by Hallepie Barbara Senge
Ever read a page for hours but could not understand anything? This may be because you are using a learning style not suited for you.
Everyone prefers a certain learning style and technique, even though there is usually a mix of learning styles available at their disposal. Learning styles are flexible, and you can develop ability in less dominant styles or further develop styles that you already used well.
Everyone is different in terms of information comprehension. Learning styles may influence a person more than he/she may realize. Learning styles guide the way a person learns, they change the way we represent certain experiences internally, our choice of words as well as how we recall information.
Learning style refers to the preferential way in which a student absorbs, processes, comprehends and retains information. It speaks to the understanding that every student learns differently.
Educational theorist, Neil Fleming, acknowledges that students have different approaches to how they process information. He summarizes this in his VARK model. VARK is an acronym that refers to his proposed four learning styles: Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing Preference, and Kinesthetic.
What Are the Learning Styles?
Visual learners prefer the use of images, maps, and graphic organizers to access and understand new information. Visual learners prefer to see an information and visualize it in their heads. They absorb information best when they can visualize relationships and ideas. This set of learners understand or remember information much better with illustrations.
Some tips for visual learners are:
- colour coding– using different colours to highlight some important sentences you would like to remember. This would trigger some form of retention.
- Use books with diagrams and pictures
- Use flowcharts for better understanding
These set of learners best understand new content through listening and speaking in situations such as lectures and group discussions. Aural learners use repetition as a study technique and benefit from the use of mnemonic (memory) devices.
Auditory learners pay great attention while listening. They are always all ears. They tend to prefer listening to information rather than reading it or seeing it visually displayed. Auditory learners may speak and read slowly. They sometimes tend to repeat things they hear out loud. When it comes to studying, an auditory learner might remember properly when they talk about what they have learnt with someone else, since it will be easier to recall a conversation than a visual image of words on a page. Most leaners prefer this learning style because they understand the things they have heard and most often store information by the way it sounds. Therefore, auditory learners learn best through their sense of hearing.
An aural learner should consider the following:
- Set up discussion or study groups where you can discuss topics with others.
- Explain new ideas to other people and listen to theirs too.
- Have conversations with yourself.
- Listen to others more.
Read & Write
Students with a strong reading/writing preference learn best through words. They are more versed with lists, texts in all formats whether handouts, notes, prints or anything written on screen or paper. Read and write learners may present themselves as copious note takers or avid readers and are able to translate abstract concepts into words and essays as such, they like words that have interesting meanings and backgrounds.
This category of learners prefers to understand information by reading texts and further absorbing the information by writing it down or paraphrasing in their own words. Reading and writing learners are extremely comfortable with the written word.
Some tricks for read and write learners include;
- Summarizing block notes to simple bullet points or converting notes into a learnable package by reducing a three-page block note to one page for example.
- Rewrite any ideas and principles in your own words.
If you are a reading and writing learner, you should also be aware that others may not have the same preference as you, so respect their differences.
Students who are kinesthetic learners best understand information through practical exercises, experiences, examples, and case studies.
Kinesthetic learners are the most hands-on learning type, that is, they are more practical than theoretical. They learn best by doing through demonstrations and application and may get fidgety if forced to sit for long hours. Kinesthetic learners do best when they can participate in activities or solve problems in a hands-on manner. They are often more versed with practical problems and problem solving. These learners easily retain information just by being part of a team where they can apply their ideas.
If you are a kinesthetic learner, here are some tricks for information retention
- Read case studies
- Use hands-on experiences and approaches
- Look for opportunities to apply what you have learned
As a teacher or trainer, identifying your students as visual, auditory, reading/writing, kinesthetic, learners, and aligning your overall curriculum with these learning styles, will prove to be beneficial for your entire classroom. Take note that, sometimes you may find that it’s a combination of all four modalities that may be the best option. Allowing students to access information in terms they are comfortable with will increase their academic confidence and performance.
As a learner, it is important to know your dominant learning style if you want to achieve to the best of your ability. By knowing your learning styles, you can learn smarter without much stress.