The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

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June 19, 2024

Staff leaders: Accommodating for learning styles starts with scheduling

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Striving for academic achievement is a culture at Whitman — U.S. News & World Report continues to rank Whitman as one of the top public high schools in the nation, and this year, the second in Maryland. 

The pressure of attending can cause students to feel overwhelmed. Whitman staff supports students academically by organizing helpful resources and clubs such as Vike-to-Vike peer tutoring, and by allowing students to talk with a teacher during lunch for extra help. This past school year, administrators also approved a new class-specific assessment schedule. Such planning helps students manage their workloads, but Whitman needs to make one key change to allow students to blossom: until a class period is full, allow students to switch out of a teacher’s class based on mismatched learning styles alone. The option will make students more efficient learners and boost their academic performance without causing even more stress. 

Each student differs in how they process information presented in the classroom. Though teachers train to vary their own styles to meet students’ needs, each also has a preferred way of relaying material. When students’ and teachers’ styles overlap, retention of the information greatly improves. 

Teachers do already collaborate with their departments in planning meetings meant to clear up the possible unintended differences in how they teach. Math teacher Laura Evans-Rhodes teaches certain unique units in a way that other teachers don’t, she said, incorporating different techniques of solving equations into her lesson plans to accommodate student learning styles. 

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“We’re teaching it in different ways,” Evans-Rhodes said. “We talked about different types of questions you can ask and how [students] are going to get the answer out.” 

Still, struggles with mismatched styles are a common problem. Sophomore Nicolas Masjuan believes in the significance of teaching styles and their impact on student learning.

“The way a teacher teaches you something is important because it shapes the way that you think,” Masjuan said. “Some things are easier depending on how you approach them, and a good teaching style can make you approach it in a better way.” 

Allowing students the option to switch their teachers would allow students to practice active choice in their everyday lives. High school prepares students for the real world, and there’s no better way to do that than by allowing students to take more control over their education, which is meant to set them up for future success. 

Undoubtedly, challenges will arise. Differentiating between students who are requesting to switch based on learning style as opposed to finding an “easier” or generally more likable teacher is difficult, and counselors will need to be direct with their questions to students who come to them. Counselors also have legal limits they have to adhere to when scheduling class sizes — but even if only handfuls of students are able to swap classes each year just based on learning styles, the data still has importance.

Encouraging students to notify counselors they’d like a learning-style switch, even if it doesn’t always end with an actual swap, would have the benefit of pooling data on what students’ overall preferences are, informing department-based decisions on class schedules and training. If a teacher’s style has caused students to avoid taking their class, they could ask their current students for further feedback, fostering a more collaborative and communicative learning environment. 

Even though this change has limits, the benefits to the students are simply too great to ignore. Implementing this system would create more positive change than negative overall, including for teachers.

 “I really think that it would be great for teachers to go watch other teaching styles,” Evans-Rhodes said. “If they could incorporate just a variety into their lessons, it would be really great.” 

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