Olivia Langlois ’21

Throughout years of human development, the brain has created a complex information-processing system that begins with the input from sensory organs that turn the physical stimulus into electrochemical signals, which are then sent through many neurons and pathways until the brain can sift through the information to come out with the golden nugget of importance.

Although the average person processes base stimuli, such as objects and sound, similarly, the more complex the idea, the more brain processing it takes to understand it. The processing of these more complex thoughts is where different people’s learning styles diverge. Since each brain has its own pathways and structure when presented with the challenge of learning a new idea, each brain responds differently. The first place where the learning styles can vary is in the kind of information the brain best processes. These are the typical visual, auditory, and kinetic learners. This concept bases itself on the idea that some people learn better when presented with different kinds of stimulus like reading a textbook versus hearing a lecture. This model of learning came about within the last century but has a fairly solid grounding in research. The second difference comes in the jump from turning the processed information into understood information. The jump occurs when the person has gathered the information but has yet to connect and understand the idea that the stimulus presented. For example, it is when the teacher explains a concept, but the student doesn’t quite understand it. People can make this jump in two different ways. They can either be internal processors where they work through the topic in their brain, or they can be external processors where they need to explain the topic outside of their own head in order to understand it. External processors have to have the thought process outside of their own head, whether that means on a piece of paper or verbally, whereas internal processors keep their thoughts inside of themselves.

Neither of these differences in either diversion determines the intelligence of the individual since the two are simply different, yet our own education system happens to be skewed against them. As education and research have developed, many educators’ ideas have changed regarding the visual, auditory, and kinetic learning, but change has not occurred for the divergence between internal and external processors.  American education focuses on the correctness of answers when spoken. The typical classroom idea has the students lined up with the teacher prompting the correct answer to the question where the students raise their hands and take notes. It is expected that the students will comprehend the topic as it is being taught to them, which very much relies on them being internal processors. Although process speed is not directly related to the kind of processor, without the opportunity to externally process the information given, the external processor might wait until they have space and time where they can really understand the information presented to them, which could require explaining it out loud or drawing some sort of picture. These students can never be expected to excel in the typical classroom setting with the way their brain works.

Not every classroom structure discriminates against the external processors. The best choice is for schools to use systems that increase classroom discussion, but this discussion has to be a safe space for the external processors to be incorrect about their interpretation of the material so that they can learn from the discussion rather than keeping their thought process internal.

Both of these learners can equally contribute to society productively, but they require different systems for their learning process, which our current education system does not provide.