Ever considered your learning style? Doing so could be the key to better work, exam and learning performance! Knowing how you learn the best can unlock all sorts of benefits.
Our essential guide takes a closer look at this vital consideration, which could unlock new levels of efficiency and results for you and your business.
Why Learning Styles?
Remember those days, sitting in your old classroom while your teacher went on and on about formulas and equations you understood nothing about?
Of course everyone had that classmate who barely studied yet still got high grades in every test. While you, who spent weeks studying in advance, ended up with disappointing average grades. You spend a full night studying, only to not remember a single word of it the next day.
Any of the above sound familiar?
Did you think you would never understand and you might as well just give up? Don’t worry, you’re definitely not alone, but you most definitely should not give up!
With more than seven billion people on the planet, how can all of them be the same? How can everyone learn the same way? As you move through life, from childhood to adulthood, you never stop learning. But does everyone comprehend information in the same way?
Discovering your learning style preference will go a long way in your personal development. You can also develop techniques and strategies to help you learn faster and more efficiently.
Learning shouldn’t be a chore. It should be a fun road to expanding your knowledge.
Finding out which learning style works best for you will help you absorb information faster, therefore, you’ll be able to reach new heights with your future. In this article, we’ll tackle each learning style and help you figure out which one suits you best.
History of Learning Styles
In 334 AD, Aristotle said that each child possesses specific talents and skills as every individual child is different. That theory was the first to push the idea of individual thought patterns.
At first, learning styles were associated with the field of psychology, however, later on it started moving to other fields, mainly education.
In the early 1900s, several theories were pushed forward to explain the individual differences of each person’s learning style, nevertheless, these theories were pushed aside in favour of IQ and academic achievements.
The standard one-type-fits-all educational systems became the new normal.
After a dip in interest, the idea of individual learning styles started gaining popularity again in the 1970’s. Despite the criticism it has faced throughout the years, it continues to gain recognition. Some schools have even implemented learning styles in their curriculum.
What Does Learning Style Mean?
Simply put, learning styles are the different methods used for learning or understanding new information and retaining them. According to learning style theories, each individual prefers to receive information in a certain way.
In a classroom setting, some children learn by taking notes and drawing maps, while others absorb information better through watching tutorials and videos illustrating their lessons.
Most people prefer one dominant learning style, while some people learn better using a combination of different learning styles.
A dominant learning style is just one learning style used for all educational purposes and understanding new concepts.
Still, your dominant learning style won’t be the only one you use. Learning styles aren’t static so you can develop the ones you use or you can start using new ones.
There is no right or wrong way to process information as your learning style just depends on your preference.
Why Should You Know Your Learning Style?
Now that we’ve established that every person is unique in their own way, how could knowing your learning style help you on your journey to success?
Knowing your strengths, weaknesses, and preferred learning style will teach you how best to hone your skills and the best ways to achieve your goals. It’ll also save you a lot of time and effort on your way to the top.
Not knowing your learning style can cause a lot of unneeded stress in your life, especially in school or at work.
As a student, finding out your learning style will benefit you greatly in your studies and comprehension. How does this benefit you academically?
- It teaches you new learning strategies.
- You can use customised techniques to study for any exam you’re dreading.
- You will no longer be limited by any poor quality teaching for information. Look past their limitations and learn your own way!
- Fewer frustrating, and stress-filled, all-nighters.
- Helps you to succeed the best and fastest way you can in school and university.
- Shows you your true potential.
- Makes your study sessions fun and relaxing.
- Moves you ahead of your classmates.
- Makes studying more exciting by igniting your competitive side between you and your classmates who prefer the same learning style.
Studying doesn’t have to be hard, however, it just needs to be smart.
And as a trainer, implementing various learning styles into your lesson plans will help your students stay focused and interested. In addition, it’ll help them understand what you’re offering them.
So how would you personally benefit from knowing your learning style? How would that help your personal development?
- It teaches you how to take advantage of your skills.
- Helps you understand your strengths and weaknesses.
- Makes the learning process enjoyable.
- Teaches you all the most exciting ways to use your brain power.
- Improves your self-confidence.
- Keeps your curiosity healthily active.
- Develops your creativity and imagination.
Professional development is key to success in the workplace and learning styles are an important part of that. How would learning styles benefit you professionally?
- It gives you a noticeable edge over your competitors.
- Helps you understand that people have different learning styles which lets you develop your team effectively.
- Enables you to deliver quality presentations and services that reach your diverse audience.
- Helps you avoid mistakes.
- Teaches you all that’s new in your field of work and helps you stay up-to-date.
- Helps you prepare a healthy working environment for all your employees.
- Aids your business in maintaining a good reputation.
- Improves your leadership skills.
Find the learning style that suits you and develop yourself academically, personally, and professionally.
What Are the 7 Different Learning Styles?
There are seven main learning styles that people can relate to. Reading through each style will help to find your match.
Visual Learning (Spatial)
Visual learners prefer using images, pictures, colours, maps, charts, graphs, and other visuals to understand and retain information.
Visualising objects, concepts, plans, and outcomes in their mind’s eye comes easy for them. They like to incorporate vivid imagery that stands out amongst the clutter of all the other visual images floating around in their heads.
They can easily find their way around a map and they have a keen sense of direction.
People who prefer this style love drawing, doodling, and colouring. They’re always well-dressed and have good colour coordination skills.
Visual learners usually pursue careers in the visual arts, photography, architecture, design, strategic planning, and video or film.
If you’re a visual learner, here are a few techniques to help you learn:
- Use mind maps. A mind map is a diagram that’s a visual representation of any kind of information. It makes sense of and organises messy boring information and turns it into colourful and memorable.
- Draw diagrams to make connections and links between systems.
- Replace words with pictures.
- Highlight key phrases. The pop of colour amidst all the black and white will help you remember the information better.
- Use auditory resources to go along with the visuals.
- Watch videos that explain concepts with visuals.
- Use colours, organised layouts, and pictures instead of text.
- Write out your thoughts to process them better.
- Use action words that help the visualising process (i.e. see, map out, picture, visualise).
- Turn any concept or information into a story that’s easy to visualise.
- Watch film adaptations of the literature you have to study for your English class or of historical events for your History class.
Verbal Learning (Linguistic)
Verbal learners absorb information through listening to a lecture, reading content aloud, highlighting key points, learning by repetition, or engaging in discussions about concepts with peers; these are all very commonly used ways to help them learn and study.
People who prefer this style usually also like tongue twisters, rhymes, and limericks. They love reading and writing, and adding new words to their expanding vocabulary.
Verbal learners usually go into public speaking, journalism, writing, teaching, politics, or debating.
If you’re a verbal learner, try using these techniques for a better learning experience:
- Group study sessions with your friends will help keep you focused and can help you understand concepts by discussing them and talking them through.
- Set the keywords you need to memorise to a tune or the rhyme of a memorable song. Rhyme and rhythm is key!
- Record your lectures and write down your notes on lessons.
- Acronyms and mnemonics are your friends! Attach them to your lessons to help you memorise them.
- Make up memorable sentences and incorporate keywords in them to help you remember.
- Read the lesson content using dramatic voices. Instead of a monotone and boring read, make it lively and exciting. Script your content and get in character!
- Role-play. Be the TV presenter while your friends are the audience or be the salesman while your friend’s the client you want to convince to buy your product.
- Make it as fun as you can.
Aural Learning (Auditory – Musical)
Aural learners respond primarily to sound, rhyme, and music. They understand and retain information through the power of listening, whether to music or spoken instructions.
They can usually sing, play a musical instrument, and are able to identify which sound belongs to which instrument. Moreover, they have an excellent sense of pitch and rhythm.
They tend to be very emotionally attached to music as they often have it playing in the background while learning. Music tends to evoke strong emotions and responses from them because it transports them to another time and place that relates to the song that’s being played.
Additionally, they always notice the music playing during TV shows and movies.
You’ll often find them humming a tune or tapping their fingers to a jingle or a song that pops in their head out of nowhere.
Aural learners usually end up as musicians, composers, sound engineers, and music producers.
Some techniques to help in aural learning:
- Use sounds, rhymes, and music in learning and memorising key phrases.
- Write down your notes and then re-read them aloud to yourself. Additionally, turn the words into a rhythm to keep yourself engaged.
- Listen to audio books instead of reading a printed book.
- Use sound recordings that give you the atmosphere of what you’re learning (e.g. the sound of sea life and water if you’re studying marine biology).
- Record lectures and listen to them later on to let the content sink in further.
- Set mnemonics or acrostics to the rhyme and rhythm of a song or a jingle.
Physical Learning (Kinesthetic)
Physical learners rely on their body and their sense of touch. They learn by doing so they have to physically go through the motions of doing something to let it sink in.
They engage in practice, rather than learning theory or listening to a lecture. Moreover, they tend to use their hands a lot when talking. It’s not nerves that keeps them on a constant move, they’re just extremely animated people with lots of energy.
With a very “hands-on” approach, they learn by doing, touching, building, and moving.
These people usually find it very difficult to sit still for long periods of time as they always have to be doing something.
They’re also very reliant on their body language and that of others for communication.
They enjoy sports, exercise, and outdoor activities such as gardening. If something’s on their mind, they’d rather much rather go for a walk or a run rather than sit at home thinking about it. They also tend to think through issues while exercising.
Their sense of touch is especially heightened as they focus on the texture of the physical world around them.
Physical learners usually end up as surgeons, mechanics, dancers, athletes, and any type of work that requires physical effort such as construction and repair work.
Some strategies for physical learning:
- Role-playing. Act out what you’ve learned, either alone or with a partner.
- Assemble jigsaw puzzles or other physical objects based on your lessons to help keep you focused and engaged.
- Writing and drawing diagrams is also a type of physical exercise! Get a pen and paper and write out your thoughts.
- Use flashcards. You can touch them and move them around like puzzle pieces which will help you memorise them.
- Words with physical actions keep physical learners focused and engaged.
Logical Learning (Mathematical)
Logical learners rely on logic, reasoning, and structure. Being natural thinkers and problem solvers, they enjoy mathematics, the sciences, and can easily find patterns or relationships between abstract concepts.
They tend to ask a lot of questions to understand the bigger picture along with all the details and the reasons behind every concept. They learn by classifying and categorising information as well as evaluating outcomes.
People with this learning style can be great leaders because of their orderly and organised ways. However, they’re not always the most well-liked as they tend to point out flaws in other people’s words and actions which, of course, is not always appreciated.
They love a good mental challenge and a night well-spent for them would be a game of chess or backgammon, solving complex calculations, or other such brainteasers. They also excel in debate teams and other cognate subjects.
Logical learners tend to pursue careers in engineering, mathematics, the sciences, accounting, computer programming, law, and detective work.
If you’re a logical learner, these techniques are here to help you reach your goals:
- Make organised lists and highlight key phrases. Also, use statistics to clear up what you need to focus on.
- Illogical word associations work. It seems like quite the contradiction but it’s the illogicality of it that’ll make what you’re learning so memorable.
- Step outside of your comfort zone and keep challenging yourself with fresh new problems to solve that might need a little more creativity.
- Always create procedures for future use.
- Plan, plan, plan. Agendas, itineraries and to-do lists help keep you focused so rank them according to importance.
- Stop over-analysing as that could lead to mental blocks. Relax, take a deep breath, and refocus on your goal.
Social Learning (Interpersonal)
Social learners are strong communicators, both verbally and non-verbally. They work best in groups so study-groups are the ideal learning method to keep them concentrated. Groups also help them brainstorm and generate new ideas.
As students, they do a lot of extracurricular activities, team sports, as well as socialising with everyone.
As adults, these are the people who like to work in teams and get feedback from their peers on their work and ideas.
There’s nothing more fulfilling for them than interacting with others as they usually stay around after class or work to converse.
They like to work through their problems with groups, participate in debates, and bounce ideas off others.
They’re also good listeners who are sensitive and have a great deal of empathy for others. They’re very socially intelligent and can easily pick up on the moods, feelings, and motivations of those around them.
People trust them and often come to them for advice.
Social learners work best in careers where they can put their social skills to use, such as counselling, teaching, coaching, sales, human resources, and politics.
If you feel that this is your learning style, use these techniques for a better learning experience:
- Role-play, whether one-on-one or in a group.
- Share your key assertions with your group as that strengthens them.
- If you’re an instructor, constantly question the social learners in your class. Ask what their thoughts on the topic you’re discussing are and verbally engage them, one-on-one and amongst their classmates. Get them participating, simple things like reading aloud or group presentations can go a long way in getting them interested.
- Peer reviews are a great way of knowing your weak points.
- Work in groups to better understand how to deal with different types of people.
- Additionally, knowing the mistakes of others will help you avoid them yourself as well as learning from your own.
Solitary Learning (Intrapersonal)
Solitary learners are independent and introspective by nature. They tend to be loners who enjoy their own company more than that of others and like to relax away from crowds.
People with this learning style are smart, intuitive, and confident. They’re driven by internal motivations and are very aware of their own thoughts and feelings. As they prefer to do things on their own, they also prefer learning on their own through self-study.
Solitary learners tend to be very goal-oriented and concerned with outcomes.
They’re thought of as introverted, but they can be both introverts and extroverts as some are extroverts in social situations but prefer to learn on their own in a quiet environment to retain information.
People with this learning style are always self-analysing to gain a deeper and more enriched understanding of themselves. They’re often lost in their own thoughts and only voice themselves when questioned.
They’re interested in subjects that push them to self-reflect such as philosophy, psychology, and theology. They like to participate in workshops, read self-help books, and constantly try to develop themselves.
Also, to work through their issues, they like to travel on their own to remote quiet places, away from crowds.
Solitary learners usually pursue careers as authors, researchers, philosophers, and security guards.
If your learning style is solitary, here are some techniques you should use:
- Set clear goals, objectives, and plans for a satisfactory learning experience.
- Keep a journal and record your daily life and thoughts. This helps in putting things in perspective and self-analysing more objectively. Work on your self-improvement and understanding yourself better.
- Find a way to be personally invested in the topics you tackle. If you don’t believe in what you’re doing and don’t see the point to it, you’ll end up feeling unmotivated and dissatisfied.
- Script your inner thoughts and assertions. Assertions are very important to solitary learners because how they see themselves internally is the main drive for everything they do.
- Finally, find a powerful model or several powerful models to look up to. Read biographies and talk to people to gain ideas.
Other Popular Learning Styles
Due to the popularity of the learning styles and the intrigue surrounding them, several theories were developed, such as:
One of the most popular learning style theories; it was developed by Neil Fleming in 1991. The abbreviation “VARK” stands for:
- Visual (V): Seeing and visualising relationship between ideas and concepts.
- Aural (A): Hearing and repeating information to understand and retain.
- Reading/Writing (R): They learn best through text by reading from a handout and writing down notes.
- Kinesthetic Learning (K): Learning by doing, they need to experience and practice to remember.
Developed by Daniel Kolb in 1984, the experiential learning theory states that learning is the acquisition of abstract concepts through different situations. According to Kolb, knowledge can only be gained through new experiences.
Kolb’s experiential learning theory is based on a four-stage learning cycle:
- Concrete Experience: Going through an experience.
- Reflective Observation of the New Experience: Interpreting and understanding an experience.
- Abstract Conceptualisation: Learning from an experience by analysing it and drawing conclusions from it.
- Active Experimentation: Applying what you learned from an experience to future situations and testing a hypothesis.
Kolb’s model views learning as a process in which each stage leads to the next. Each stage is ineffective on it’s own as a proper learning experience is only effective when all four stages of the model are executed.
Kolb presented these variables on lines of an axis, with each variable having its contrast on the opposite end. The east-west axis is called the Processing Continuum which includes ‘Feeling’ and ‘Thinking’, while the north-south axis is called the Perception Continuum and it includes ‘Doing’ and ‘Watching’.
Both variables on the same axis cannot be done at the same time, but your learning style preference is a combination of two variables preferred.
Four learning styles are the result of these preferences:
Accommodating: Feeling and Doing
The Accommodating type relies on intuition rather than logic. They love a good challenge and a new experience. They favour practice but they rely on other people’s logical analysis and information gathering. This is the most widespread learning style among the population.
Converging: Thinking and Doing
These are the “practice makes perfect” type of people. They’re always looking for solutions to practical problems and are always interested in new ideas. Moreover, they’re very good at taking abstract concepts and turning them into practical and applicable ideas.
Diverging: Feeling and Watching
These people prefer to watch rather than do and they use their imagination to solve problems by viewing them from different perspectives. They’re good at brainstorming and like to know information about different cultures. In addition, they also tend to be sensitive and artistically-inclined.
Assimilating: Thinking and Watching
They’re logical and concise in their approach to any situation. They understand and organise information in a logical format and prefer a clear explanation rather than practice. They excel in sciences and like reading, analysis, and attending lectures.
What Is Your Learning Style?
There are many online quizzes you can take to help you figure out your learning style.
Of course, it’s important to make it clear that there is no right or wrong learning style. It all depends on which one suits you best.
Experiment with different learning styles to discover which one works best for you. Try each one individually but also try mixing them up.
How to Apply Knowledge of Your Learning Style
Whether it’s fact or fiction, it’s clear that using learning styles has helped a lot of people succeed.
You should always try to use your dominant learning style to learn new concepts. Try participating in class activities and even making up your own activity at home.
These activities will be very effective in helping you understand new information and expanding your knowledge.
Try watching a few fun videos if you’re a visual learner, listening to lectures if you prefer aural learning, or try doing something with your own hands if you lean towards kinesthetic learning.
However, don’t just focus on one learning style; try spicing things up by mixing in the other learning styles. They could help you learn more about yourself and your abilities.
The better you become at picking up all learning styles, the better of a learner you’ll be.