Every child learns a little differently. It would be convenient if each child fit into one of the traditional learning styles, such as visual learner, kinesthetic learner, or auditory learner. The truth is that each child is a unique combination of these learning styles as well as other points in their personalities that make their learning style unique to each child.
Learning styles tend to explain how a child learns. Visual learners like to see the educational material demonstrated, they tend to like learning on the computer. Kinesthetic learners need to touch and feel to learn, they like to build models. Auditory learners learn best when hearing the information presented. Besides having a way that they like to learn each student has a reason, a motivation, why they learn.
It is important to take advantage of not only the way the child learns, but what motivates the child to learn.
Some children learn what is put before them because they feel some sense of obligation to do what they are told to do. For these children it doesn’t seem to matter how the material is presented, but that the material is presented. Sometimes these children are called compliant learners. They do not seem to need external rewards to learn unless you consider the approval of adults as a reward.
Other children seem to need a more tangible reward. Some athletes are examples of this. They do the school work because the end result is that if they do their schoolwork they are allowed participation in their chosen sport. An example might be football players who must maintain a “C” average to be allowed to play in the game on Friday night.
There are things that are considered rewards, and for each child there is a different reward that is important. Some children are motivated by rewards that are internal. They learn because it gives them pleasure, or they are driven to know more about a subject, or they are driven to learn to know more than other children, in a sense to become an expert. There is a set of children who learn for the joy of accumulating knowledge; in a sense the knowledge itself is the reward
Some children are motivated by the act of completion. For example, each chapter in science is an exercise to be completed. When they finish the chapter, they have checked off some mark, and are ready to begin the
next chapter, so that they can complete it. For that child, the reward is the check mark, not necessarily the knowledge gained.
Grades are another important reward. Receiving the praise for the grades or the gaining attention for grades can be a reward and a motivator.
It is important to find out what the motivator is for your child. External rewards, internal rewards, accolades, privileges, or simply the joy of learning can all be powerful motivators. Once you find the right combination of motivating rewards for your child you will better understand what inspires them to learn. In combination with learning styles, motivational styles can help you get the most learning into your child, with the fewest drawbacks.