Learning Preference Survey

Possibilities For Learning: A Learning Preference Survey

Students enjoy choosing and controlling aspects of their learning especially non- producing and underachieving students who have disengaged from classroom learning due to a sense of powerlessness or boredom (Kohn, 1993). Designing curriculum that considers students’ preferences has motivational benefits that cannot be underestimated. The Possibilities for Learning survey uncovers learning preferences that can be used in planning. With this information, choice, control, intrinsic motivation and passions can be inspired.

Purpose and Background
The purpose of the Possibilities for Learning survey and the support materials is to let students identify the characteristics of challenging learning activities that they prefer when learning in their areas of strength and passion. This information provides another starting point for individually sensitive curriculum design and program planning. It can be used:

  • by a teacher to understand a student or a class better;
  • to focus a teacher’s planning for a student;
  • to enable a student to learn about her or his preferences;
  • to enable a student to differentiate or design curriculum
  • for her or himself;
  • or to achieve any combination of these purposes.

Each of the statements in Parts One to Four is based on one or more of the learning strategies Maker & Nielson (1996) recommend for gifted students. Students ratings of these items will identify students’ most and least favored settings for learning (learning environments), ideas to learn (content), ways to learn (processes), and ways to show what they’ve learned (products). The more specific lists of options included in Part Five (pages 11, 12 & 13 of the form) have been selected from the author’s collection and lists provided by Draze (1986), and Maker & Nielson (1996).

This is not a test; there are no scores. The PFL is a planning tool. It simply uncovers students learning preferences.

The Possibilities for Learning (PFL) does not identify a student’s preferred learning style. Its purpose is to identify the characteristics of learning activities they enjoy most and least when they take on challenges in their favorite topics. While learning styles are believed to be consistent across curriculum areas, the “possibilities” each student prefers may vary when the content area changes.

Using the Information
Teacherscan use a student’s responses in a number of ways.

  • Just skimming the form can improve a teacher’s understanding of the student’s learning preferences.
  • Having students transfer (copy) their most and least favored items they specified at the end of each Part to the Summary Sheet enables a teacher to consider them when creating learning activities or grouping students.
  • PFL responses indicate specific ways to differentiate curriculum immediately or in thefuture. These curriculum differentiation strategies can be included in lessons, units or IEPs.

The PFL results are not intended to drive the entire curriculum planning process. The teacher must balance the student’s preferences with their needs; time spent on strengths with time spent on weaknesses; new learning with practice activities, etc. Achieving this balance is the essence of good teaching.

Students can use the Survey and follow-up activities as tools for self-analysis to find out more about what and how they like to learn. Summaries of the results can serve as a natural first step and on-going guide to their curriculum design efforts. Learning contract and IEP forms are also provided to put this information into action in Chapters 6 and 7.

Teachers and students may want to analyze the responses for patterns of preferences. The “Key to Verbs” and “Analysis of Possibilities for Learning Responses” provide materials to examine their responses more deeply.

Parents find their children’s responses intriguing and may enjoy completing the survey themselves. Rich discussions arise from comparisons of the child’s and parents’ responses in addition to the individual insights parents gain on their own learning.