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VARK and Attainment

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James Taggart

on 17 July 2013

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Transcript of VARK and Attainment

I hear, and I forget;
I see, and I remember;
I do, and I understand.

- Confucious

- The questions teachers must ask is: What is the best approach to use while teaching a mixed-ability class? A one-size fits all approach is not in-tune with making learning as personalized as possible.

- To better understand the students' learning style, I administered a VARK questionnaire for assessing sensory modality preference.

- I hoped that this would assist in developing/implementing different teaching strategies that would maximize engagement and attainment for my students thus helping them become successful.
Action Taken:
26 Year 7 History students (10 Girls, 16 Boys) participated in the study, which investigated the question: What is the effect of instructional differentiation according to learning style preferences on a student’s concept acquisition and engagement in the classroom?

A pre-test and post-test design study was used to measure both attitude and performance over 4 weeks of word/concept learning; attitude was measured by two Likert Scale surveys and vocabulary/concept were assessed using two 60-word/concept tests.

Qualitative evidence was collected in the form of observations, conversations, and video footage with students during and after the VARK activities.

The results of this study indicate that student engagement and achievement do improve as a result of making them aware of their learning preferences, and teaching them strategies to engage their preferred learning style/s.
Overview of Vision:
Conclusion - Aims:
Visual Learner Overview:

- These students' need to see visual representations for the concepts

-Multi-Media, Flip-Charts, White-Boards

- 60% of under-18s identify with this learning style

Auditory Learner Overview:
-These learners prefer to use listening to learn new concepts

- Creating verbal games, reading aloud, or designing a song/rap

-.About 16.6% of under-18s identify themselves as audio learners
Read/Write Learner Overview:
-These learners acquire concepts by utilizing information displayed as words.

- Manuals, reports, essays and assignments. are useful and people who prefer this modality are often addicted to PowerPoint, and the Internet

- Account for about 9.8% of under-18s
Kineasthtic Learners Overview:
- These learners grasp new concepts by utilizing aspect of doing things

- They are connected to reality demonstrations, and simulations, If it can be grasped, held, tasted, or felt it will probably be included.

-Around 13.6% of under-18s indentify with this leaqrning style
- Most teachers’ have detailed subject knowledge as a result of reading and studying avidly within their individual disciplines.
- Many have pedagogical knowledge from dissecting appropriate literature on teaching and from attending training sessions and/or courses.
- However, obtaining knowledge of the learner and his/her characteristics is a vastly underutilized approach to improving student attainment and engagement in various lessons.
Whole School:
I believe that by leading the implementation of the VARK philosophy at a whole school level has the potential to dramatically impact the level of both student attainment and engagement.
Multi - Modality

-Life is multimodal. There are seldom instances where one mode is used, or is sufficient, so that is why there is a four-part VARK profile.

-Those who do not have a standout mode with one preference score well above other scores are defined as multi-modal.

- Account for about 63.8% of under-18s
I wanted to explore the idea that if a teacher caters to the different learning styles of the students within a particular class that progress could be made both in attainment and engagement!
What is a learning style?
-Learning style is defined as the manner in which and the conditions under which learners most effectively perceive, process, store, and recall what they are attempting to learn.

-The VARK system was used to identify one facet of the students’ learning styles: the sensory modality by which they prefer to take in information.
VARK System:
VARK and Research
There is substantial evidence for the existence of modality-specific strengths and weaknesses in the classroom environments.

Dr Paul Notting - "Research has shown that students who understand their learning styles can improve their learning effectiveness in and outside of the classroom."

Professor Rita Dunn - "Due to the fact that individual learners do have modality preferences; if teachers deliver content in ways that better match students’ strengths. It is logical to assume that this will lead to increased academic performance and improved attitudes toward school."

There are three serious problems with the VARK approach. One problem revolves around confusion in definitions, while another maintains that there is an inherent weakness in reliability and validity of the system, and the last states that the identification of relevant characteristics in instructional settings are lacking.
Communication Skills:

Problem - Need to be able to adapt the VARK philosophy across different Departments.

Solution - Develop a training session that will get Departments to "Buy-in" to the using the VARK system.
Organizational Skills:
Problem - The dissemination of VARK analysis and creation of VARK activities to different individuals in different Departments.

Solution - Organize a team rep from each faculty and meet with them ensure understanding and how to disseminate required materials and skills.


Problem - Staff time and resistance may become problems as at the present any extra workload will be seen as onerous.

Solution - Ensure vision is understood and create ownership by meeting with different Departments to help them understand the relative ease of use of the VARK system.

Staff and Data:
Problem - Creating a system that can track attainment and analyze data to ensure the VARK system is fit-for-purpose and not increase workload.

Solution - Questionnaires regarding confidence and teacher opinion on impact after a term. Once learning style is recorded in planner it will be easy to track progress across the academic year.
Project Method:
Whole School:

Problem - Students know their learning style and are able to use this knowledge to take ownership of their learning.

Solution - Student survey forms and more complete VARK philosophy built into Departmental SOWs.

Problem -
Integration of the VARK philosophy into daily lessons

Solution -
Add into SOWs and train staff on different VARK activities
Path to Fruition:
Strategic Plan for Change:
In both courses, all but 2 (of 26) students reported more positive mentality towards acquiring new key word/concepts. Most students now have a better understanding of their preferred learning style and all feel more comfortable and confident in utilizing a range of activities to support their learning.

During my observations while students were implementing different learning style specific tasks; all students seemed to be more focused and productive in acquiring their new words/concepts.

At least during the 4 weeks of this study, the majority of students’ engagement and attainment both increased.
Initially the prognosis for adaptation of the VARK analysis into lessons is relatively straight forward.
I will be conducting the VARK survey with all my classes next year to better ascertain their preferred learning styles and to help them understand how to take more control of their own learning.

This will give students more of a voice in their learning and acquisition of new knowledge. I will be more careful in planning new lessons, not to bring my preferred style into any majority of lessons.
I will also emphasize in my planning more regard toward the different learning styles of my students.
At a Departmental level, it would be best to design a survey that is fit-for-purpose for our students
, Once this has been organized a tracking system could be started that reflects a variety of matricides within the student population. With this data, we would be able to ensure that our schemes of work were reflective of the learning styles reflected in our students’ preferences.

Any gaps in activity design could be addressed to ensure more equal coverage for all the learning styles. A Likert survey could be designed to completed once a term by students to gauge their engagement within this new system.
Attainment tracking system could also be developed that allowed learning style preferences to be examined and monitored for progression.

The two components that were tested in the project (attainment and engagement) are key elements of Ofsted inspections; therefore the use of VARK in understanding ourselves and our students can only help in moving us from a “Good” school into an “Outstanding” school.

In order to achieve this, a whole school approach needs to be implemented. The success of this programme would be determined by the uptake within each of the Departments. The more teachers that are aware of their own learning styles and that of their students the more able they are to adapt their practice to raise both attainment and engagement within their lessons.

•Increase the proportions of good and outstanding teaching and thereby further improve students’ progress and achievement by:
making better use of assessment data to support the planning of activities to meet students’ needs and make more rapid progress
Set targets for learning high enough to ensure all students make at least good progress and increase the proportion of students making outstanding progress.
That is why I am deliberately setting higher and higher standards for our state school system every year. Because I know we can meet, and surpass, those higher standards. And every time we do, more children are emancipated from ignorance and liberated to succeed.
- Michael Gove (speech 25 April 2013)

To see a whole school approach to empowering students to take control of their learning by understanding their learning styles
and how to engage with them to raise their attainment and interest.

Raise student attainment and engagement by using the VARK in Departmental Schemes of Work
Pilot the VARK and Likert survey within the Humanities Faculty and develop a system that can monitor learning style implementation and attainment
If Pilot scheme is successful develop a roll-out plan and timescale for whole school implementation
Departmental training session, Completion of pilot scheme, Whole school training session, Adapting SOWS, Implementation of VARK and Likert surveys
VARK and Likert Surveys (Free), Time cost more significant – Training meetings, Changes to SOWs, Evaluation
Use of VARK philosophy – Lesson Observations. Tracking of attainment in Teacher planners
Training staff on use and analysis of the VARK system
Leading by example - Revealing that both the system and implementation are straightforward
Problem -
No staff "buy - in" to the VARK philosophy in everyday teaching.

Solution -
Ensure "Vision" is pitched correctly (not just another initiative).
During training sessions show how easy it is to adapt into everyday practice (support with research examples/video evidence).
Offer observation times to demonstrate VARKS effectiveness in student progression and engagement.

Leadership Skills:
Problem -
Lack experience in leading a whole school initiative for change.

Solution -
Use the many skills and tips from the MP&CE sessions to set a inspiring vision, get staff to "buy-in" and to lead the implementation process at the Departmental and whole school level.
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