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Learning Styles: The Global Learner

  • Debra Bell Columnist, author and conference speaker
  • Updated Feb 01, 2002
Learning Styles: The Global Learner

In my book, The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling, I tag our final learner as the "Hey, everybody, look at me!" kid. For the purposes of our discussion here, let's call her the global learner; and if you've been most curious to discover what kind of learner you are, then you may very well fit into this category.

Here are her indicators:

In contrast with the focused learner, the global learner has a wide breadth of interests, often finding it difficult to narrow her pursuits to a manageable number of directions. This learner has the longest entry in the yearbook and keeps her parents hopping as they try to keep track of all the social engagements she has scheduled. She is visionary and thinks about the future; but unlike the focused learner who thinks about the possibilities of principles applied to, say, problem-solving, the global learner focuses on the possibilities in people. She is fascinated by others' beliefs and attitudes: what they think, what they want, how they feel, how they respond.

She enjoys learning about ideas and values and tends to look at herself more subjectively than objectively. She is the student most interested in searching for the significance of things and personalizing their meaning. She is motivated to make a difference in the world, to search for her unique contribution in history.

The global learner is creative and flexible, but not detail-oriented or technical. Rather, this learner will act on hunches and impressions to form broad conclusions. This is the kid who takes a quick look at his math homework and says, "Oh, I know how to do this," then proceeds to fill out the whole thing incorrectly.

While this learner often reads and talks early, she is typically a poor speller and quite disorganized.

Global learners in general are high-achievers and do well academically. But often they set high standards for themselves. Their creations and work are an extension of themselves and are strongly tied to their sense of self-worth. Therefore, failure or rejection of their work is often interpreted as failure or rejection of themselves.

The global learner loves functioning in a group, especially when that group is her audience. She is a communicator and performer. She needs to be known, recognized, and acknowledged by others, especially her teacher. Yet she demands individuality and autonomy and the opportunity to act and express herself creatively. My daughter, Kayte, for instance, has a tendency to turn everything into a creative project. Now that she takes co-op classes, she's had to learn to follow the teachers' directions, especially in science where she has learned the hard way that creativity is not a substitute for correct answers.

The global learner does not show the competitive nature of the active learner in a group. Friendship and cooperation are important to her. She empathizes strongly with others and does not do well in a competitive environment where ruthlessness and conflict are uncontrolled. She is usually well-liked and sought after by her peers and enjoyed by adults.

The global learner typically gravitates toward the language arts, performing arts such as music and drama, psychology, counseling, the ministry, or social services.

Program Suggestions

This type of learner does best with an individualized and personalized approach to her education. She will be interactive and enthusiastic as long as there are opportunities for her input and creative responses. Thus a discussion group will be more motivating than a lecture, and a project more than a test.

Because of her interest in people, choose resources that focus on how individuals or people groups have been impacted by the areas of study. Read about the scientists behind the theories or how inventions changed peoples lives. In history, biographies and historical fiction will have great appeal. The Guides to Famous Men Of... (Greece, Rome, etc) from Greenleaf Press are a good example of what works well.

Because she thinks globally, a unit study approach that integrates subjects such as science, history and literature around a common theme (Japanese culture for instance) will appeal to her interest in understanding how events, ideas and inventions affect the people of that time and place.

Think groups. Co-ops and field trips will become the focal point for most of the global learners studies. Our home-school program has always included lots of co-operative activities because I and two of my children share many of the characteristics of a global learner. My son Gabe in particular likes to have lots of people around. His first response to any suggested activity is "who else can we invite along?"

My typical strategy for tackling a tough subject or one that holds little interest is to organize a group. In the past, we've been a part of writing clubs, science classes, geography bees, and math competitions all to get my kids motivated to study subjects they weren't necessarily motivated to learn.

This learner will need your help in learning to pay attention to details. She is often forgetful and careless in her errors. I know I have this flaw. I was a horrible speller in school. In fact, even when I taught English in public school my colleagues would often come in and correct my misspellings on the blackboard! I've taken steps to minimize my errors by always using a spell checker and a personal organizer to keep track of my commitments and appointments--though my husband has pretty much given up on getting me to balance the checkbook.

I've helped my kids to overcome these tendencies as well with organizational tools, responsibility charts, and editing programs on the computer.

Next time, I will be answering frequently asked questions about learning styles: What should I do if my kid doesn't fit neatly into one category? How do you make this work with a passel of kids? Send me your questions via e-mail at

In His Sovereign Grace,


Recommended Resources:

The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling, Debra Bell. An entire section on learning styles is included in my book.

The Christian Home Educators Curriculum Manual, Elementary, Cathy Duffy.

The Christian Home Educators Curriculum Manual, Junior/Senior High, Cathy Duffy

Learning Patterns and Temperament Styles, Dr. Keith Golay

Shepherding a Child's Heart, by Tedd Tripp


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