Lifelong Learning for Different Learners

Lisa M. Clark The Lifelong Learner Leave a Comment

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Hello, lifelong learner. If you’ve been following The Lifelong Learner on CPH EDU, you probably realize that we’re beginning a new chapter today. After a short series of introductory posts defining lifelong learning and providing ideas for nurturing this culture in your own environment, I’d like to explore deeper an aspect of learning I’ve hinted about before:

Learners learn differently.

A few of you may have just rolled your eyes—tell us something we haven’t learned. A few others might be concerned about how far I’m willing to take this sentence—wondering about the structure (or lack of it) in my own high school classroom during my teaching days. But even a culture where “individualization” is a buzzword, I submit to you that this sentence has not always been accepted in the education world, with many a teacher writing off students who were unable to fit the classroom mold shaped for them in their childhood years. Even today, the most well-meaning educators can forget this, allowing their teaching practices to fit their own learning and teaching styles to the point that they forget the variety in their students. But let’s take a moment again to reflect on the truth that can be gained from contemplating that sentence again:

Learners learn differently.

Think about it. Did your college roommate frustrate you because he or she had to have the music blaring (or completely off) when you needed the opposite environment while you both studied? Have you endured an hour-long gridlock trying to get through to your child who asked you for homework help only to have your other child walk by and aid understanding in a few minutes? Have you been frustrated how your friend “never studies” but always gets great grades? Part of it has to do with our perceptions of learning, and that we all too often assume others are not learning if they do not learn the way we do.

If you’re still with me, allow me to dive in with some basic information about this major premise of learning and how it works. Many, many educators and psychologists and developmental theorists agree with this overall idea of learners learning differently, but they often describe this phenomenon in different ways. Some talk about learning styles. Others use the phrase multiple intelligences. Still others incorporate personality theory (name your animal, letter, color, or acronym here) to describe the way we understand our world in various ways.

For our practical purposes, I’d like to define learning styles as simply the ways in which a person learns. For the following several posts, I’ll often talk about multiple intelligences, a term from Howard Gardner, to explore different ways we process information and interact in our environment as we learn. There are plenty of other theorists with ways to describe learners as well, but for the sake of sticking with one main vocabulary, let’s work with the terms Gardner uses to describe the ways we learn, the ways we thrive in education, the ways we display our intelligence.

Over the next several weeks, we can explore ways that various learners can enjoy lifelong learning. Why? I feel a bulleted list coming on:

  • When we view learners as unique individuals, we acknowledge our Creator (Psalm 139:14) and His work to give us different gifts. While 1 Corinthians 12:4–6 focuses on spiritual gifts, the point is still made by Paul that “there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.”
  • When we recognize our own strengths, our lifelong learning can reach more potential. When you know how you learn best, you can implement a strategy to make the learning experience better for you.
  • When we look around, we can appreciate others and the ways they learn differently. My husband and I do not learn in the same ways. Sometimes, this means we’ll try to adapt for one another. Other times, it means we’ll praise the other for a skill we don’t have. This appreciation of learning differences can promote a healthy learning environment in the home, in the workplace, and wherever we are.

I look forward to next time, when we begin to appreciate one another and the different ways we learn.


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About the Author

Lisa M. Clark


Lisa M. Clark spends her days reading and writing about God’s love for all people through Jesus Christ. She is a former high school teacher and a current editor for Concordia Publishing House. Her degrees from Concordia University, Nebraska, and the University of Missouri--St. Louis focus on Lutheran doctrine, education, and writing. You can read her latest posts here.

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