My child is a Visual/Auditory Learner.
My personality type is INTP.
I’m more of a right-brain thinker.
My child’s love language is Words of Affirmation
There are many models for how the mind works, with hundreds of different books suggesting methods for diagnosing, characterizing, and classifying your child. Some of these theories have had some moderate success, but in general most of them have not been proven out in well conducted studies. The key concept to realize is that these models are exactly that. They are models that approximate certain observed features in cognition. None of them are or claim to be complete descriptions of complex people.
Does this mean that we should throw them all out? Not necessarily, but I think it is critical that we do not overvalue the interpretations. Our understanding of the mind today is similar to a pre-Aristotelian understanding of physics. Philosophers had theories about matter, the four elements: air, earth, fire, and water, or the five states of change: earth, wood, metal, fire, and water. The Greeks thought the body was filled with four substances, black bile, yellow bile, phlem, and blood. Today we classify learning styles as auditory, visual, or kinesthetic, with about the same level of support. We consider the ancient Greek or Chinese models of the physical world nonsense, because we have better models, but they were honest attempts to make sense of the world that was observed.
Working models are simplifications of an underlying system that has much greater complexity. They involve a variety of trade-offs and will almost certainly break down under some conditions. The question is whether they are accurate representations at any level. I think that this question is still open on most of the popular cognitive models espoused in education theory.
In reality, all of science deals in approximations. Our understanding of physics is a model that approximates what we observe in the physical world. Newtonian physics was a pretty good approximation that worked well for most situations we encountered on earth. Einstein’s relativity theory led to a new model that was more accurate at scales where Newtonian physics broke down. Approximation isn’t a bad thing, but it is important to recognize the limitations.
It is clear children differ along a wide range of axes, and aspects of those differences are captured by different models. If we encounter difficulty getting our children to understand certain concepts or deal with difficult behaviors, it can be useful to read books espousing these models and to try some of the suggestions to see if they are effective in our situation. Experimentation is perfectly reasonable as long as it does not cause negative effects, and is not taken too far. For example, upon discovering your child is an “auditory learner”, you might consider gradually integrating some audio books and work with explaining concepts orally to see if your child shows improved comprehension. Careful observation and willingness to abandon new techniques that aren’t working is critical.
Some theories of psychology such as IQ, learned helplessness, and optimism, are much more well established by decades of peer-reviewed studies and research. In general, these theories tend to be much less prescriptive, and focus on a smaller subset of behavior or characteristics. These theories are often useful as tools to help us understand certain responses or limitations rather than as models of a child’s mental state.
As parents and teachers, our role should be to provide the best education that we can to our children. In this blog I will often challenge assumptions and standard ways of doing things. I will often do so based on my own intuition and limited experience. Often I am stating ideas that I am in the process of trying and do not yet have evidence that they will work. The fact that there is such an extremely limited understanding of learning anywhere, a general lack of effective research in this area, and the standard techniques tend to produce such poor results, I feel justified and motivated to research and try new ways of doing things. Still, it is important to take everything dealing with education with a grain of salt and work to observe and learn from your own children. It is a journey that we take together.