Multimodal learning in education means teaching concepts using multiple modes. Modes are information channels, including Pictures, Illustrations, Audio, Speech, Writing and print, Music, Movement, Gestures, Facial expressions, Colors and much more!
Modes are experienced differently by each of the senses — usually visual, auditory or tactile. They often interact with each other, creating a dynamic learning experience. For instance, an educational video might include speech, images, music and text, which can enhance a student’s learning experience.
Multimodal learning is teaching a concept using more than one mode. Multimodal learning suggests that when a number of our senses – visual, auditory, and kinaesthetic – are engaged during learning, we understand and remember more. By combining these modes, learners experience learning in various ways to create a diverse learning style.
Often Multimodal learning is connected to learning styles.
Learning styles group together different ways individuals prefer to learn. There are a couple of models to explain learning styles, the most popular of them being the VARK model by Neil Fleming, a New Zealand teacher.
The VARK model suggests four main types of learners: visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinaesthetic. It categorises people based on their “style” of learning or how they learn best. It says that every individual has a unique learning preference that falls into one, some or all of these categories.
Multimodal learning talks about engaging different modes of learning. There are four main methods of multimodal learning; visual, auditory, reading and writing and kinesthetic (VARK).
Some experts believe that people prefer one over the other; for example, they prefer visual learning; however, the evidence to back this up is sparse. That being said, VARK is still a valuable model to keep top-of-mind when creating diverse learning content to engage your learners.
Types of Multimodal Learning
Visual learning involves using graphs, infographics, cartoons and illustrations, videos, artwork, flowcharts, and diagrams – anything that primarily stimulates your learner's eyes. Techniques like colour coding information, using different fonts and labelling important points with stickers are all part of visual learning too.
Auditory learning is mostly concerned with what we listen to. This can come from a podcast, webinar, audiobook, or instructor talking to learners face-to-face. Group discussions or debates on the topics covered can all form part of auditory learning. We can even use music as a way of understanding information. The student says words loudly or hums and sing to remember what they learnt.
Kinesthetic learning gets learners active as it tends to a practical, hands-on approach; it can involve site visits, movements, actions, responding to tactile cues, demonstrations and multimedia presentations. It’s often a combination of several types of learning together; for example, making a video combines visual, auditory and kinesthetic skills; the different methods of multimodal learning don’t operate in a vacuum – they intersect with each other.
Reading and writing is the type of learning we’re most familiar with. Here, text-basedcourses, PDFs, documents, books, and eBooks are often used. Additionally, most written exams or assignments, like true and false or multiple choice questions, come under this bracket too. In this category, we can get learners to respond to written cues like lecture notes, books, cue cards, poems, word games etc.
Importance of Multimodal Learning
The idea that students perform better when the school activities and learning styles match their strengths and preferences grew in popularity in the 1970s. While a later study suggests that matching teaching styles to learning styles does not influence a student’s educational outcome, the learning styles concept is still popular to date.
Do you find this hard to believe? Watch Tracey Tokuhama-Espinosa, PhD, Professor at Harvard University Extension School, Author of the book "Neuromyths", and Academic Coordinator at Conexiones, burst the learning style myth.
Then why use multimodal learning?
Rather than categorising students into learning style groups which may not benefit children in the long run, research has proven that students learn best when educators apply multiple learning styles simultaneously. Multimodal learning creates an exciting learning environment, leading to increased student engagement. We set the climate for our classrooms. How we plan and deliver instruction contributes to student engagement and success. The strategies we implement should also help our students get to a place where they can take ownership of their learning and create learning strategies and activities.
Still curious about the concept of multimodal learning and its relevance? Watch a simple and fun video here.
Multimodal learning Resources
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