What type of learner are you?
Traditionally, all students in a class sit in a room together while an instructor teaches. There are a variety of ways instructors attempt to teach and some instructors will vary their ways of teaching. There also may be exercises, quizzes, group work or class discussions that accompany lectures. But the fact is that the instruction is being delivered to everyone the same way.
However, students don’t all process instruction the same. We know now that students learn differently. The type of instruction that works best for another student may not work as well with you.
While you may not be able to change the way your instructors teach to account for the way you learn, you can alter the way you approach course content, take notes, review course materials, and study. Doing so can improve your academic performance and save precious study time.
So, how do you know what kind or learner you are?
VARK is an acronym for the four widely accepted learning modalities: Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing, and Kinesthetic. By taking the VARK questionnaire, you can become better aware of the type of instruction, review, study, research and writing methods work best for you.
Visual learners process information best when it is presented in the form of images—such as charts or graphs—that communicate major points, provide evidence or reasoning and show relationships between ideas. It is better for visual learners to see written outlines or presentation materials in accompaniment with lectures.
When reviewing course materials, handouts, or notes, it is important for visual learners to be organized. Color coding notes or textbook materials, rewriting notes to better organize, keeping course materials sorted in a neatly kept file folder, concept mapping, making illustrations or drawings, and watching documentary films or instructional videos are some of the strategies that will help visual learners.
Auditory learners prefer hearing and reciting information and often ask questions and benefit from discussion to clarify or absorb material. They tend to talk a lot and might read more slowly than other types of learners.
Auditory learners need a distraction-free environment in which they can review course materials or study for tests. Recording lectures or discussions and listening back to them later is an excellent way for auditory learners to absorb information. Asking questions and discussing course content or ideas also helps auditory learners learn. When faced with an essay or other writing assignment, auditory learners may find it helpful to dictate their thoughts to their phones or other recording devices. Creating acrostic or mnemonic jingles can help auditory learners remember facts, lines or other information.
Reading/Writing learners learn best when interacting with texts. They take copious notes and prefer to work and study alone than in groups. The process of taking and revising class notes, reading texts and summarizing, responding, and analyzing them is the best way for reading/writing learners to absorb information.
If you’re a Reading/Writing learner, you need to commit to undistracted time for reading course content and re-writing it in your own words. Take lots of notes, re-writes notes into different active study strategies, translate visual information from charts and graphs into written descriptions, and read over and summarize handouts or information posted on class web pages.
Kinesthetic learners are physical. They learn best by doing—whether as hands-on activities or by experience—or by moving while they think or study. In order to process information, these types of learners need to experiment with materials, see physical demonstrations of process or ideas, or engage in role-playing exercises.
If you’re a kinesthetic learner, always be a participant in class activities. Design skits that dramatize course content, participate in labs, use props to help solve problems, think of real-life examples to illustrate ideas or concepts, imagine ways that course content has real-life applications, take short study breaks, listen to recordings of course content or educational materials while you walk or work out, move while you study, try lying down to study instead of sitting in a chair.
Most likely, you will not fit neatly into one of these learner categories. Instead, you’ll be a combination of two or more learning types. If you are a multimodal learner, you’ll have to experiment or combine different learning strategies to get the most out of your classes and make the most of your study time.
VARK isn’t the only way to find out what kind of learner you are. The Learning Style Questionnaire
, developed by researchers at North Carolina State University and the Learning Styles Assessment
, developed by researchers at the University of Arizona, are two other ways to help identify your learning preferences. And here’s a link
to an expanded explanation of different types of learners.
It’s liberating and empowering to know that we don’t all learn the same way. What works for someone else may not work as well for you. And the types of instruction that work for others may be less effective for you. But no matter what type of learner you are, getting to know yourself better as a learner can revolutionize your approach to learning and studying and maximize your academic success.