Life lessons from chickens and eggs.


Chickens and eggs. Pollos y huevos. Tavuk ve yamurta. What do they really have to do with learning? Until this morning, I’m not sure I even knew.

amazonian chicken
fun with amazonian chickens

This past week, as part of my company’s customer service training, we filled out a questionnaire to determine our learning styles. Me being the lifelong introspective, compulsively self-aware creature that I am, I already understood mine. But the chance to fill out another evaluative survey to further understand who I am made me geekily giddy.

This particular assessment is called the VAK, or Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic styles of learning. I’ve known through my myriad of self-exploration — some voluntary, some not — that I am a highly (I mean highly) visual learner with a healthy dose of kinesthetic preference. Writing is my ideal mode of expression. I can only take so much audio input before I mentally shut down. Any time I speak or someone else does, I am literally envisioning what is said, whether as letters or objects. When I took tests, my information recall consisted of me visualizing my notes and the answer’s place on the page, perhaps highlighted for ease of locating. The joy of an audiobook eludes me. If I need to concentrate on looking at something, I need silence. Some say it as a joke, but I really mean, “shhhhh, I can’t see that”.

I’ve never thought too much about it other than instinctively adapting within school settings as I grew up and understanding what I needed to learn as I matured. But my scores from this latest assessment left me a bit startled. Out of the 40 questions asked with either a (visual), b (auditory), or c (kinesthetic) as your answer, you added up your scores from each letter at the end. My results: a=19, b=0, c=11.

turning 6 in Hollis
turning 6 in Hollis

The elevated visual and accompanying kinesthetic score didn’t surprise me much. But the glaring zero sandwiched in between spoke (ironically) louder than anticipated. My audio processing abilities are close to nil. While I never take a survey or assessment as a gospel to be revered exclusively, it certainly holds a truth I never previously really pondered. And it explains a lot.

If I were a cat, I’d be killed by curiosity. Never one to want leave a question unanswered, I hit Google. I know as a young child I was tested for learning disabilities. When I transferred from another elementary school in NH at aged five, my new hometown school in Hollis required me to be tested to see if it was appropriate I start at such a young age (despite the fact I had already been enrolled for a month in Keene). Test they did, and I still possess these insightful, paper-based outcomes to this day.

While it was determined I had no evident disabilities (just your ordinary testing anxiety, reading comprehension issues, and high intelligence), I wondered if the limitations in psychology and testing of the late 1970s left me with unanswered questions about how I learned. In the end because my smarty-pants scores were so high, they let me continue with school.

Thus began my chicken and egg conundrum this morning. Was I like this all along?

first day of school tante's
first day of school in keene

I started looking up learning disabilities (LD) and came across Auditory Processing Disorder (ADP). I’m not so interested in reverse diagnosing myself, yet so many of the aspects associated with this type of LD are what I experienced in school. And it seems that my high visual ability to learn is what saved the day in my 18 years of education. But, was I able to adapt because I was already visually attuned or did my visual learning acuity refine because I couldn’t absorb information through solely auditory means?

Like most chicken and egg puzzles we stumble over in life, it will most likely remain unsolved. But in all my self-evaluation and introspection this aspect had never occurred to me. I am now aware how much I didn’t thoroughly understand the depth my learning style, innate or adaptive, and how it serves me in every moment of every day no matter the situation. “That is what learning is. You suddenly understand something you’ve understood all your life, but in a new way” (Doris Lessing).

Chicken and eggs. Mmmmm…breakfast.

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