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Multimodal learning strategies combine various teaching styles and cater to differing learning preferences.

As a teacher, you’ll already know that students possess different learning styles. We all do. Some retain information better when they read it, while others absorb data more effectively when they hear it. Given that everyone has a different learning style, it’s not surprising that attainment levels can vary even when students are exposed to the same materials in the same classroom. By taking a multimodal approach, however, you can ensure that everyone’s learning style is used. As a result, students will be able to learn, understand and retain information more meaningfully and effectively.

To understand the benefits of multimodal, it is important to look at different learning styles.

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What are the different types of learning?

There are four different learning styles:

  • Visual
  • Reading/Writing
  • Auditory
  • Kinesthetic

While some experts maintain that reading/writing falls under the visual learning style, it does have its unique elements. Due to this, it is given a separate classification and considered a distinct modality per VARK.

Visual learning

Visual learners embrace new information best when they are given something to look at it. For example, visual learners will retain the information when a teacher uses a whiteboard or presentation. Similarly, presenting information via images or video works well for visual learners.

Reading/Writing Learning

As you might expect, these learners process information meaningfully when they read a text and then write about it. This may take writing an answer to an essay-type question or making notes about a particular topic.

Auditory learning

Students who prefer auditory or aural learning will need to hear the information. When a teacher explains a concept verbally, auditory learners will process and retain information based on the aural elements they are exposed to. In addition, aural learners may respond well to verbal group discussions and may choose to recite information aloud to themselves to commit it to memory.

Kinesthetic learning

This modality, sometimes known as active learning, reflects students who learn by doing. Also sometimes known as tactile learning, the process of completing a physical task helps students to understand concepts and theories. Role plays, preparing presentations, and conducting experiments are ideal tasks for kinesthetic learners.

What is multimodal learning?

We often think of ourselves as having one learning style, but this is rarely the case. In reality, the majority of people use a variety of learning modalities daily. A combination of two or more learning styles enables most people to interpret, analyze and remember information most effectively.

You may have a student who is an auditory-visual learner and another who is a kinesthetic, visual learner, for example. In such cases, both learners work well with visual stimuli, but each student’s preferred learning style differs. Similarly, a reading/writing learner may also favor visual learning strategies but dislike active or auditory learning strategies.

A multimodal approach caters to all four learning styles – you can ensure that every student in your class is presented with information that suits their learning styles and preferences. While some teaching methods lean more heavily toward a particularly multimodal learning preference, all activities should have elements of all four learning modalities.

What are the benefits of multimodal learning?

Some people do have a strong preference for one learning style. A kinesthetic learner may struggle with other modalities but thrive when learning actively, for example. If students have a strong multimodal learning preference, your multimodal teaching approach will ensure they can thrive in a classroom setting.

Most students will use a mix of learning styles, so they will rely on varying modalities when processing information. You may have a class of visual-auditory kinesthetic learners, reading/writing auditory learners, and kinesthetic, visual learners, for example.

Although students who use a combination of learning styles can process information when presented in various formats, you can enhance their learning by taking a multimodal approach. It is believed that receiving information in multiple modalities enables deeper understanding for multimodal or mixed-modal learners. Furthermore, presenting information to multimodal learners in varying formats enables them to retain information for a longer period and recall it more easily.

Due to this, multimodal learning works well in any classroom environment. For students with a strong learning preference, multimodal learning ensures their preferred style is used, while multimodal learners will retain and comprehend concepts more deeply.

Useful multimodal examples

To get an idea of how beneficial a multimodal approach can be, take a look at the following multimodal examples:

Optimized videos

Technology is a great way to facilitate multimodal learning. Creating a video ensures visual learners process the information, while software allows you to add narration and captions for aural and reading-writing learners. For kinesthetic learners, the opportunity to produce a video is the ideal way to understand and retain the information.

Infographics and posters

For individual learning, creating an infographic on a tablet or laptop can be a good form of multimodal learning. However, creating a real-life infographic or poster in a group setting is even better. Kinesthetic learners can actively design and create the poster, visual learners will benefit from imagery and illustration, aural learners will thrive on the discussion element, and reading/writing learners can be responsible for adding text to the finished product.

Puzzles

Puzzles can work well in any class, no matter your teaching subject. A simple word search gives kinesthetic learners something to do, while the text works well for reading/writing learners and has visual appeal. In subjects where traditional lecture-based classes are more prevalent, such as math, puzzles can be used as an alternative form of learning with great success. By giving students puzzles to solve as groups and then working through them as a class, you are also catering to auditory learning preferences.

Roleplays

Assigning each student to a group, ask them to present or roleplay their findings on a particular topic. Creating the roleplay or presentation and acting it out fuels kinesthetic learning tendencies while producing the content complements reading/writing learning. Predominantly visual learners will absorb information when they see their peers making their presentations or conducting their roleplays while hearing the roleplay or presentation satisfies auditory learning styles.

Getting the most out of multimodal learning

Although multimodal learning can be highly effective, it does mean that students can be exposed to a wide range of stimuli, often at the same time. Due to this, teachers should ensure that the class remains structured and students aren’t overloaded with information. Providing tasks are conducted appropriately. Differing modalities can be used while ensuring the classroom remains a calm and unchaotic learning environment.

It is useful to offer multimodal assignments and use a multimodal approach when teaching. Students can showcase their knowledge, talents, and abilities when assessed via multimodal learning strategies. While kinesthetic learners may not perform their best in a traditional exam room, their true potential may be revealed when they are observed undertaking a task.

By using a multimodal approach when you are assessing students and teaching them, you can ensure that each student works to the best of their ability and reaches their individual learning objectives.