Learning styles

All students are created equally (and differently)

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Understanding VARK

Learning styles are crucial in education, and understanding them can come with great benefits. Various types of learning styles exist. One widely referenced student learning model is educational theorist Neil Fleming’s VARK model

The VARK acronym refers to four types of learning styles: visual, auditory, reading/writing preference, and kinesthetic. The VARK model recognizes the diverse ways in which students absorb and process information, commonly referred to as “preferred learning modes.”  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. Learning styles also take into account various methods of understanding and retaining information.

Harvard University

Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning


Higher Education Teaching Certificate

Deepen your understanding of higher-order teaching practices and broaden your skill set while creating a unique and inclusive strategy for your specific context.

Northwestern University

School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University


Teaching Certificate: The Science of Social and Emotional Learning

The Teaching Certificate: The Science of Social and Emotional Learning from Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy explores the scientific research and impact of SEL. 

  • Integrate social awareness and relationship-building techniques into your teaching practices
  • 6 weeks, excluding 1 week orientation
  • 6–8 hours of self-paced learning per week, entirely online


Teaching professionals often rely on the categories of the VARK model to help tailor their teaching strategies, ensuring a personalized and effective learning experience for students. Some instructors may exclude reading/writing as a category of preferential learning, and build their curriculum around the remaining learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic (VAK). 

The main ideas of VARK (PDF, 123 KB) are as follows:

  • Students’ preferred learning modes have a 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.

Sometimes, teachers may find that a combination of all the sensory modalities may be the best option for their classroom. However, allowing students to access information in terms they are comfortable with can increase their academic confidence.


Visual learners prefer the use of images, maps, and graphic organizers to access and understand new information.


Auditory learners best understand new content through listening and speaking, especially in situations like lectures and group discussions. Aural learners may use repetition as a study technique and benefit from the use of mnemonic devices.

Read and write

Students with a strong reading/writing preference learn best through words. These students may present themselves as copious note takers or avid readers, and are able to translate abstract concepts into words and essays.


Students who are kinesthetic learners best understand information through tactile representations of information. These students are hands-on learners and learn best when figuring things out by hand.

The 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. Many degree programs, specifically higher level ones like a doctorate of education, integrate different learning styles and educational obstacles directly into the curriculum.

Pepperdine University


Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis

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  • GRE not required 
  • Complete online in as few as 12 months 
  • Prepare to sit for the board certified behavior analyst (BCBA) exam

Simmons University


Master of Science in Behavior Analysis

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  • No GRE Required 
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SWOT strategies

Referred to as SWOT (“study without tears”), Fleming 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.
  • Recreate your notes from memory.
  • Replace important words with symbols or initials.
  • Highlight key terms in corresponding colors.

Aural SWOT strategies

  • Record your summarized notes and listen to them.
  • Have a discussion with others to expand upon your understanding of a topic.
  • Reread your notes or assignment out loud.
  • Explain your notes to your peers or fellow aural learners.

Read/write SWOT strategies

  • Write and rewrite your 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.

READ MORE: Teaching Methods

Last updated January 2024