habit of making a mental video of things as they hear or read them. Right-brained students need to know that it may take them longer to write a paper, and the paper may need more revision before it says what they want it to say. This means allowing extra time when a writing assignment is due.
Solitary - Prefers to work alone and use self-study.  The frontal and parietal lobes, and the limbic system, are also active with this style.
Reality-Based vs. Fantasy-Oriented Processing - The left side of the brain deals with things the way they are--with reality. Let's look at what school situations would look like for both types of brains.  When left-brained students are affected by the environment, they usually adjust to it. Not so with right-brained students; they try to change the environment! Left-brained people want to know the rules and follow them. In fact, if there are no rules for situations, they will probably make up rules to follow! Left-brained students know the consequences of not turning in papers on time or of failing a test, but right-brained students are sometimes not aware that there is anything wrong. So, if you are right-brained, make sure you constantly ask for feedback and reality checks. It's too late the day before finals to ask if you can do extra credit. Keep a careful record of your assignments and tests. Right-brained students need to check in with the teacher often! While this fantasy orientation may seem a disadvantage, in some cases it is an advantage. The right-brained person is creative. In order to learn about the digestive system, you may decide to become a piece of food! And since emotion is processed on the right side of the brain, you will probably remember well anything you become emotionally involved in as you are trying to learn.
Conclusion:  Many people recognize that each person prefers different learning styles and techniques. Learning styles group common ways that people learn. Everyone has a mix of learning styles. Some people may find that they have a dominant style of learning, with far less use of the other styles. Others may find that they use different styles in different circumstances. There is no right mix. Nor are your styles fixed. You can develop ability in less dominant styles, as well as further develop styles that you already use well.
Conclusion:  These are just some of the differences that exist between the left and right hemispheres, but you can see a pattern. Because left-brained strategies are the ones used most often in the classroom, right-brained students sometimes feel inadequate. However, teachers can be flexible and adapt material to the left or right side of the brain.

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