The Educator's PLN

The personal learning network for educators

Many Black youth have barely mastered the norms of their own culture when they are confronted with teaching styles that are incompatible with their accepted learning patterns (Benson)..In her book "Black Children: Their Roots, Culture, and Learning Patterns," Hale Benson suggests that formal education has not worked for many Black youth because it has not employed teaching styles that correspond with student's learning styles..When this incongruity between teaching and learning styles exists, Black children become less motivated and more likely to question their self-worth.. When Black youth find learning difficult, they often blame themselves and/ or develop animosity toward the educational environment..


Before teachers can understand and appreciate the learning styles performed by students, it is important to understand the role culture plays in shaping learning styles...It shapes cognitive development, children's approach to academic tasks and their behavior in traditional academic settings, (Benson)..Cultural conflict can occur when children have not had experiences that provide them with the kind of information that is used and valued in school..In order to reach all children, educators must expand their repertoire of instructional strategies to encompass the various approaches children use to learn..In writing about Black children's learning styles, Hale Benson suggests that many Black youth employ people-oriented relational and field dependent sensitive approaches to learning, rather than the analytical style favored in most school structures..


The obvious must be stressed, however; all Black children do not use the same learning style..Because of the differences in culture, some Black youth can benefit from intensive personal interactions with teachers who provide rapport, non-verbal support and affection..Many Black and lower-income children have a need to relate the learning process to their own experiences..As a result, these youth may appear over-involved in the learning process..Often this over-involvement is perceived by teachers as disruptive (Gilbert & Gay)..When Black youth are taught through a teaching style that emphasizes the objective and impersonal, over the interactional and personal, their learning achievement and academic self- images can suffer..In these cases, their cultural and style differences, not their intelligence, can lead to lower ability grouping..

Research indicates that a high percentage of minority children are field-dependent..The field-dependent, or sensitive learner tends to be aware of the social and personal reference of the learning experience..It matters to these youngsters that the materials and concepts are related to their own experience..Field-dependent learners are more interested in concepts for their own sake, and function successfully in self-structured learning; they enjoy learning isolated information, and they like to work in independent/teacher centered, impersonal environments..In contrast, field-dependent/sensitive learners prefer student-centered, more personal environments where learning is related to the life experiences of the student, and is neither abstract nor isolated (Witkin, Goodenough, Moore, & Cox)..The field-dependent learner prefers, small group activities and thrives, when allowed opportunities to exchange information with peers..


Schools promote institutional racism through policies which allow 60% of Black youth to be tracked into programs that deny them a strong appreciation for history and literature, and access to higher order thinking skills (Cheyney)..A study by the National Endowment for Humanities, found that deficiences in knowledge of history and literature were most pronounced among students from low-income families and among those pursuing curricula designed for students not destined for college..The authors found that schools fostered "class bias and elitism" by failing to offer adequate instruction in history and literature to these students who were most at-risk..The tragic consequences, is that Black youth denied history, their history in particular, are "unlikely to realize their full potential," (Cheyney)..Cicero wrote that, "to know nothing of what happened before you were born, is to remain forever a child."Children whose culture and learning style are reflected in the content and organization of the classroom are more likely to be highly motivated and to benefit from instruction..The way a teacher imparts knowledge can serve as a catalyst for encouraging and eliciting student achievement (Marks)..Students must have a positive sense of control of the environment in which learning is to take place (Simpkins & Simpkins).."Between the Rhetoric and Reality" Lauriat Press; Simpkins &Simpkins,

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