Different Approaches to Learning: Creating a Plan to Adapt to Learning Styles on va.gapitc.org

Use a variety of learning styles to meet the needs of students as individuals

All children have unique strengths and weaknesses, meaning they all go about new tasks or challenges in their own special way. Learners come in many types, depending on their temperament, knowledge, prior experience, or culture. This means that a high-quality education must incorporate a range of learning styles to accommodate students’ individuality.

Ways to learn

Because learning styles reflect a child’s attitude toward education, a flexible approach can not only improve results but also inspire a lifelong love of learning. A well-designed learning environment intentionally promotes curiosity, exploration, and play and reflects a concerted effort to build upon each child’s strengths, interests, and knowledge.

Although all children express different learning styles, four main goals are crucial to future success in both school and life:

  • Initiative and curiosity: Inquisitiveness and intellectual curiosity are key components of early learning experiences. To learn effectively, children must have a thirst for knowledge and be willing to try new tasks and take risks (within reason, of course).
  • Creativity and inventiveness: If children are original, flexible, and able to go beyond traditional thinking or existing knowledge, these are all signs that they are creative and have the critical thinking skills necessary to master new tasks.
  • Reasoning and problem-solving: The ability to use existing knowledge in new contexts helps build strong reasoning and problem-solving skills that support future learning and the ability to thrive in unexpected situations throughout life.

Supporting each approach

A high-quality learning environment uses activities or lessons that encourage initiative, creativity, and reasoning. Meanwhile, child care providers will be on the lookout for skills that the children are acquiring in each of these categories. Below are examples of developmental indicators among age groups:

Initiative and curiosity

  • Birth to 12 months
    • Shows interest in others
    • Shows interest in themselves
    • Reacts to new sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and touches
  • 8 to 21 months
    • Gauges the level of interest of a trusted person before interacting with objects or people
    • Mimics facial expressions or movements
    • Shows curiosity about surroundings
    • Reacts to exploration and in response to making things happen
    • Enjoys sensory experiences
  • 18 to 36 months
    • Shares objects of interest with a trusted person
    • Discovers things that interest and amaze them
    • Shows enjoyment in response to experiences
    • Attempts to participate in what others are doing

Creativity and inventiveness

  • Birth to 12 months
    • Engages in solitary play
    • Shows interest in other children
    • Imitates sounds, expressions, or gestures
    • Plays with simple objects
    • Exchanges sounds and gestures
  • 8 to 21 months
    • Plays alongside other children
    • Imitates adult actions with objects
    • Takes turns in simple games like peek-a-boo
    • Offers toys or objects to others
  • 18 to 36 months
    • Attempts to involve other children in play
    • Makes believe using familiar life scenes
    • Plays with others with a common intention
    • Communicates what’s happening during pretend play

Reasoning and problem-solving

  • Birth to 12 months
    • Explores experiences with the support of a trusted adult
    • Looks to adults for cues or reassurance
    • Attempts challenging tasks such as reaching, crawling, grasping
  • 8 to 21 months
    • Attempts unfamiliar experiences and new interactions
    • Moves away from a familiar adult, with frequent checking-in
    • Shows interest in challenging toys
  • 18 to 36 months
    • Explores freely and independently
    • Experiments with new skills in a familiar environment
    • Approaches a challenge confidently
    • Desires the opportunity to try things independently

Positive exposure to different learning approaches often equates to sustained success in school and life. After all, attentiveness, persistence, eagerness, independence, flexibility, and organization are skills that have lifelong benefits. Provide a top-class level of education in your learning program by including these approaches in your curriculum, challenging children with moderately difficult tasks, providing opportunities to master the skills involved, and encouraging a love of learning by tailoring your approach to the needs of all types of learners. The VA Infant & Toddler Specialist Network helps improve the quality of care for infants and toddlers through extensive resources, services, and education for caregivers. Learn more about how we can help you improve the standard of care.