Children's approaches to learning are as varied as their choice of backpacks. Teachers and schools can use student inventories to determine how students prefer to learn and study. One popular inventory is the Canfield Learning Styles Inventory developed by Albert A. Canfield in 1979. The Canfield LSI is a series of thirty questions that asks children to rank their preferences for learning according to their areas of interest, mode of learning and conditions for performance. Teaching students in accordance with their natural learning style can play a role in their academic success.
One of the categories of Canfield’s Learning Styles Inventory is the social learner. Social learners prefer to interact with classmates and teachers. Educational researcher Leigh M. Zimmerman found that girls prefer to know their teacher and classmates personally and very often test to be social learners. Social learners will do well on assignments done with a partner or in a small group and will frequently ask for their teacher's help or approval of classwork.
Canfield's second learning style is the independent learner. Independent learners prefer to work alone and often do so even when placed in a group. According to a report produced by Western Psychological Services, independent leaners prefer self-selected and self-paced assignments. Teachers with independent learners can meet their needs by offering assignment options that allow students to choose their pace of learning and the assignments that should be completed first.
Canfield named his third learning type conceptual leaners. Conceptual learners prefer highly organized, language-rich materials. Students that exhibit this learning style may not have a real preference for working independently or in a group. Conceptual learners benefit from lectures and reading. Teachers might try online videos or research topics to satisfy the needs of conceptual learners. They might also be allowed to write reports or stories instead of answering content questions on the same subject matter.
Canfield's fourth learning style is the applied learner. Applied learners prefer instruction and activities that are directly related to real-world situations and may prefer to work alone or with others. Applied learners enjoy activities like field trips or scenarios that resemble life events. Role-playing, problem-solving and supervised activities such as labs are a good fits for applied learners. Instructors who teach applied learners might want to seek out community members to speak to classes or act as mentors.
Kimberly Heffernan has taught in public schools for 25 years. Her professional works include numerous curriculum documents and project proposals. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from UT Austin and a Master of Education from Sam Houston State University and credentials to be a school counselor.