During our second art class, we discussed the four major sensory learning preferences: visual, auditory, tactual, and kinesthetic. People can have multiple sensory learning preferences. Often people have two strong preferences with two weaker ones, but it is possible to have three strong preferences, all strong preferences, or just one strong preference. We learned that up to 40% of people are visual learners and that only about 10% of people are auditory learners.
“What about tactual and kinesthetic learners?” you may ask. Tactual and kinesthetic learners often fall to the wayside in traditional school settings. However, most kids tend to be tactual and kinesthetic learners up until around age 8. It is important not to unintentionally neglect other preferences among students that don’t match up to yours. It is easy for a visual teacher to dismiss work done by a kinesthetic student that isn’t finely coloured within the lines, however, it is important to remember that there is no evidence to support any one learning preference as being more intelligent or correct than the others. With that having been said, let’s jump into what each of these learning preferences coud look like.
Visual Learners like being neat and tidy even at a young age. They love colouring books, but don’t need them since they have that affinity to begin with. They are very detailed visually. They are slow workers because of their attention to detail. Visual classrooms are neat, tidy, organized and pretty.
Auditory Learners need to talk to process. They will enjoy reading out loud and explaining concepts to other kids. They will pay more attention to written details than drawn details. They are likely to enjoy comics and graphic novels. They enjoy rich language. They are fast workers because explicit illustrated detail isn’t their realm. Auditory classrooms will have tables set up to facilitate discussion and teachers will choose rich stories to read to the children.
Tactual Learners are the touchy-feely people. They value depth and feeling in their work. They need time to think about their work before starting to feel connected to it. They will not do well in settings where they don’t feel liked or valued by the teacher. Symbolism, emotion, and feeling are all important to tactual learners. Tactual classrooms are cozy, inviting, comfortable.
Kinesthetic Learners are less focused on symbolism and more focused on movement and actions. They will draw a painting of a person going into a cave and running away from a bear fight, but not of a bear. Kinesthetic classrooms are action oriented; they will look chaotic to visual learners. Tables are pushed aside, bulletins won’t be filled out, but kids will learn by doing. Desks are just glorified storage spaces in these classes.
Following our lesson on the different sensory learning preferences, we did a finger painting activity in which we were encouraged to start with two primary colours at opposite sides of the paper and to mix them in the middle. There were four different tables set up around the room to represent each of the learning preferences. The visual learner table had a plethora of materials, including gloves and sponge brushes, to allow those students to experience the activity without the discomfort of getting messy. The auditory learner table was right next to the computer in the room that would be blasting some feel-good tunes to work along to. The tactual learner table had rectangular spaces designated by masking tape on the table so that these students could finger paint directly onto the table. When done painting, these students stamped their papers with their table art to get a highly textured image. Finally, the kinesthetic table removed their chairs so that students could move around freely as they worked.
I really badly wanted to head straight for the gloves at the visual table, but I decided to work at the auditory table and fully experience the paint beneath my nails. I have many regrets. I wasn’t particularly happy with how my finger painting turned out, and given the opportunity to redo this activity, I would choose to wear gloves and work at the tactual table to get the best resulting visual.