• ## Multi-sensory, Multi-modal Instruction

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Of the many things I have learned over the years, there are a few that I will never forget: how to identify a Loblolly Pine tree, how to visualize a tangent line to a curve, and over 1,000 vocabulary words. I remember these specific things because of how they were taught to me.

In 7th grade, my science teacher took us on a “field trip” to the wooded area just beyond the school parking lot. There I was able to see, smell, and touch an actual Loblolly Pine tree. Of the many trees we studied in class via the usual worksheets, the Loblolly is the only one I remember today. In my Calculus class, my professor would roll a yardstick around his bald head to show us how the slope of the tangent line changes as it moves over a curve. When prepping for the GRE, I made and studied from flashcards with not only words and their definitions, but also silly mnemonics and drawings for those 1000 words. I took those flashcards with me everywhere and flipped through them whenever I had a free moment.

What do these memorable examples have in common? Each learning situation involved multiple senses and multiple modes of learning. They went beyond the basics and involved sight, sound, touch, movement, smell, words, and symbols.

How can you as an educator create deep learning that “sticks” with your students for years to come? You can do that by creating lessons that engage multiple sensory systems in your students. Think VARK: Visual, Auditory, Read/Write, and Kinesthetic/Tactile. Let’s define these terms and look at some examples of teaching methods that use each.

## Visual learning happens through non-word based visual information

• Include pictures, diagrams, and graphics in notes and videos
• Demonstrate how to annotate text (underline, highlight, circle or box important information)
• Choose a text with symbols denoting different types of content
• Color code notes
• Provide flowcharts for multistep problems
• Use graphic organizers to break down big ideas and show connections

## Auditory learning involves sounds

• Read directions or notes aloud.
• Record and share verbal feedback on assignments
• Record and post lecture videos
• Ask students to explain back to you
• Facilitate student-led discussions that explore complex topics
• Use small group activities during class so students can talk with each other
• Share rhymes or songs to remember facts, formulas, names, etc.
• Encourage Office Hours to discuss topics

• Assign readings before and/or after class
• Model neat, organized, and thorough hand written notes
• Give students time to write down their thoughts and ideas before raising their hands
• Have students make flashcards for formulas, definitions, dates, etc.
• Write formulas in both symbols and words
• Closed caption or subtitle videos

## Kinesthetic/Tactile involves learning connected to movement and/or touching

• Use models, figures, or manipulatives
• Have students stand and write on the board during class (this can also apply to read/write learning)
• Use your hands/arms to gesture during class
• Provide students with “stress ball” on test day
• Take a field trip

Some of these teaching strategies could fit in more than one category, which is even better. Flashcards, for example, can involve writing, reading, speaking, and moving, and can include words, colors, and pictures. When you engage students’ brains on many levels and in many ways during the learning process, the understanding is deeper.

• What senses did I engage in my instruction?
• What auditory inputs did I give?
• What visual information did I provide?
• What written directions or notes were given?
• What writing was necessary?
• Was the sense of touch and movement utilized?

Let’s look at a specific example: you want your students to learn how to construct a model airplane. If you merely present them with a pile of pieces and say “Go,” the chances of getting a correctly completed model plane are very low. How could you guide them to the desired result in a multi-sensory, multi-modal way?

• Show them a picture of the desired final product. (visual)
• Present a list of the pieces needed to complete the plane. (read)
• Allow them to hold and manipulate the pieces. (kinesthetic/tactile)
• Describe verbally the process to build the plane. (auditory)
• Show a video of the plane being built. (visual and auditory)
• Encourage students to work with a peer to build the plane. (kinesthetic/tactile, auditory)

At this point, most students would be able to complete the model. To verify the learning, give a follow up assignment in which students draw a schematic (visual), write a manual (write), and make a video describing and showing the construction process for a different model airplane (kinesthetic/tactile, visual, and auditory). If you incorporate all the senses into the learning process, your students will know how to build model airplanes for years to come, just like I can spot a Loblolly pine from 20 paces.

• ## Pearson has the pulse on what Higher Education students need

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The landscape of higher education has changed dramatically over the past few years – a global pandemic, the push for greater equity and inclusion in education, and the advent of generative AI have all played a role in altering how, when, and where people learn. Online and hybrid degree programs have become more mainstream, enabling a larger population of people to gain access to learning opportunities.

The need for students’ perspectives to be considered by decision-makers in higher education has never been more urgent. This need is what inspired Pearson to conduct our Student Success Survey, a review of college and university students that gives voice to their experiences and paves the way for meaningful improvement in the design and development of courses and tools in higher education.

## The challenges: time management and focus

The top two issues facing the group of students surveyed were: time management and staying focused.

## Time management issues

The survey responses show that students need more support when balancing their coursework with their other obligations. As one student from Merced College wrote, “I am constantly updating my time management system but none of it seems to work.”

Time management is a significant sticking point, not because students do not know how to manage their time, but because their lives have become so busy that the usual methods of keeping track of their to-dos are insufficient.

Many students must juggle full-time work and family responsibilities in addition to their studies. One respondent, a mom of three kids studying at the Delta College of San Joaquin, wrote, “Between classes, assignments, and activities, it can be difficult to find enough time in the day to get everything done. I try my best to prioritize my tasks and create a schedule, but sometimes unexpected events can throw me off track.”

Once a student gets knocked off track, it can be extremely difficult to help them get back on, especially at the higher education level.

## Trouble focusing

Challenges with maintaining focus while reading and studying was the other primary problem for the students who participated in the survey. Nearly 40% of students reported trouble focusing as a significant obstacle to their learning.

Another Merced Community College student cites the pandemic as the turning point for their ability to focus on schoolwork. “I feel that after the pandemic I haven't been able to focus on anything.”

That student is not alone in feeling as though the COVID-19 pandemic has had an enduring negative impact on their ability to learn, even though many aspects of daily life have returned to a pre-pandemic state of functioning. A recent study published in Psychiatry Research found a link between the increased levels of stress and fear experienced by many college students during the pandemic and ongoing issues with focus and attention.

## Pearson’s solution: Make students’ learning more efficient and engaging

The best way to learn how a student wants to learn is to hear it directly from them. Listening to student voices is essential, especially now, which is why we continue to connect with students directly, through focus groups, surveys, etc.

The results of the new Student Success Survey made it obvious that we are on the right track when it comes to understanding the two most significant issues for students:

• Time management
• Maintaining focus and engagement

We also found that the existing resources provided by Pearson have proven useful in addressing these areas of concern.