Learning styles underlie anyone’s ability to learn, understand, and remember information. It is a natural and instinctive way for you to process information. Learning styles are not preferences for one kind of learning over another. Rather, they are simply a way of approaching information that is innate to each person. VARK Learning Styles model discusses in detail what these styles are and how to effectively utilize your learning style to the maximum.
Because learning styles work on their unconscious level, you might not even be aware of the effect they have on the way you learn. This means that you can use learning styles to your advantage, even if you’re unaware of doing so. Learning styles can play a positive role in your learning by helping you focus on the materials that are most conducive to your learning style. When you understand your learning style, you can use it to your advantage.
What are learning styles?
Learning styles are ways in which people learn and understand information. Learning styles are an instinctive way of approaching information that most people possess to some degree. However, the extent to which you use a particular style will depend on your level of comfort with it.
There are four main learning styles: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and reading/writing. Learning styles are often used to describe the process of information processing, not the type of information that is the focus of learning. So, for example, someone who finds reading and writing to be an effective means of learning may use both visual and auditory learning styles. It’s more important to understand how you learn than to worry about categorizing yourself.
An Overview of VARK Learning Styles
Learning styles are a popular concept in psychology and education and they are intended to identify how people learn best. The idea that students learn best when teaching methods and school activities match their learning styles, strengths, and preferences grew in popularity in the 1970s and 1980s. However, most evidence suggests that personal learning preferences have little to no actual influence on learning outcomes.
VARK Learning Styles
There are different ways of categorizing learning styles, but Neil Fleming’s VARK model is one of the most popular.
According to the VARK model, learners are identified by whether they have a preference for:
- Visual learning (pictures, movies, diagrams)
- Auditory learning (music, discussion, lectures)
- Reading and writing (making lists, reading textbooks, taking notes)
- Kinesthetic learning (movement, experiments, hands-on activities)
- Visual Learners
Visual Learning Style
Visual learners learn best by seeing. Graphic displays such as charts, diagrams, illustrations, handouts, and videos are all helpful learning tools for visual learners.
Do you think you might be a visual learner? Then consider the following questions:
- Are art, beauty, and aesthetics important to you?
- Does visualizing information in your mind help you remember it better?
- Do you have to see information to remember it?
- Do you pay close attention to body language?
If you can answer yes to most of these questions, chances are good that you have a visual learning style. You may find it helpful to incorporate things like pictures and graphs when you are learning new information.
How to engage a visual and spatial learner
To engage a visual learner in the classroom you’ll want to include elements like maps, diagrams, and imagery. If you have a projector, try to include relevant images to go along with the course content. In geography and history, maps are helpful, while for mathematics and logic, go with diagrams.
Charts, images, and diagrams will help most learners, so catering to visual learners doesn’t mean you have to ignore other types. When it comes to self-driven learning, encourage the spatially aware to sketch out their ideas, and create mind maps and flowcharts. It should probably come to them naturally, but a bit of prompting can always help.
Other tactics you can use include:
- Sitting visual learners near the front
- Using color codes and cues
- Encouraging note-taking and recopying notes during study
Aural/ Auditory Learners
Aural (or auditory) learners learn best by hearing information. They tend to get a great deal out of lectures and are good at remembering things they are told.
Are you an auditory learner? Consider the following questions:
- Do you create songs to help remember information?
- Does reading out loud help you remember information better?
- Do you prefer to listen to class lectures rather than reading from the textbook?
- Would you prefer to listen to a recording of your class lectures or a podcast rather than going over your class notes?
If you answered yes to most of these questions, then you are probably an auditory learner. You might find things like audiobooks and podcasts helpful for learning new things.
How to engage an auditory and musical learner
If you’re a music teacher, you’re in luck. Auditory learners will be engaged from start to finish. For other subjects, however, engaging aural learners requires some tact and forethought.
The key here is your voice (and the voice of your students). Write down something on the whiteboard, then read it out loud. Work on your delivery so you can express learning material in interesting and engaging tones. Similarly, encourage your students to read back their notes to themselves (and the class). Hearing the sound of their voice and the voices of others is engaging to auditory learners, but it can be a great learning tool for students of all types.
Other strategies you can try include:
- Recording lessons for later listening and reference
- Encouraging auditory listeners to ‘teach others’ verbally
- Seating them away from distractions
- Reading and Writing Learners
Reading and Writing Learning Style.
Reading and writing learners prefer to take in information that is displayed as words and text.
Could you be a reading and writing learner?
Read through the following questions and think about whether they might apply to you.
- Do you enjoy making lists, reading definitions, and creating presentations?
- Do you find reading your textbook to be a great way to learn new information?
- Do you take a lot of notes during class and while reading textbooks?
- Do you prefer it when teachers make use of overheads and handouts?
If you answered yes to these questions, you likely have a strong preference for the reading and writing styles of learning. You might find it helpful to write down information to help you learn and remember it.
Physical /Kinesthetic Learners
Kinesthetic (or tactile) learners learn best by touching and doing. Hands-on experience is important for kinesthetic learners.
Not sure if you’re a kinesthetic learner? Answer these questions to find out:
- Are you good at applied activities such as painting, cooking, mechanics, sports, and woodworking?
- Do you enjoy performing tasks that involve directly manipulating objects and materials?
- Do you have to practice doing something to learn it?
- Is it difficult for you to sit still for long periods?
If you responded yes to these questions, then you are most likely a kinesthetic learner. Taking classes that give you practical, hands-on experience may be helpful when you want to acquire a new skill.
How to engage a physical or kinesthetic learner
Channeling the energy and excitability of physical learners is key to offering a good lesson. Taking breaks so they can move around can help, but so can encouraging role-play and movement within the lesson itself.
Physical interaction is also important. The use of props and models will greatly benefit a kinesthetic learner. Give them something to grab onto and they’ll process information much better than from a book or whiteboard.
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Other strategies to engage physical learners include:
- Encouraging movement during the study (don’t punish them for fidgeting)
- DE cluttering desks and surfaces so they can focus on learning
Benefits of knowing your learning style
Understanding your learning preferences can be helpful. If for instance, you know that visual learning appeals to you most, using visual study strategies in conjunction with other learning methods might help you remember and enjoy your studies more, and on the other hand, you may find reading materials a poor way of learning.
- Gives you a head start and maximizes your learning potential
- Enables you to succeed in school, college, university
- Gives you customized techniques to score better on tests and exams
- Allows you to learn “your way” – through your own best strategies
- Shows you how to overcome the limitations of poor instructors
- Reduces the stress and frustration of learning experiences
- Expands your existing learning and studying strategies
- Increases your self-confidence and improves your image
- Teaches you how to use your brain best and insight into your strengths, weaknesses, and habits
- Enables you to enjoy any learning process and inspires greater curiosity and motivation for lifelong learning
- Shows you how to take advantage of your natural skills and inclinations
- Enables you to stay up-to-date professionally and gives you an edge over your competitors
- Allows you to manage teams more effectively
- Guides you in delivering effective presentations to diverse audiences
- Improves your persuasive and sales skills
- Helps you improve cooperation among colleagues
- Translates learning power into earning power
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Tips for Improving Learning with Learning Styles with VARK model
When you understand how you learn, you can start using your learning style to your advantage. Here are five tips to help you best use your learning style to your advantage. You may find that one of these tips is particularly helpful when it comes to using your learning style to your advantage.
- Try to read or listen to materials in the way that feels most natural to you. If you’re not sure, ask a friend who knows you well what would be most effective for you
- Be open-minded about how you approach learning. Some people are naturally more comfortable with memorization than others, but that doesn’t mean memorization is the only way to learn a given subject. Be open-minded about how you approach learning.
- Make sure you’re having fun! It’s important to be able to let go and allow yourself to enjoy your learning. If you’re not having fun, you’re more likely to push yourself too hard
- Keep track of your progress. It can be easy to get caught up in the moment and lose track of your overall progress. Keeping track of your progress can help you to stay focused and maintain a healthy level of self-discipline.
Understanding how you or your child learns can help you to be more effective in your studies. It can also help to identify areas where you need to focus your efforts.
In addition, it can be a useful tool for helping to avoid misunderstandings with others. There’s a lot of hype surrounding the subject of learning styles including the VARK model, but they truly represent a useful way to diagnose areas where you’re likely to struggle in a course, and it’s easy to examine your learning preferences and see how they play out in your life.
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As with most things, some people will likely benefit more from the concept than others. It’s not a matter of preference, but rather who has an advantage in the way they approach information processing. If you’re someone who finds that reading and writing are effective ways for you to learn, you’re not likely to benefit from learning visual or auditory styles. However, you may find that a kinaesthetic learning style is effective for you. The key, as always, is to be aware of how you learn and use your learning style to your advantage.
We hope that with this VARK Learning Styles model, you’ll be in a position to learn well and help your child apply the same by understanding and making use of their learning styles.