UA Professors Work to Bring Multiple Learning Styles to the Classroom

By Kristen Coppola
Lemke Newsroom

Each day of the semester, UA professors juggle their presentations to accommodate the
different ways that thousands of students learn.

At the UofA, programs both help faculty and recognize professors’ teaching abilities.

It is widely accepted that not all students learn in the same way, but there is much debate
among experts about the concepts of learning styles, said Marcia Imbeau, associate
professor of special education curriculum and instruction.

“Appropriate application of learning style would likely include teachers presenting
information in a variety of ways, offering students options for taking in, exploring and
demonstrating key content,” Imbeau wrote with Carol Tomlinson in “Differentiated
Instruction: An Integration of Theory and Practice.”

The concepts of visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning are how an individual likes
to take in information – seeing, hearing or hands-on application, Imbeau said in an

“Even though if it’s not my preference to sit in a lecture, for 50 minutes I can do about
anything,” Imbeau said. “All of us have preferences. The fact is we all learn in all
different kinds of ways. Maybe it’s not my preferred mode, but I can do it.”

To make sure that students absorb information, a good professor likely uses multiple
ways to present the course material, Imbeau said.

Professors who are seen as the most successful at teaching students are invited to join the
Teaching Academy.

“The purpose of the Academy is to promote and recognize effective teaching and
learning at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville,” according to the Teaching Academy

Professors in the Teaching Academy have been rated highly by students and talk to one
another about effective teaching methods, Imbeau said.

“Teaching has always been a big deal on this campus,” Imbeau said. “People actually are
a little bit, I think, chastised if you don’t get your teaching up to par.

The Wally Cordes Teaching and Faculty Support Center helps to “assist the faculty with
their scholarship of teaching and to act as a resource center for new teaching techniques
and programs,” according to the website.

The TFSC’s “sole job is to assist whomever needs assistance in designing or helping their
classes get better,” Imbeau said. “There’s a built-in support system, and that’s out of the
chancellor’s and provost’s office.”

While professors have avenues to improve the ways they teach, students take inventory of
their own learning preferences so that they may succeed in various classes.

“I am auditory and very extroverted,” UA student Colton Baker said. “In general, they
don’t accommodate extroversion very well.”

Baker participates in study groups to “compensate,” he said.

The introvert-extrovert personality spectrum also plays into the way that students learn.

“Our most important institutions, our schools and our workplaces are designed for
extroverts and extroverts need for extra stimulation,” Susan Cain said in her TED talk
“The Power of Introverts” in March.

Cain wrote a book about the way that personalities play into every aspect of life and
learning called “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.”

Senior Shelby Chamness works best with “visual aids” and prints the power point
presentations from each class to study, she said.

“In my biology classes, we don’t have that much group work except for lab components.
I don’t learn well in a group. That’s my personality, too,” Chamness said.

Cain discounts the reliance on group work as an effective teaching method for introverts,
because “deep thought comes from, in part” individual work.

As in Baker’s case, group work can help students take in course material.

“Have you noticed in your classes how some kids like to talk?” Imbeau said. “That’s how
they process. They could be both for extroverts and introverts, although I suspect there
are much more extroverts that like to do that.”