The way people learn is very particular and peculiar to them, so Martial Arts instructors need to understand the teaching is definitely NOT a "one-size-fits-all" affair. Indeed, students will tend to process information in a number of different ways depending upon their overall character, age, personality and ability.
This transference of information is extremely delicate and intricate, and will also be influenced by such diverse things as Emotional state, culture, environment, etc. And, as instructors, we need to take this into account whenever we are trying to impart some new technique or skill.
Learning styles are a very complex subject indeed, but the basics should be learned in order for us to become more effective at what we do by gaining a fuller understanding of the learning mechanisms, and how these, in turn, can influence attitudes and behaviours of our students in the dojo.
BASIC LEARNING STYLES
The three main learning styles are: Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic, which can easily be remembered by the word VAK. We will take a look at each of these in turn, to increase the instructors understanding of them and the ways in which they will influence your teaching methods.
Visual learners prefer to process information by watching, seeing and observing. They can easily visualise techniques and outcomes in their head, and can easily be identified by the way they tend to look around a lot, letting their eyes "wonder" (Sometimes even when you are talking directly to them!). They will also possess good spatial awareness, which makes them good at appreciating both body positioning (Tai Sabaki) and distance work (Ma-Ai). So they can easily pick up the theoretical movement underlying many techniques, and rarely forget something that has been demonstrated to them properly and efficiently. When participating in any "problem solving" (or "discovery learning" as it is sometimes called) they will usually be the ones who get the basic movements right almost immediately.
TEACHING STRATEGIES FOR VISUAL STUDENTS:
When teaching this type of learner, you should spend a lot more time actually DEMONSTRATING the particular technique you want them to pick-up rather than trying to explain it at any great length verbally. And, when you do give them any form of verbal description or explanation, then try and incorporate "picturesque" like these into your verbal instructions:
· Let's take a look at this.
· See how this works for you.
· Can you picture that?
· Let's draw a picture about it.
· I'd like you to get a different perspective.
The whiteboard, DVD Player and graphic handouts are, also, all very effective teaching aids for this learning style (if you happen to have access to any of these, off course!)
An auditory learner will primarily utilise their listening skills when trying to process information. Noises and sounds are very important to them, and they will rely heavily upon what is termed "inner-dialogue" when attempting to recall something. They can be identified by the way in which they will make direct eye-contact with you, listen intently to anything that is being said to them, and frequently ask for a repeated explanation of something. They will normally be quite "intellectual" and will probably enjoy the history, traditions and philosophy of the martial arts just as much (if not more!) than the actual physical techniques themselves.
TEACHING STRATEGIES FOR AUDITORY STUDENTS:
When teaching this learning style, you should make sure that you EXPLAIN everything several times and in as much detail as possible when demonstrating a technique. When addressing them, you should incorporate plenty of positive "sound-bites" like these:
· That sounds about right.
· That rings a bell.
· Tune in to what I'm saying
· Clear as a bell.
· That's music to my ears.
As this will help them to process the information you are attempting to impart. Audio-books on the more intellectual side of the martial arts and detailed academic lectures are the best type of resource for this type of learner. .
Kinaesthetic learners are "Hands-on" people. The instructor will recognise them quite soon, as they are the students who seem to always be fidgeting and moving about, even when they are meant to be sitting still! They tend to learn best by doing, touching and feeling. A great deal of martial artists will actually have this kind of learning style, as physical sports tend to attract them and they excel at sports, exercise and physical fitness training. Because of this, the instructor can expect them to be very competent at picking up the gross-motor skills required in the martial arts, as they rely upon "muscle-memory" to remember things.
TEACHING STRATEGOES FOR KINAESTHETIC STUDENTS:
When teaching this type of learner, you will need to keep your demonstrations short, and your explanations even shorter. They need to actually PARTICIPATE as quickly as is safe to do so. Therefore, it is much better to "break down" what it is you want them to learn into small, easily remembered parts as, this way, they get to physically practice them rather than just simply sitting, watching and listening.
When explaining to them verbally what you want them to do, you should use "touchy-feely" words like these:
· Does that feel right to you?
· Can you grasp what I am saying?
· Stay in touch.
· Keep in touch with what is going on
· I have a good feeling about this.
You're body language, facial expressions and various Martial Arts Training aids (Mitts, Makiwara Bokken, etc) will all be invaluable resources for appealing to this particular learning style.
Taking a persons individual learning style into account will enable efficient learning to take place within the dojo, make the student feel more cared for, and the instructor more competent.
"I HEAR and I forget,
I SEE and I remember
I DO and I understand"
Prof. J R Lee-Barron PhD FIMAS
Professor Lee-Barron is the Director of the Institute of Martial Arts and Sciences, UK, and Dean of the Faculty of Martial Arts, Knightsbridge University. These bodies are dedicated to affording martial arts instructors with the opportunity of gaining recognised university degrees in martial arts. He is an exerienced educator, researcher and academic, as well as being a senior black belt instructor in several martial arts. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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