Multisensory learning encourages learners to use more than one of their senses when taking in new information. This learning style promotes activities that appeal to our visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, and tactile senses. It might also include gustatory, olfactory, proprioceptiveorvestibular senses.

Multisensory learning is a particularly popular teaching method for children with learning differences, such as Dyslexia or ADHD, or those with learning disabilities. It’s also a great way to ensure that your teaching is inclusive, as it provides a variety of ways for children to access learning and does not rely on just reading, writing, and listening alone. Let’s take a look at the different types of sensory learning that we can try to involve in our teaching:

  • Auditory – learning through sounds, hearing, and listening.
  • Visual – learning through seeing and watching.
  • Tactile – learning through using our sense of touch.
  • Kinaesthetic – learning through body movement or physical activity (this uses the proprioceptive and vestibular senses).
  • Gustatory and Olfactory – learning through taste and smell.

So, multisensory learning would include at least two sensory learning styles, but it could consist of more!

How Exactly Does Multisensory Learning Work?

Multisensory learning engages different parts of a learner’s brain; this gives children more than one way to make connections, learn new concepts and retain information. For example, in an activity incorporating visual, tactile, and auditory learning, children can form a relationship between the appearance, feeling, and sound of that activity, which will help them remember vital information from that task.

Often, teaching involves a lot of activities where we ask children to read and listen to teach them new information; this can make it difficult for children to sustain their attention on these tasks and can be difficult to access for children who have learning difficulties or an SpLD. Of course, incorporating all of the senses into every lesson won’t always be possible. But, when you can, incorporating multisensory learning into your planning will make your teaching more engaging and inclusive.

What are the Benefits of Multisensory Learning?

The main benefit of multisensory learning is that it helps children to retain more information. The vital to effective multisensory teaching is incorporating a range of sensory experiences when planning a lesson to ensure that each child is engaged and able to access the learning in a way that suits them.

It’s essential to appeal to your student’s learning styles by focusing on their preferred sensory learning styles first and foremost and involving other sensory elements where necessary.

By involving their senses in activities, not only will learning become more fun and engaging, but it will also make it more effective! Sensory stimulation has been shown to improve mental cognition and memory retention, so multisensory learning is a great teaching method to take advantage of.

Who does Multisensory Learning benefit?

Multisensory learning is undoubtedly a great method to teach all children due to its proven ability to help improve memory retention. However, as we mentioned earlier, this technique is particularly effective when teaching children with SEND.

However, it’s essential to remember that learning difficulties and learning differences such as Autism and ADHD can often be undiagnosed until adulthood. So, incorporating multisensory learning into the teaching of all students ensures that children with undetected SEN will still experience this helpful, engaging, and fun teaching method.

For example, for learners who struggle to retain information with auditory processing, simply listening to a teacher explain concepts will not be the best way to help them keep that information. Instead, incorporating other senses like sight and touch will effectively support these particular needs.

It all comes back to the fact that all children are different. So, unfortunately, the same teaching method will not be the best for everyone.

Using multisensory learning techniques and activities is one vital way to differentiate teaching to provide our pupils with multiple ways to learn. This differentiation is essential for giving everyone equal opportunities for meeting and exceeding expectations, regardless of their preferred learning method.

Can multisensory learning be used in all subjects?

The short answer is yes! Multisensory learning can be adapted and used to support students learning in any subject or topic area from the early years of secondary school and higher education. And in some subjects, multisensory learning is part of the traditional learning process.

For example, in science lessons, children can complete practical experiments and write down the results; this is a perfect example of a multisensory learning experience as learners are hands-on with equipment and then use visual and tactile senses to record the results of their experiment.

Multisensory learning has also become one of the go-to methods for teaching young learners the alphabet. Combining visual, auditory, and kinaesthetic teaching methods is an increasingly common tactic when introducing kids to letters and what each sounds like. Instead of separating these into individual concepts, research has shown that a multisensory approach helps children form associations between letters, words, and sounds faster.

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