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Adapt lessons to meet adult students' different learning styles

Partial image of Barbe-Milone PM Checklist.
Barbe-Milone/LAC

A dominant learning style indicates how a person perceives and processes information. According to research psychologists and educators Walter B. Barbe, Ph.D., and Michael Milone, Ph.D., the primary perceptual modalities for learning are visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic. How does this benefit the adult literacy classroom?

If adult educators have a general idea of their own and their students’ learning preferences, they could alter their teaching methods and incorporate the basic modes into the lessons to improve the learning experience. For instance, a visual and tactile or kinesthetic component could be added to an auditory lesson on vowel sounds.

As one would imagine, there are many different tests, indicators, and instruments available to identify learning style preferences such as the Kolb Learning Style Inventory, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences. The Barbe-Milone Perceptual Modality (PM) Preference Checklist, developed in 1979, offers educators and students a general way to discover their learning style preferences.

Moreover, the Mid-Manhattan Library branch of the New York Public Library, the Literacy Assistance Center (LAC) in Lower Manhattan, and authoritative websites such as the Association for Psychological Type International are great resources to get additional related information or to attend workshops on the topic.