Learning Diversity Re-Vision
LEARNING DIVERSITY MYTHS THAT DISABLE US ALL:
“I’M NOT VISUAL” AND “WE ALL LEARN DIFFERENTLY”
In recent years addressing “learning diversity” has gotten a lot of attention. Workshops touting brain-based research and strategies designed to tap multiple intelligences are common. But too often learning diversity gets linked to the idea that “we all learn differently” placing impossible demands on teachers to meet each learner’s “individual needs.” This idea is highlighted in the IEP’s of students with disabilities. These “Individualized Education Programs” often have long lists of “individual accommodations” that would be daunting for a team of specialists to satisfy.
But diverse students’ breakthroughs using visual tools signals a more coherent view of learning — one that could make addressing diversity a lot easier. And this view is backed up by a wide range of learning research. We can accurately say, “We all walk differently,” — each person has an individual bone structure and gait — but humans are bipeds, and our basic walking process, upright, one foot in front of the other, is common to us all. No doubt the brain is complex; indeed we are just beginning to grasp its inner mechanics. But plenty of research shows that we (students and teachers) are far more alike as learners than we are different.
Teachers will tell you the have visual learners in their classroom but many see themselves as “not visual” — “I prefer text,” or “I can’t draw.” But the largest information processing center in all our brains is devoted to visual processing. Once we recognize research shows reading comprehension is at core a visualization skill, capturing meaning in images, we begin to grasp how deeply our visual skills are integrated in our own literacy.
Students, with and without disabilities, show us how tapping our natural visual learning abilities makes us more effective learners. All of us arrive in school with two versatile learning skills — we can talk and we can draw. In fact Donald Graves, the well-known literacy researcher, found drawing and telling are all learners entrance to writing. He showed how integrating text with our natural visual and verbal skills serves high flyers and kids who struggle—including those “different learners” who’ve been given labels like “dyslexic,” “autism spectrum,” and “language processing issues.” (VT2 condensed)