Multisensory Learning and the Future of Teaching

Learning is sometimes a difficult task and whether or not we realize it, we’ve been trained to learn. From early on, we’ve learned from being read to, by watching television or by memorizing. We’ve also learned from examples and experience. An old Chinese proverb states, “Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.” It is with that sentiment that I will discuss the benefits of multisensory learning.

How many times have you sat in a classroom where you were bored stiff? Think back to your many years in elementary school, middle school or high school. What was the format of learning? Did the teacher stand in front of the class and lecture while you tried to absorb the material. Was taking notes as interactive as it got? As society gets more high tech and children are bombarded with more information from more sources, much of which is on demand, it is my contention that teaching strategies will need to evolve.

Multisensory learning offers the student a chance to commit something to memory by experiencing it. Reading about baking a cake is not nearly as productive as actually baking one. The child learns about the ingredients, and how they feel and smell. They learn about mixing, how long it takes to bake a cake and how it smells when it’s done. They also learn how wonderful it tastes. Children who are tactile learners or children with disabilities get a chance to learn the same material as a child who would easily learn just by reading. Gifted children would not be subjected to boredom as they would be engaged in the learning process as well. Multisensory learning is a doorway toward the improvement of the learning process for all children.

Every lesson should include a hands-on experience. If the lesson is about fractions, let the children play with plastic pies with slices to understand. If the lesson is on writing, play games that allow students to identify better writing techniques. Use the computer and online resources to take learning to a new level where they can see and hear and interact. Consider the potential of touch screens in education, where a child can easily slide objects back and forth on the screen and learn in the process.

Today’s students are Internet savvy and are familiar with on demand learning. Many of today’s classrooms are still trying to push information when they should be engaging the student, essentially pulling the student into a lesson. The benefits of multisensory learning are better understanding, better retention and a more inclusive learning environment which takes into account variations in student abilities. To be successful, teachers must engage their students by creating learning environments that take advantage of all of the student’s senses.