What are Alternative Learning Methods?

Tara Barnett

Alternative learning methods are ways of highlighting the ways in which a student learns best. This may be an issue of how the information is absorbed, or it may be a structure through which the information is interrelated. Schools that use alternative learning methods often attempt to match students to the learning method that suits them best. A person need not attend an alternative education institution in order to take advantage of different learning strategies, but an alternative institution will likely be the most accommodating.

Some students may learn better through tactile methods.
Some students may learn better through tactile methods.

Some alternative learning methods deal with how information reaches the student. Students can learn in a variety of ways, including through auditory, visual, and tactile methods. Learners may have a slight preference for one method over another, and one method may be easier to use than others. Allowing students to learn in the way that suits them best often results in a more thorough understanding of the material.

In an academic sense, schools with alternative education programs are just as rigorous as more traditional schools.
In an academic sense, schools with alternative education programs are just as rigorous as more traditional schools.

Often, the way in which the material is put together can have an effect on how well it is absorbed by the student. Some schools choose not to separate materials into departments, while others choose to have materials relate to one another throughout the day. By putting information together in interesting ways, students are often compelled to seek out even more information. This method can also help with retention overall.

It is also possible to think about the environment in which learning occurs as a method of learning. Home schooling or online learning, for example, could be considered alternative learning methods. Some students with difficulties focusing might benefit from alternative learning methods that isolate them and give them one-on-one attention. On the other hand, independent learners might find a curriculum or school environment too oppressive and might do better in a Montessori school or other independent system.

Many schools allow for different learning techniques within the classroom, but not all schools have the resources to allow each student to learn in a way that is tailored to his or her learning style. While this might suggest that it is best for students to be home schooled, it is may be more reasonable to say that a compromise must be reached between schools and homes. At home, a student might supplement his or her school day with additional learning in a style that is a particularly good fit. It is also important to consider the fact that students can learn to succeed using a variety of methods. Working to succeed within the parameters of an institution can be a valuable skill in itself. Initiative, in some cases, can make up for any learning lost due to poor technique.

Tactile learners need to learn by doing or trying tasks.
Tactile learners need to learn by doing or trying tasks.

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Discussion Comments


@Mor - Often homeschoolers will have meetings with others in their neighborhoods, or go to summer camps and things like that to offset their lack of opportunities to learn with other students their ages.

And there are other alternative education options as well. There are unusual high schools all over the world that attempt to follow a different method in order to reach their students. It's just a matter of finding the right one.


@pleonasm - I think homeschooling can be good, but it often isn't done well. Very few parents will really have the ability to teach and when a student is home schooled they don't get the same chance of a different, better teacher every year that normal students do.

Every home schooled person I've ever met has also had quite a few problems with social interaction. I don't think the social aspect of school learning can really be discounted when talking about school.

Even if online learning revolutionizes homeschooling and other alternative school environments, I don't think it could ever take the place of kids being able to interact with each other and even just observe each other for a large part of their day. Without that kind of crucial development, a home schooled child will be at a disadvantage.


I think, with the current school systems that seem to be in place throughout most of the world, that homeschooling is definitely the way to go if you have the time and resources to do it. That way you can ensure that your kids get the alternative learning environment that they need to thrive, rather than being trapped in a system where the ultimate goal is to turn out students as if with a production line.

Students are individuals and they need individual attention to achieve. They also need to be able to express their learning through their preferred methods rather than through standardized tests. But without homeschooling, at least for a few years, most students will never have that chance.

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