Final project report: What happens when students engage in a series of self-reflective and explorative exercises related to job interest, needs and abilities?

Inquiry Project Proposal

Debra Blaine, Project RIRAL

Original Question:

My original question was too general, but additional questions helped me to focus.

1. What happens when different activities focusing on different learning styles are used in the ESOL classroom?
A. Are students aware of their learning style?
B. What impact will this information have on their learning?
C. Most important, will they be able to transfer this information to their everyday life?

In the beginning, I wanted to include all of my students in this project, but many problems arose. Most of my students were very low level beginners with little formal education. Many had only 2-4 years of schooling in their own countries. The concept of learning styles eluded them. Much of my time was spent on basic classroom culture ("Open your book to page 12Š"), life skills, and work skills. I decided to limit the participants in the project. I chose three of my higher level students to take part. These students had more formal schooling, understood the process, and were able to write. This was important because they needed to keep a folder describing lessons and their reactions to these lessons (this will be discussed later).

I understand that knowledge of oneıs own learning style is important for all students, no matter what level, but most of my studentsı needs were so great that this project was more than they could handle. Even so, the activities used were presented to the entire class.


As a class we discussed how people learn, not only English, but anything new. Through this discussion I was able to diagram and present most of the different ways people learn. I asked all of the students to think about how they learn new things.

Next, I used a learning survey. Sacia Stiles, another Inquiry Project participant, was kind enough to let me use her Learner Survey in my class. This survey was in Spanish and English. It was easy for all the students to use and gave me insight into their perceived learning styles. I constantly referred back to these surveys, especially when I worked with the three project participants.

Throughout the year I used different lessons and activities that focused on 7 of the 9 style areas described in the C.I.T.E. Learning Styles Instrument (see Appendix). I did not administer this survey to my class, but did use the learning styles descriptions in evaluating the three participants involved in the study.

Each lesson centered on one or two of the following styles: Auditory, Visual, Auditory-Visual-Kinesthetic, Combination, Individual Learner, Group Learner, Oral Expressive, and Written Expressive.

After each activity, I asked the three participants to reflect on the lesson and fill out an Activity Sheet (see Appendix). The students rated the lesson 1-5 based on whether it was interesting and helpful. They were also asked to comment on whether or not the outcome they received was true for them.


At the request of the participants, I have changed their names. None of these students are presently employed.

"Rosario" (Dominican Republic, H.S. Diploma, Travel Agent in her own country)

On the Learner Survey, Rosario believed that she was an Auditory Learner. She had very good listening skills and excelled in these types of activities. Rosario regularly listened to the radio and watched TV during her spare time.

During the year, Rosarioıs speaking improved greatly although writing was a problem for her.

She used her auditory strength in her everyday life. Talking to people, speaking on the phone, and listening activities were never a problem. Her goal is to do something in Customer Service or the travel industry here in the United States.

"Ailin" (Puerto Rico, Nursing School, Surgical Nurse in her own country)

Ailinıs survey showed a strong visual learning style. For example, when I write grammar lessons on the board I use a different colored marker to highlight grammar points. I noticed that Ailin was doing the same thing in her notebook using colored pencils. I asked her why and she said it helped her to remember things. She mentioned that she never did this before, but that it worked for her. I asked if she used this method outside of class. She stated that she used colored pencils to highlight new vocabulary, phrases, and important points in the different nursing manuals she reads.ç Her future goal is to be a nurse here. She knows that her speaking needs to improve (a major weakness). She wants to enter a CNA program in the future.ç

"Jessica" (Puerto Rico, H.S. Diploma + 2 years of college, Bookkeeper in her own country)ç Jessicaıs survey indicated that she learned best by writing. Her classroom work indicated this as well. Her writing needed improvement, but she was always willing to write in her journal, write stories, and turn in written assignments.ç

Jessica was very shy and didnıt like to take part in any pair or group work. She would be present, but she wouldnıt participate and rarely spoke.ç

Unfortunately, Jessica left the program before the project was finished. A sample of her activity sheet is included, but we never got to discuss her future goals or how this project impacted her learning.ç


This project worked out better than I had anticipated. The three participants were willing to write out the Activity Sheets and discuss them with me. In the beginning, I needed to reassure them that it was okay to say that a lesson was not interesting or helpful. I only wanted their honest reactions. Ailin and Rosario were willing to do this, but I always felt that Jessica wrote down what she thought I wanted to hear. In a project like this, it may be impossible to get a completely honest review (especially considering the teacher-student relationship). I gave each student recommendations based on their learning style (see appendix). Hopefully, they will use these in the future.

I was surprised that each of the students knew their learning style. They did'ıt know the name for it, but they knew what worked. As mentioned earlier, these women had more education than the other students in my class. Did they know their learning style because of their educational level? Does an educated person intuitively know what works for them?

These are questions that I can't answer in this project. A project that uses this approach with everyone in the class (regardless of educational level) might answer those questions.

I do know that everyone in the class benefited from our discussions and the different types of lessons taught. Even if the learning styles discussion doesn't take place, itıs important to target every style (or combination) sometime during the day. In this way, all students will benefit.

On a personal note, I almost couldnıt complete this project because Rosario and Jessica left the program in April. Rosario returned, but Jessica did not. Luckily, I had some of her information and was able to include her in this project. If Rosario didnıt return, I wouldnıt have had much to report. A word to the wise: copy everything! This was a learning experience for me, too.


"Description of the C.I.T.E. Instrument Nine Style Areas." University of Wisconsin, Madison as presented by Nanci Payne. 2000: p.42, 43.

Drago-Severson, Helsing, Kegan, Popp and Portnow. "Three Developmentally Different Types of Learners." Focus On Basics, Vol. 5 Issue B. October 2001: p.7-22.

Hudson, Renee K. and Ligira M.H. "One Classroom, Different Learners: How We Addressed the Need to Reach Varied Learning Styles and Intelligences." TESOL Newsletter. Lamberty Vol. XIII No. 2. 2000: p.6.

Kallenback, Silja. Emerging Themes in Adult Multiple Intelligences Research. Focus on Basics, Vol. 3 Issue A. March 1999: p.16-20.


Because many of the pages here have been electronically scanned, we invite you to download the report and appendix as a word document by clicking here; other print elements of the report follow below

Students' Learner Surveys (Courtesy of Sacia Stiles' Family Literary Program)

Description of the C.I.T.E. Instrument Nine Style Areas

Recommendations for Different Learning Styles

  • Visual Learners
  • Auditory Learners
  • Haptic Learners
  • Lessons

    Present tense/Negative and Question form/3rd person singular

    Learning Style: Auditory, Visual, Kinesthetic Combination


    1. Write a present tense sentence on the board.
    Ex: He drinks water.
    2. Write the sentence in the negative form, leaving the "s" in place.
    Ex: He doesnıt drinks water.
    3. Ask the students to "walk" the "s" in drinks over to the "s" in "doesnıt" using their fingers.
    4. Erase the "s" in drinks and show that it isnıt needed in the 3rd person singular/Present Tense negative.
    5. Use other examples.
    6. Introduce the word "infinitive."
    7. *You can write the "s" in the verb and in the word "doesnıt" in a different color to highlight this point.


    The act of walking with your fingers helps the kinesthetic learner remember this point.
    Writing the "s" in a different color helps the visual learner as well.

    Retelling a simple story in studentsı own words.

    Learning style: Auditory, Group Learner, Oral Expressive


    1. Write or find a simple story. Length is less important than interest level. It is important to use vocabulary that students know.
    2. Slowly read the story to the class two times.
    3. Ask for one or two volunteers to retell the story in their own words.
    4. Answer any questions.
    5. Reread the story again.
    6. Pair students up and have them retell the story to each other.


    All students improve their listening with this activity, however, auditory learners do excel here.
    This is a non-threatening activity because students work together.

    All students will teach something to the class.

    Learning Style: Many styles are incorporated into this activity.


    1. With help, students write down what they want to teach, what they want to say, and what they need to bring to class for their presentation (Written Expressive Style and Organizational skills).
    2. They can present alone or with another student (Individual Learner, Group Learner).
    3. They can use visuals (maps, flags, etc.), hands-on demonstrations (cooking), etc.
    4. Presentations should be simple and short.


    I found that many students present in their major learning style. Also, this activity is a confidence booster for students of every level.

    Participant Activity Sheets>/strong>

    Blank Activity Sheets

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