The World's Largest Learning Styles Project
By Jacob Brix, project manager at ASB LEARNING STYLES LAB, Aarhus University, Denmark
In 2009 the Municipality of Aarhus, Denmark began the largest learning styles project ever. With this five-year project, the municipal Department of Children and Youth (C&Y) wants to introduce its approximately 10,000 teachers to the Dunn & Dunn learning styles model. The teachers are first introduced to learning styles and Building Excellence and then taught how to use the Dunn & Dunn model in their pedagogical practice.
Inclusion and differentiation
The C&Y Department has suggested that the Dunn & Dunn learning styles model be used in day care centers, kindergartens and schools (0-18 years of age); however, the extent to which the individual institutions and schools implement learning styles in their pedagogical practice is decided locally.
Ole Lauridsen, Director of the ASB LEARNING STYLES LAB at Aarhus University, says that learning styles create a common and neutral language for us to talk about diversity and differentiation; it can be used throughout the entire educational system, and it is easy to understand for everyone involved – leadership teams, teachers at all levels, parents and their children.
The main aim of the Aarhus learning styles project is to create an inclusive environment that comprises all students in the schools and institutions. Learning Styles is thus a tool for the teachers to differentiate their pedagogical practice.
Know thyself to know others
Until now, more than 2000 teachers have been introduced to learning styles. The schools and institutions may either send their teachers to a standardized learning styles program or they may have a so-called tailor-made program for their own school, institution or district (the Aarhus C&Y Department comprises altogether 13 districts).
The standardized learning styles course is divided into two parts: An introduction (1) to learning styles and Building Excellence and (2) to the age-appropriate application of learning styles. The objective of the first part is to create an understanding among the participants of how their individual learning styles can affect themselves, and how they can use their knowledge about learning styles in their professional lives. The second part of the program focuses on how to use learning styles to meet the aims and objectives of their themes or subjects at pre-school or specific grade levels. The Multisensory Instructional Package is introduced and participants start creating their own learning styles materials. – Teachers typically participate in teams. Before they come to the course, they have been asked to identify a topic that they want to work with, and when they have completed the introductory course, they continue working with their materials, etc. in their teams. In this way, the course is considered one phase in a development project where the school or institution plays a major role before and after the course; leadership teams and teachers work together on implementing learning styles. Across the municipality, Dunn & Dunn certified trainers support this process. Also, it goes without saying that the courses are taught by certified Dunn & Dunn Learning Styles Trainers and Building Excellence Qualified Trainers or Master Trainers.
When looking at the evaluations from the learning styles project, the general attitude towards the project is very positive. More than 87 per cent of the participants are very satisfied with the courses offered, and they want to change their pedagogical practice after the course. Moreover, it is becoming clear that there is a move from the standardized courses to a tailor-made course in one school, institution or district. This allows for the local communities to have the courses meet their needs and take into consideration the knowledge and experience they may already have working with learning styles. The project is thus dynamic and changes as the teachers’ efficacy as regards learning styles is strengthened. We therefore see that the formal learning at the courses and the informal learning at the workplace are combined and move the project forward towards its ultimate success.