Does Learning Style Based Education Work for High Potential Students? How do students learn best? Traditional classroom setting? Innovative skills-based learning? One-to-one or small-group settings? It feels like there should be a simple answer to this essential question.

There isn’t.

The entire education system is built around one mode or method. A teacher presents information that the student group receives. Students take in and retain (or don’t) information. Repeat for decades. Do they have different learning styles?

Of course, that’s not entirely true and you may have heard of, or experienced in school, the concept of Learning Styles. Click here to read more. It seems simple because students have different learning styles like they have different personalities; schools and teachers should adapt and differentiate to those styles. 

At first glance, this seems simple and very appealing. We all know, or have been, very intelligent students who don’t seem to thrive in the traditional academic setting. They should be doing better! What is their learning style? It needs to be met. 

It’s very appealing, and it’s pretty controversial. It’s essentially been debunked. 

How a concept with such shaky supporting research became ingrained for academic generations is a question for a different post. Yet, despite the controversy, there was obviously an underlying issue looking for a solution.

Why don’t schools work for all students, especially talented and intelligent ones? The focus on learning styles can probably be explained as a scaled solution to the problem.

A student struggles because they don’t fit the central model of learning. Solution: What if we found there were 4 or more different models, and try to fit the struggling student into one of these “styles”?

Didn’t work.

The answer, or a more workable approach, may rest in a simple, but honest, self-survey. When did you, or your child, really learn the most skills, information, and engage most with the material? And when did they succeed because they simply worked hard, or had the natural ability?

Once you know when, where, and how they learn best, how do you find or recreate that scenario?

At least some research shows that one-to-one education works best. That makes instinctive sense. An intense focus on a subject or topic with very few distractions and wasted time seem like the best way to learn. But it can be hard to find.  

It’s also not a binary choice. The traditional school environment probably helps students understand collaboration, teamwork, and socialization. All of that is very important. It’s just usually not enough. 

Here are four types of learners who made need a different learning scenario: 

  • Students are high achievers who push, if not break through, the boundaries of what traditional schools of any kind are able to offer.
  • A high achieving student who has a relative weakness in a subject or area. 
  • A student whose interests and passions rests outside of the traditional curriculum and school setting. 
  • A very intelligent and capable student who is not thriving in a traditional school setting.

These scenarios just scratch the surface of the possibilities. Since individuals do not exist in easily placed categories, loosely gathered parameters can be beneficial in understanding why a student is succeeding or struggling and to help them fulfill their capabilities.