Students are individuals. Although they are grouped together within classes, I strongly believe that it is our responsibility, as teachers, to address them individually and customize our teaching to best aid them. We must not only consider students’ varying strengths and weaknesses, but also vary our instruction in order to target each difference. I believe that teachers have the greatest success with students’ achievement when they teach with diverse learning styles and recognize each student as a single person capable of learning.
I firmly believe that every student has their own strengths and weaknesses and that each individual excels in their own way. I believe that teachers should recognize these strengths and enable students to develop their weaknesses. Popular in education, Howard Gardner also recognized this potential within each individual and wrote about his theory of multiple intelligences context (Gardner, 1983, p9). I support this theory with the belief that everyone possesses all of the intelligences but excels in one or more in particular. I believe that teachers can use this knowledge to help their students excel. By identifying the areas in which students shine, teachers can help them conquer their weaknesses.
Another theorist who recognized the individualism of students is Robert Gagne. Gagne discerned that students tend to learn more effectively through a certain style of teaching. He introduced conditions of learning and proposed that students not only excel in different ways, but also learn in different ways. “It is probably the case that some learners can benefit from less complete instruction, i.e., certain events may be omitted from the stimulus materials without seriously affecting the effectiveness of the instruction,” he theorized, addressing the fact that teaching can be personalized and tailored to each individual (Wager, p8). This supports my premise that teachers will be most effective when they seek to teach students personal and individualized methods that allow every student to find success in their own way.
When we see students as individuals, we must also not forget that learning takes place in a social environment. “One is a unique individual, who still must grow up in a social context-an individual of feelings and striving, who must rely on others to furnish the tasks and to judge one’s achievements,” states Gardner, recognizing that although students are individuals, they must still be related in a social context (Gardner, 1983, p254). Students are collected into classes and classes are paired with teachers. This allows students to communicate with peers and mentors and interact in social activities. I believe that it is through collaborative help that students are best able to learn and grow. Collaboration with others allows them to witness ideas and viewpoints separate from their own and create new understanding. This belief is supported by Lev Vygotsky’s social development theory in which he describes the zone of proximal development. “The zone of proximal development defines those functions that have not yet matured but are in the process of maturation, functions that will mature tomorrow but are currently in an embryonic state” (Vygotsky, 1978, p86). Students are learning in the zone of proximal development when under guidance, in collaboration, or in groups and are able to function at higher levels within this zone. Vygotsky noticed that what children could only do in collaborative efforts at one age, they could do at a later age independently (Vygotsky, 1978, p87), demonstrating that through social guidance, such as the aid of an effective teacher, students inherit and develop skills that they will use later in life.
Teachers are instilled in classrooms to help and guide their students. Through this interactive relationship, teachers are able to create learning experiences in which students are able to succeed. I believe that each student possesses the ability to achieve. By identifying the individual strengths of our students and adjusting our teaching techniques to encompass a variety of learning styles, we can affect all of our students and help them each flourish. We must simply recognize students as individuals and understand that they each have their own intelligence and learning style that will develop when given guidance.
- Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of Mind. New York: Basic Books.
- Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind in Society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
- Wager, W. (1978). Using Gagnés Events of Instruction as a Guide for Producing Stimulus Material. Journal of Instructional Development, Vol. 2, pp. 8. Retrieved from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/30220542