How Service Learning Addresses all 7 Major Learning Styles

    Posted: July 13, 2016

    We all learn differently. A good educator takes into account the diversity of their class when creating their curriculum. They know that not every single lesson plan is going to grasp the attention or stimulate the minds of each student. In that vein they strive to create a dynamic and balanced approach that best targets the different ways in which individual’s best grasp information, creating as much equal engagement as possible.

    We can all remember sitting in a class trying our best to grasp the material and information in front of us and just not quite getting it. This has nothing to do with intelligence, this has to do with how individuals learn. We all have different ways in which we best absorb information and create meaning from facts and figures. For some of us reading about the Incan empire from a text book creates understanding while others of us will only experience long term learning if we dress up as Manco Capac and present a monologue about his importance.

    This is the beauty of a well-planned and defined service learning program, by nature it incorporates the various learning styles of all students. Service learning is a multi-disciplinary and holistic approach to education, drawing upon an incredibly diverse range of teaching and learning techniques guaranteed to effectively address the learning needs of a dramatically variant group of learners.

    [Tweet “By nature a well defined service learning program incorporates the various learning styles of all students.”]

    The 7 Learning Styles and the Service Learning Connection

    1. Visual

    Someone who learns best using pictures, mind maps, diagrams, and images.

    A visual learner will be in a world of intoxicating opportunity in order to best digest information for their learning preference. By traveling to the actual country of study, knowledge will be live in front of the student’s eyes. Better than a picture. Once abroad a scene, from which to learn, will delightfully unfold over the entirety of the international experience, adding context and understanding to the educational components of the course.

    2. Aural – Auditory/Musical

    Someone who learns best through lectures, music, and rhymes.

    Learning through listening is an element of all service learning courses. Experts and knowledgeable community members will hold lectures, tell stories, and describe their experiences through auditory mediums. In addition reflection periods will give students the chance to learn from the experiences and opinions of their group members.

    3. Verbal

    Someone who learns through words, both by speaking and writing.

    Two key elements of a service learning program are journal writing and daily reflection periods. Both are prime educational elements for a verbal learner. In order to create lifetime engagement and global citizenship it is essential that one can communicate and express the importance and details of their experience. Verbal learners will be immersed in a world of language driven educational techniques including but not limited to daily journal entries and debrief sessions.

    Further Reading: An Interview with Service Learning Expert Erin Barnhart 

    4. Physical/ Kinesthetic

    Someone who learns best when they are physically active, a hands on learner.

    A standout feature of any service learning program is that hands on learning is an integral part of the learning process. All programs include actual on the ground involvement in key development or conservation issues, meaning that anyone who learns best by doing will have ample opportunity to do so. This is one of the key distinctions between in classroom education and service learning, students get to engage with the issues that test books can only illustrate up until a point, they can form a personal connection to the issues, and connect not just intellectually but also experientially to the material.

    [Tweet “A standout feature of any service learning program is that hands on learning is an integral part of the learning process.”]

    5. Logical

    Someone who likes to reason through things. They want to understand the reasons behind the learning and often times need to understand the bigger picture in order to get the facts and details.

    One of the best parts of a service learning program is that it takes a topic and places it within the framework of a contained course and international experience. This is perfect for students who learn best when they are able to see the bigger picture as micro examples of sustainable development issues are placed within a global context, making them easier to understand for logical learners.

    6. Social

    Someone who likes to learn in groups and thrives when working with others.

    Service learning is heavily focused on teamwork. Learning how to work in a group, how to collaborate effectively, how to carry out productive dialogues and discussions are all soft skills that students will develop on a service learning course. Effective change on development or conservation projects can only happen if all participants understand the common goal, have discussed the best means by which to meet that goal, and are all connected to personally pursuing that goal and motivating one another to do the same.

    7. Solitary

    Someone who does best when working alone and through individual assignments.

    On the other hand students who learn best through solitary processing will engage in many assignments that are tailored towards their strengths. Much of the educational coursework will be done independently, from readings to research papers. In addition a huge emphasis is placed on journal writing and reflection papers which give individuals a chance to process their thoughts independent of others.

    As educator’s our drive is our students, our inspiration is to give each and everyone a quality and impactful educational experience, our passion comes from watching individuals thrive and embrace their own potential. The beauty of service learning is that it exposes students to the seven types of learning styles so that they can discover their own strengths, define their own passions, and take better control of their own learning experience.

    GVI is a multi-award winning service learning organization. Find out more about our international service learning programs and see how students from around the world are making a difference.