Learning Channels As An Aid To Learning.
Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200 until you read this.
When we are teaching students new skills or reviewing skills that they already have learned, we rely on information based on learning channels. Each learning channel has an input and an output. There are many different kinds of each. Eric and Elizabeth Haughton pioneered much of the work on learning channels in the 1970’s.
This work was attempting to add clarity to what was the emerging notion of “learning styles” a phenomenon which became very popular with teachers and parents at the time. People talked about being a “visual learner” or an “auditory learner” as the main way in which they processed information.
Unfortunately sometimes these terms were used to describe the person in one modality and inferring that they were not able to learn in other modalities. I have sat through Individual Educational Plan meetings in which parents and teachers formulated plans on the basis of a particular learning style to the complete disregard of other options. I have heard statements like, “You can’t teach him that way. He’s a visual learner. You have to make that visual.” I’ve not met anyone who does not learn from multiple channels of inputs and outputs, so I have always been suspicious of Learning Styles as a sufficient answer to learning problems.
Substituting Learning Channels for Learning Styles moves the discussion into observable behaviors rather than more global and more amorphous concepts. Learning Channels specify the input and the output of behavior used in the task under consideration. Inputs can vary to include any sense, (e.g. See, Hear, Think, Touch etc.) Outputs can also be highly variable ( e.g. Say, Write, Do, Mark, Think). Taken as an input/output set, it becomes easier to describe the event. A student can See/Say numbers from 100 to 1 when learning to count backwards. A student can Think/Say numbers when using their memory without any display of numbers to count backwards.
Some combinations of inputs and output in learning channels are more difficult than others. Usually a See input is easier than a Think input because it provides a model of the task. If I am starting a new task with a student such as learning to count backward from 100, I would begin with a See/Say channel and then change it to a Think/ Say channel once the student is fluent with the See/Say task. Starting off with a display of the numbers and then removing it and relying on memory is a more difficult task. Starting with See/Say makes the initial learning faster and easier.
Having numerous input and output channels available assists us in developing options when the preferred channel provides less than desirable results. Having recorded the specific learning channels as to how a task was done also helps in more clearly communicating how that teacher, tutor or parent did the task.