The Dynamic Student: The Need for an Adaptive Environment

As we take a look at the effectiveness of the educational system, several factors play a role. The dimensions of the learning environment are more than just the classroom as it includes preferential styles of teachers and students, the psychological environment, and many other components.


In our last article, The Dynamic Teacher, teaching styles were the key focus. With close relation to student learning ability, it's only natural that we take a look at learning techniques this week. Student and teacher styles have such a direct relationship, that a mismatch of the two can lead to poor performance and frustration. On the other hand, having two methods that work together can enhance learning ability (2,3,4)


So, what are these different learning styles?


The VARK Model and the KLSI Model will be the two in this post.


VARK Model of Learning Styles

With this model, there are four ways to differentiate student preferences, visual learners, auditory learners, reading/writing learners, and kinesthetic learners.


Visual Learners

This style of student takes in information best when there are visuals and other interactive elements within the teacher's instruction. Symbols, multimedia graphs, charts, and other graphic representations are vital to helping these students synthesize information.


Auditory Learners

Students in this category will best excel in the traditional classroom setting of lecturing. It is when they hear the information that they can make use of the instruction. However, we will dissect the popularity of each category, and we discover a problem that we run into with traditional education.


Reading/Writing Learners

These are your students that work best in an environment where they can teach themselves. By reading the information, whether it be in a textbook or other sources, they begin to learn as they summarize through writing.


Kinesthetic Learners

As the "I'll see it when I believe it" types, kinesthetic learners need to see the material and replicate it themselves to learn it. This style involves a highly interactive environment that not all classrooms can cater too.


Student preferences have shown the popularity of each category comes with a minimal surprise.


Preferences within the VARK Model

When we think of students, especially in earlier grades, they have energy and the need for stimulation. With that said, even older students tend to shy away from instruction, which is information heavy and bland. These preferences show in a 2019 study (1).

This discrepancy raises a problem and a question to be answered. If auditory learning is the least common category, why is our current system built on the dynamic of a traditional lecture? If we are to bring education forward, reimagining the classroom from the ground up should be a goal in mind.


The VARK Model takes on learning styles from the sense of information synthesization; however, other aspects that come in to play. From feedback to the actual approach, we find that students can vary in countless ways. The KLSI Model is what takes on this potential.


Original KLSI Model


Based on four determinants, we see more of a graphical approach to learning. The four factors include (Cortland):

  1. Concrete Experimentation (CE) is jumping into new information and experiences to encourage learning.

  2. Reflective Observation (RO) takes on a passive role of observation. This preference comes through both the observation of others and personal experience.

  3. Abstract Conceptualization (AC) is for students that prefer to theorize one's observation and to learn from them.

  4. Active Experimentation (AE), like abstract conceptualization, uses theories to learn. However, in this sense, it is used to solve problems and to aid in decision making.

As we look at these four preferences, it develops a graph of two-axis that creates the foundation of this model (6).

  1. Accommodators (AE, CE) These students take on the two preferences of concrete experience and active experimentation. This combination makes for active students that prefer doing overthinking. Priding themselves on independence and curiosity, they are more concerned about 'what if' and 'why not.'

  2. Divergers (RO, CE) This style of learning takes on diverse experience and usually prefer productive feedback.

  3. Assimilators (AC, RO) The cognitive approach of assimilators prefers organized lectures and experimental labs.

  4. Convergers (AC, AE) The other active learning in this group uses thinking to put ideas into practice.

KLSI Model 4.0

Though the years, Kolb's model has developed. With the newest development, the original four categories have expanded to nine. Through it adds complexity, it adds a better understanding of the students in the classroom.


Final Thoughts

Making a single perfect student will never make for a collectively successful classroom. However, our education system has yet to add a dynamic instrument that highlights the diverse abilities of the students and teachers. Understanding the students is vital to making sure teachers incorporate all of their students into the classroom. Dynamic content overcomes the mismatches of teaching and learning styles.


Community Engagement Question

In what ways have you seen style mismatches keep your child from learning? Your students? And how did you overcome this obstacle?


Special Thanks!

Photo by CDC on Unsplash


(1) Chetty, Nithya Dewi Subramaniam, et al. “Learning Styles and Teaching Styles Determine Students’ Academic Performances.” International Journal of Evaluation and Research in Education (IJERE), vol. 8, no. 4, 2019, p. 610., doi:10.11591/ijere.v8i4.20345.


(2) Felder R. M., Spurlin, J. (2005). Applications, reliability and validity of the Index of Learning Styles. International Journal of Engineering Education, 21, 103-12


(3) Peacock, M. (2001). Match or mismatch? Learning styles and teaching styles in EFL. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 11, 1-20. https://doi.org/10.1111/1473-4192.00001


(4) Reid, J. M. (1995). Preface. In J. Reid (Ed.). Learning styles in the ESL/EFL classroom. (pp. viii-xvii). New York: Heinle and Heinle Publishers. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139172721.001


(5) Shamsuddin, Nurasma,’ and Jasber Kaur. “Students’ Learning Style and Its Effect on Blended Learning, Does It Matter?” International Journal of Evaluation and Research in Education (IJERE), vol. 9, no. 1, 2020, p. 195., doi:10.11591/ijere.v9i1.20422.


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