Multiplicity – do we lose it in the school system?

At the end of the first term at The Homework Club (our development centre) we work though an evaluation process with the students to wrap up the term’s achievements. This has two main functions, firstly to get the students thinking about their own progress over the term, where they have reached and where they would still like to improve in each topic. This gives them control over their own learning objectives and helps them map out a plan for the new year.

It also allows us to reflect on the students and their personalities. We do this by using the attached questionnaire below. When I first started this study of the students, I saw a trend very quickly that the disorganised, unstructured and unfocused students didn’t fit neatly into one category of learnign style. They ticked one box in each section with no clear direction of thought.  Many of these students simply didn’t know where their strengths lie or how they learn best. This allowed us as a team to focus on key skills we felt that needed to be improved or to help the students develop more structure in certain areas and so on throughout the second term in preparation for the exams at the end of term three.

This is now our 3rd year of this study and I now see an even bigger significance than I did initially. As the student intact has expanded in the ages (from 5 to 20+) and learning difficulties of the students of this period, I now see a new more important trend.

The younger students, especially those with conditions such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADD, ADHD and Aspergers all exhibit a “multiplicity”. This means they can honestly tick all the boxes on the questionnaire below. What this amounts to is that these students have multiple ways to work and process information. They need to learn in many ways at once, especially to make it interesting and challenging for them. So for example when we always separate out reading, writing and creative tasks separately, it is hard for them to learn and to stay interested. If we suddenly use very visual ways to learn reading and writing around exciting visual and auditory style topics, this is why we suddenly see much better results.

As students go through the system they seem to lose this gift. I only see a very small proportion of very well adjusted and diversely interested students in the senior cycle above the age of 15. Since we always force students to work in one way in a very segregated style in the conversational school system, it seems to me that they lose this wonderful diverse multiplicity along the way. Not only does this mean they don’t learn well within their learning style but they get out of the habit of using key skills they possess to do tasks in new, creative and fresh ways. Something that would be hugely beneficial for later working life in all sectors.

Try the questionare below for yourself!

Dr. Naoisé O’Reilly

What is your learning style: (taken from The Study Skills Handbook in 1999, Stella Cottrell)

  • The diver:
    • You want to jump in and get on with it. ❏
    • You want to get it over with ❏
    • You like to see if things work. ❏
    • You like to move onto the next thing. ❏
    • You work well in short bursts of activity. ❏
  • The dreamer:
    • You think a lot about the subject. ❏
    • You like to research things fully. ❏
    • You put off practical aspects such as writing. ❏
    • You have no idea where time goes. ❏
  • The logician:
    • You like things to make sense. ❏
    • You like to know the reasons behind things. ❏
    • You are organised in your approach to study. ❏
    • You like problem solving. ❏
  • The searchlight:
    • You find everything interesting. ❏
    • You like to see the big picture. ❏
    • You have bits of information on lots of things. ❏
    • You like details but don’t remember them. ❏
    • You find it hard to select what is relevant. ❏