Multiple Learning Styles

Perhaps the greatest benefit of multimodal instruction is its potential to meet the needs of various learning styles. Dawn Birch and Michael Sankey (2008) argued that multimedia, which we would classify as multimodal, can be used to develop a more inclusive curriculum, appealing to the various learning styles of students. According to the VARK assessment tool for determining learning style, learners typically tend to prefer one modality of learning, including visual, aural, read/write, or kinesthetic (Fleming, 2001). As it may be virtually impossible to structure a class that will cater to each student's preferential style of learning, it is important to incorporate various modes of instruction that appeal to a wide variety. Although students may naturally gravitate toward one style, Anthony Picciano (2009) claimed that multimodal learning environments that incorporate various modes allow "students to experience learning in ways in which they are most comfortable, while challenging them to experience and learn in other ways as well" (p. 13). In fact, presenting information in a variety of modes can encourage students to develop a more versatile approach to learning (Birch & Sankey, 2008).

Sharing Daniel Anderson et al.'s (2006) beliefs that "no expressive modality, including print, is capable of carrying full range of meaning in a text" (p. 59), we suggest instructors combine a mix of media that employs several modes. Creating a true multimodal learning environment requires broadening our use of multimodal instruction in new ways. According to Pamela McCorduck (1992), different representations lend themselves to greater understanding and "some kinds of knowledge lend themselves better to certain representations than to others" (p. 245). We recommend that teachers use a variety of tools to engage students, from video lectures to sound files that explain key concepts, being mindful to incorporate print-based texts as well.

In essence, just as students should not produce multimodal texts for the sake of using technology, instructors should not just use multimodal instruction for the sake of using technology. Instead, careful attention should be paid to where and how these texts are utilized to best serve the needs of the audience, the students. Carlin Borsheim, Kelly Merritt, and Dawn Reed (2008) urged instructors to consider the outcomes and the standards of the class, choosing the best technology for meeting these goals. When considering tools for multimodal instruction, instructors need to ask themselves if and how the tools promote course goals. Throughout the course, it may be even more beneficial to ask students what specific tools helped them develop their literacy skills and which tools appealed to their preferred learning style. From these responses, instructors can make changes to the curriculum accordingly, adding new media and restructuring existing content to best suit the needs of the students.