First and foremost – let’s clear the air! What is a learning style?
According to TopHat: “A learning style refers to an individual’s method of making sense of new material, commonly done through sight, touch and sound. Taste and smell, although not as frequently used as the last three, can still be effective when aiming to solidify ideas in our brain.”
Back in the day – it was pretty simple. You went to school, your teacher delivered a lesson, you got your homework and study material and, well, that was it. It was up to you to figure out how to retain the information and how to study for your upcoming tests.
However, modern times have been accompanied by newer case studies and technology, with tons of research covering Learning in general. Somewhere along the line someone thought – What makes a learner retain information easier? What makes them understand the work better? How do you keep them interested? How do you create the best suited learning environment & methods for a student to excel?
In recent years, we’ve been trying to figure out how teachers and educators can better meet the needs of their students – which is where Learning Styles come into effect. The more teachers understand their students and the way their brains work, the better they can be at helping them learn – especially if they understand the characteristics of different learning styles, giving them the opportunity to be able to address the instructional requirements of all their students.
Learning styles and preferences take on a variety of forms, however, the most widely accepted model of learning styles is called the VARK model. In short, the acronym stands for:
- Visual – learners learn best by seeing
- Auditory – learners learn best by hearing
- Reading/writing – learners learn best by reading and writing
- Kinesthetic – learners learn best by moving and doing
These different learning styles were identified after thousands of hours of classroom observation. Below, we elaborate on the four modalities of learning:
This is also referred to as the “spatial” learning style. Students who learn through sight understand information better when it’s presented in a visual way – using images, graphics, shapes and symbols to depict meaning. Visual learners prefer to take in information using charts, maps, graphs, diagrams, and more – however, his type of learning style does not include photographs or videos. Positive outcomes have been noted using charts, diagrams and graphs.
Auditory (or aural) learners are most successful when they are given the opportunity to hear information presented to them vocally. They benefit from lectures, group discussions, and other strategies that involve talking things through and discussing the matter/subject at hand. Students with this learning style may be less prone to taking notes in class, however, since they process information best by listening to it, they don’t need to look at notes too often. In order to assist auditory learners, educators can provide audio recordings of lessons or incorporate group discussions and debates into their lessons.
Students who have a reading/writing preference prefer information to be presented using written words, emphasizing text-based input and output – reading and writing in all of its forms. This is the most convenient style to cater to since much of the traditional educational system tends to center on writing essays, doing research and reading books. Students are encouraged to take numerous notes during classroom lectures to help them both process information and have an easier time recalling it later.
Kinesthetic learners, sometimes called tactile learners, learn through experiencing or doing something – they are hands-on, participatory learners who need to take a physically active role in the learning process in order to achieve the best educational outcomes. Due to their active nature, keep in mind that they might struggle to sit still and need to take more frequent breaks when studying. These students tend to shine in demonstrations and experiments. They also learn best from seeing something first hand, watching live videos, and going on field trips.
Knowing how to address the learning needs of your students is an important part of creating meaningful experiences and helping them retain what they learn. Pinpointing how a child learns best can dramatically affect their ability to connect with the topics you’re teaching, as well as how they participate with the rest of the class. However, understanding these different learning styles doesn’t end in the classroom. By equipping students with tools in their early years, teachers are empowering them for their futures.