Monday, 13 May 2013

Book Review: "Spotlight on Learning Styles" by Marjorie Rosenberg (Delta)

Spotlight on Learning Styles
Teacher strategies for learner success
Marjorie Rosenberg
Delta Publishing 2013

ISBN: 9781905085712
Sample blurb: "Spotlight on Learning Styles focuses on how we learn rather than what we learn. It sheds light on our personal learning preferences and what we can do to learn and to teach more successfully..."

It's always fun to review titles in the Delta Teacher Development Series, and recently The Company Words Keep, Teaching Online and Digital Play have all come favourably under the ELT Resources Review's critical fingers.

Spotlight on Learning Styles is no exception, although this one is even more succulent because some tend to find its premises funny ha-ha or even funny-peculiar in addition to simply 'fun'.

For in considering learning styles we are edging inexorably towards the shadowy extremes of mainstream teaching precepts and principles. Most of us are perfectly happy to  incorporate as wide a variety of learning activities as possible into our lessons, but some of us are unable to take the more left-of-centre ideas on board, either personally or in their professional context. So be it.

Read on and you too can decide whether this particular volume by Marjorie Rosenberg, whose interests also include Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), is right for your particular teaching and learning style. "The book," we are told, "... provides opportunities for us all to step outside our 'comfort zones', multiplying our possibilities for success." You have been warned!

Personally, I enjoyed doing a very lively 'learning styles' session outside in a park as part of a TEFL Certificate course I used to run, so I'm a fan, within reason. Anyway...

Spotlight on Learning Styles is divided into three sections.

The first part covers the theory of preferred ways of learning, and how they affect how learners learn and teachers teach. The aim is to include and motivate all students as fully as possible in the learning experience  through a wide range of different activities covering the famous audio, visual and kinesthetic learning preferences.

We're also introduced to the fascinating Global-Analytic model, and the abstract and concrete ways in which students perceive, process and store information about the world around them, all of which have ramifications in the teaching and learning process.

The second section, and the guts of the book, is a large number of inventive activities focusing in turn on all of the approaches covered in part 1. This includes an introductory mini-section for determining what our learners' styles actually are, although a fairly good level of English would be required to actually perform this activity competently.

Then come the main activities. Under the Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic learning styles category we have activities for Visual, Auditory, Kinaesthetic emotional, Kinaesthetic motoric and Mixed VAK learners. In the Global-Analytic learning styles category there are Global, Analytic and Mixed Global-Analytic activities. And  for the Mind Organisation learning styles part, Flexible friends, Expert investigators, Power planners, Radical reformers and Mixed mind organisation learners are all taken care of admirably.

If this is all making your tiny minds boggle, I can only empathise. But my aim isn't to explain all of these terms - that's what the book's for. Rather it's to give you a taster of this undeniably intriguing field in case you want to take your studies, and indeed your teaching, further down this subtly shining path.

The last section is, appropriately, a Further... section - further approaches, further applications, further activities and further reading for those who want to pursue it, well, further.

Now this is all well and good, but whether you actually believe it all, or, alternatively, can realistically envisage using these activities in your classes is another matter. It very much depends, vitally, on you as a teacher, the openness of your learners to new ideas, and of course the philosophy of the teaching establishment you work for. If nothing else, Spotlight on Learning Styles should allow you to understand where you stand as far as that is concerned.

I only wish I had the patience, err, the time to tell you about some of the wonderful activities the author has imagined and what a fun, lively lesson it would be that included one or more of them to complement the rest of the session. But I haven't (I think I'm an impulsive-expressive learner, if such a thing exists), so I'll leave you with some page shots to give you a tiny idea and encourage you to at least check out this title in the book shop or on-line if you feel it could be for you.

In the world of English teaching, the teacher is often remembered more than what was taught, and often for the wrong reasons; by incorporating some of these activities into your lessons you should be able to have both and for the right ones!


Sab Will is, or has been, a freelance teacher, teacher trainer, director of studies, ELT writer, fanatical blogger, Facebook freak and website weirdo. He is also a well-known street photographer, abstract artist, poet and Paris city chronicler. The 'well-known' bit only applies to those who know him well, however.
Hotch Potch English: 'The ELT Resources Review Blog' ~ Book Review: "Spotlight on Learning Styles"
© 2013 Sab Will / Hotch Potch English

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