Making Meaning of Learning

Whilst discussing learning styles the question of the validity of simply lumping students into the three basic learning categories of Visual, Verbal and Kinaesthetic is addressed. I agree with Professor Willingham when he points out the obvious flaws in this theory. One of the flaws speaks to the fact that there is information that we wish to impart to a student that we must impart in ways that may not coincide with there self-described learning style. For example finding a country on a map. There are many ways to describe the location and shape of a country for a verbal learner, but is that the best way for them to learn about something that needs a visual?

Malta country

This is a modern map of Malta. It is a small island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. This is easily understood by the visual. If that is all you need to know, then this map is sufficient. Especially for a visual learner.

If we needed to know where the island is situated and how it relates to the countries around it, the first map would not do… we would need a better example.

Malta 2

But… as Professor Willingham explains… most of what we want our students to learn is meaning. If we were just needing our students to know of the island.. the first example would do.


This is an 18th century map with all the information that any Knight of the Order of Malta would need. Topography, beautiful renderings of the view as you approach the harbour as well as detailed navigation map of the harbour. This visual is a complex one if you have no historical context to give it meaning.

Context is, to me, the building block of meaning ie:” the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed.”

Tapping into students’ own predilection for a particular learning style is a great start. Helping them to make meaning of a subject using one style is much trickier.




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