HELPING YOUR AUDITORY LEARNERS

I am beginning an experiment today to help more of my students be successful in the classroom. If you look on the upper left hand side of this page, you should see a link titled “FINANCIAL ACCOUNTING – 2nd Edition.” If you click on that link, you will come to a page that has a series of audio clips between 8 and 11 minutes in length.

These audio clips were created by me to accompany the Financial Accounting textbook that I have written with CJ Skender at UNC (and published by FlatWorldKnowledge). Although these audio files are specifically designed for our book, they could probably be used quite well with any book. Debits are debits and credits are credits in every textbook.

Right now, I have five audio files posted but I hope to have many more soon. If you are teaching financial accounting, please feel free to suggest that your students listen to these files to see if they are helpful. Heck, they are free. What do they have to lose except for a few minutes of their time?

Each file is a carefully sequenced series of questions and answers. I ask a question and pause for a few seconds so the student can consider the answer. Then, I provide the answer and move on to the next logical question. I am quite literally trying to guide the students, step by step through the reading material.

As I explain in the rest of this posting, I started to create these audio files as a result of reading an article in the Wall Street Journal. I have long felt that our educational system is designed more for visual learners than it is for auditory learners. The article below pushed me to stop thinking about that problem and start trying to do something about it. If you have students who are struggling (in any course that you teach), you might consider whether they are auditory learners who are having trouble in visual learning system.
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On Thursday, November 29, 2012, I was sitting at my very favorite deli having my very favorite lunch. I was reading the Wall Street Journal for that day as I ate. On page D6, I came across a story about Joe Moglia, the head football coach at Coastal Carolina.

He is the 63 year-old, first-year head coach of that team. And, he is a successful coach – his team made the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. However, five years earlier, Moglia had been the chief executive of TD Ameritrade (a company with a market capitalization of $8.9 billion). Of course, the article was about the mystery of how a very successful corporate executive could retire and then become a very successful college football coach.

It was a fascinating story. But, if all the story had told me was about blocking and tackling, I would have moved on to the next article. But one sentence really caught my attention. It is a sentence that I have thought of often since that day. “In his first months, Moglia tested each of his players to figure out whether they were auditory, visual or kinesthetic (touch-and-feel) learners so he and his coaching staff KNEW THE BEST WAY TO TEACH EACH OF THEM.” (emphasis added).

Okay, how many of the teachers reading this blog have ever done anything to figure out how each of your students learn? My best guess is that the answer is close to absolutely zero. Which of your students are visual learners? Which of your students are auditory learners? (I understand that only a relatively small percentage of students are kinesthetic learners.) We tend to treat all students exactly alike. Or, if we classify them at all, it is not as auditory learners versus visual learners but rather as “smart students” versus “not so smart students.”

I have read that roughly 30 percent of students are auditory learners. That’s a pretty large percentage of any class. Wikipedia provides this information:

“Auditory learning is a learning style in which a person learns through listening. An auditory learner depends on hearing and speaking as a main way of learning. Auditory learners must be able to hear what is being said in order to understand and may have difficulty with instructions that are written. They also use their listening and repeating skills to sort through the information that is sent to them.”

Now, in most classes, we will tell students “go read Chapter Two in the textbook” or “go to the library and read this journal article.” Some students come back with a clear understanding of the material whereas others come back lost and confused. Maybe, those lost students are not just being lazy. Maybe, those lost students are auditory learners who struggle with comprehending the visual words.

In class, we write things on a board which is visual but we usually talk about what we have written so that we are meeting the needs of both visual learners and auditory learners. However, many of our assignments are purely visual – especially assignments that are textbook based: read the chapter, answer the questions, do the problems.

After finishing the WSJ article and leaving the deli, I started trying to figure out how we could use our textbook to help both visual and auditory learners. We already have 68 videos which are both visual and auditory. But, I wanted to try something different. The result of that thinking is the audio files that will now be attached to this website.

Will they work? I honestly do not know. But, as I often say, the only way you can find out in teaching whether something works is by trying it. If you have a financial accounting course (even if you are using a different textbook), suggest that your students (especially any who seem to struggle with the visual words) try listening to these files. After all, they are free. It might prove to be helpful.

If you don’t teach financial accounting (intermediate accounting, for example, or the history of the Roman empire), think about how you can meet the needs of your auditory learners. If a 63 year football coach at Coastal Carolina can do it, so can you.

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