Learning Styles

All Students are Created Equally (and Differently.)

The term “learning styles” speaks to the understanding that every student learns differently. Technically, an individual’s learning style refers to the preferential way in which the student absorbs, processes, comprehends and retains information. For example, when learning how to build a clock, some students understand the process by following verbal instructions, while others have to physically manipulate the clock themselves. This notion of individualized learning styles has gained widespread recognition in education theory and classroom management strategy. Individual learning styles depend on cognitive, emotional and environmental factors, as well as one’s prior experience. In other words: everyone’s different. It is important for educators to understand the differences in their students’ learning styles, so that they can implement best practice strategies into their daily activities, curriculum and assessments.

Understanding VARK

One of the most accepted understandings of learning styles is that student learning styles fall into three “categories:” Visual Learners, Auditory Learners and Kinesthetic Learners. These learning styles are found within educational theorist Neil Fleming’s VARK model of Student Learning. VARK is an acronym that refers to the four types of learning styles: Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing Preference, and Kinesthetic. (The VARK model is also referred to as the VAK model, eliminating Reading/Writing as a category of preferential learning.) The VARK model acknowledges that students have different approaches to how they process information, referred to as “preferred learning modes.” The main ideas of VARK are outlined in Learning Styles Again: VARKing up the right tree! (Fleming & Baume, 2006)

  • Students’ preferred learning modes have significant influence on their behavior and learning.

  • Students’ preferred learning modes should be matched with appropriate learning strategies.

  • Information that is accessed through students’ use of their modality preferences shows an increase in their levels of comprehension, motivation and metacognition.

Identifying your students as visual, auditory, reading/writing or kinesthetic learners, and aligning your overall curriculum with these learning styles, will prove to be beneficial for your entire classroom. Allowing students to access information in terms they are comfortable with will increase their academic confidence.

By understanding what kind of learner you and/or your students are, you can now gain a better perspective on how to implement these learning styles into your lesson plans and study techniques.

SWOT Strategies

Referred to as SWOT (“Study Without Tears”), Flemings provides advice on how students can use their learning modalities and skills to their advantage when studying for an upcoming test or assignment.

Visual SWOT Strategies

  • Utilize graphic organizers such as charts, graphs and diagrams.

  • Redraw your pages from memory.

  • Replace important words with symbols or initials.

  • Highlight important key terms in corresponding colors.

Aural SWOT Strategies

  • Record your summarized notes and listen to them on tape.

  • Talk it out. Have a discussion with others to expand upon your understanding of a topic.

  • Reread your notes and/or assignment out loud.

  • Explain your notes to your peers/fellow “aural” learners.

Read/Write SWOT Strategies

  • Write, write and rewrite your words and notes.

  • Reword main ideas and principles to gain a deeper understanding.

  • Organize diagrams, charts, and graphic organizers into statements.

Kinesthetic SWOT Strategies

  • Use real life examples, applications and case studies in your summary to help with abstract concepts.

  • Redo lab experiments or projects.

  • Utilize pictures and photographs that illustrate your idea.

How do you learn best? Complete Fleming’s VARK Questionnaire to find out what kind of learner you are.