Teaching & Cognitive Style

– R A Black

If a class is made up of a variety of individual students with varying learning styles then the teacher needs to plan to present the material in a variety of fashions. On any one day a teacher may give a “logical” lecture, introduce the students to “open-minded” group activities, assign a colourfully-designed reading book and lead a highly systemised demonstration. The choice is made by the teacher dependent upon the make-up of the learning styles of the students in the specific class. All this would be done in order to guarantee a higher level of comprehension of the total class of students and not just the group of students that learn best through the teacher’s favourite teaching style or technique.

This Model “Q”, as I call it (see Fig. 1), may be used directly with the KAI. The author recommends this approach to enhance the possible success of a teaching style. At the same time I caution the reader to be aware that a more reliable method would be to use KAI in conjunction with Herrmann or another personality instrument that measures areas other than A-I.

My goal is to maximise learning and teaching for the benefit of all learners. No learner should be handicapped due to a mismatch of styles between student and teacher. Keep in mind that the typical survey of autobiographies and biographies generally brings to light that the subjects remember one maybe two teachers from all their school years, who made an appreciable difference in their careers or their education. Perhaps, that is an invalid way of assessing teaching effectiveness. Maybe the reader may want to take time to recall the most meaningful courses they experienced. Then ask what may have been learned? Where are the other students from those classes? Have they gone on to further the spread of mediocrity?

I ask the reader to think of any other profession that tolerates as much acceptance of average or below average production. If the theory of the bell curve is correct more than ⅔ produce at slightly above average or below. Try thinking about that effectiveness the next time you are rolled into an operating room.


Editorial note:

In 1993, Miss Margaret Teft and I worked on a research design on teaching – noting that the teacher, every student, the subject taught, the general curriculum, the teaching organisation and, often, the higher authority behind the organisation had modes of styles that were incompatible with at least some of these elements. It seem to us that that if we eschewed the supposition that there were any ideals – of problem formulation, subject approach, teaching or learning (teacher or student) then we could always concentrate on the critical current problem or even each part of it. It could more clearly be the task of the teacher to vary the teaching style to fit the subject and the student. That would mean that part of a program, even every part of a program, would vary in the style used depending on both the subject and the mix of students (like lectures, exercises, summaries, discussion groups, etc need never be in the same style). At the same time students could be taught these diversity problems and learn to cope better when it was necessary (for the resolution of the learning problem, not just fitting in with teacher or authority). Those in authorities could also be weaned from the supposition that one style was always best.

Unfortunately, Miss Tefft was unable to start this program because grant- giving bodies could not see the advantage when current opinion favoured the current mode (surprise! surprise!). The view was that cognitive style was not a concept that had much to offer.