Is Multisensory Learning Techniques Beneficial to Children’s Education:

Your child has just told you that they are trying a new approach in their class, multisensory learning! You’re confused! You want to know more! What is multisensory learning? How is it going to benefit my child?

Most teaching techniques engage either the vision or auditory pathways, whereas multisensory learning is a method where information is received using a variety of different senses.
It is highly beneficial for those with learning difficulties, however multisensory resources are being used in all types of schools to help those who struggle to concentrate. By using this technique, children are able to store information for longer periods of time than if they were just told the information.

Photo by Shannon Morang on Flickr

What is Multisensory Learning?

You may think that it is something to do with your senses, well you wouldn’t be wrong! Multisensory teaching techniques and strategies stimulate learning by engaging students on multiple levels, these being the four different primary pathways that children have within their brain; auditory, tactile, visual and kinesthetic.
Child1st, a website who provides resources for this type of learning, believes a true multisensory lesson will engage students on all these levels at one time, I agree with them. During my placement in first year, the children were asked to create a skyscraper out of wood and glue, this would be classed as a multisensory lesson as it allows children to use all their pathways at different times. It allowed all children to engage and enjoy the task, I believe it is really important for children to be fully engaged as they learn more and process the information better. This makes it a more hands on learning environment which some teachers believe work well, however there are some who believe that multisensory learning would be better and more effective if it was combined with traditional learning from books.

The Montessori Approach, introduced by Maria Montessori, uses a lot of multisensory learning including the use of sandpaper letters that children trace with their fingers, helping them to learn how to write. This would help develop their skills of writing as it gives them a visual on how it is done.  

Photo by Baan Dek on Flickr

Technology, like interactive whiteboards and tablets, can be used to encourage engagement within schools.
Many children learn better if their lessons are more interactive and they can visually see the information, this is an alternative to sitting and listening to the teacher talk.
However, some technology wouldn’t be suitable for children who have difficulties with their sight as they are unable to see the content being shown to them.
This all connects to multisensory learning as it allows children to be visually engaged as and alternative to being sat a desk writing for 7 hours!

What do others think about Multisensory Learning?

Karen Boardman from Edge Hill University wrote an article about teachers perceptions on multisensory learning, she states, teachers and experienced practitioners are aware that multisensory learning could help those with dyslexia.
Teachers who have used multisensory learning within their lessons state that it is beneficial for those who have dyslexia, however this does not prove that it helps all children who have other learning difficulties. I believe that if we keep using multisensory learning, then we can adapt it further so it is able to help all children!

Teachers also believe that multisensory learning is good at providing a basic understanding and knowledge of a topic but further work would need to be carried out to provide a broader knowledge for the students.

Advantages of using Multisensory Learning:

Tomás Franceschin wrote a blog post about the advantages of multisensory learning, he believed multisensory learning is more effective when it comes to reaching all students, suggesting that multisensory learning accommodates everyone’s preferences. It has been shown that 65% of people process visual information better, whereas children with learning difficulties may struggle to process only visual information and this is where multisensory learning comes into place.

Photo by Rolls-Royce Plc on Flickr

The average school day is 7 hours long and most children find sitting still for that long tiresome and irritable. Therefore, multisensory learning allows students to understand and observe what is happening, it is hard for children to properly understand something if they haven’t observed it first-hand.

This particular type of learning stimulates the brain in different ways so that each sensory system becomes more developed and higher functioning. This could be seen as an advantage by teachers and parents, as it shows that multisensory learning are able to improve essential functions such as listening skills, movement, vision, tactile recognition and conceptualisation.

Photo by Allie Meyer on Flickr

In technology, some teachers may use different websites, for example:

  • Education Place
  • TT Rockstars
  • Monster Phonics
  • GoNoodle

GoNoodle is a series of web-based videos, game and activities focused on introducing short bursts of physical exercise, this allows students to get physical exercise if they are unable to participate in the PE lessons or if they are unable to do any outside of the school day. This will allow children to be more engaged as it allows them to have fun whilst helping them to burn energy and get exercise.

Disadvantages of using Multisensory Learning:

Does multisensory learning work for everyone in the classroom? I think it works for a lot of children, however some people would argue this!

Dr. Natasha Kirkham did a study to investigate the impact of multisensory approaches to learning in the classroom. She observed a dynamic multisensory environment, which can be noisy, distracting and occasionally chaotic, this could distract other students in the class therefore this technique may not be able to accommodate all students.

Photo by Patti Jo Rak on Flickr

Ernst suggested that multisensory learning might not be well developed until middle childhood, therefore, for teachers to use multisensory learning in KS1, it would not be beneficial as it has been said that they won’t be able to develop it.

Although multisensory learning techniques help those who struggle in education, it only gives students the main ideas on how something works and place less emphasis on the detail, this could negatively impact students grades as they may begin to feel like they do not need to do any extra studying. However, this is more relevant to secondary education rather than primary education!

So, what do you think about multisensory learning? It is beneficial to children? Or does it hinder it?

Please use the link below to leave some feedback on my blog:

Published by tiamaidendixon

I am a second year Bath Spa University Primary and Early Years Education student!

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