Illustration by Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig
Photo by: HikingArtist.com
We all use a variety of senses when processing information. Our personal set of preferences and strengths make up our individual learning style. Researchers have identified a number of learning style models that help us understand and leverage our own unique style in order to learn more effectively. Also, by recognizing situations where we receive information presented in a way that doesn't match our preferred style we can compensate with strategies to help ourselves overcome the differences.
While there are many learning style models, here are three that focus on how people interact with information as they learn. The main differences are briefly described to give you a sense of the big picture.
- The Visual-Auditory-Kinesthetic Modalities model (VAK for short) by Barbe-Swassing identifies how we receive and remember information. This post contains details about this model.
- The Global/Holistic - Analytic/Sequential model by Hermann Witkin identifies how we process and communicate information. This will be addressed in a future post.
- The Mind Styles model by Anthony Gregorc recognizes how the mind perceives and understands information. This will also be detailed in a future post.
Understanding the VAK model - There are four categories within this model. Keep in mind that the categories are intended to depict preferences - everyone uses each mode to some degree.
Visual (linguistic) learners prefer to receive information through reading and written tasks. They remember best what is written and prefer to write down directions rather than only hearing them.
Visual (spatial) learners prefer charts, drawings and videos to written language. They can easily visualize places and faces and rarely get lost in new surroundings.
Auditory learners prefer to receive information by listening to verbal instructions and they memorize by hearing information and saying it. They may silently mouth the words when reading.
Kinesthetic/Tactile learners learn best by touching objects and moving. They need to put some sort of action to the learning or it won't stick. They may doodle or highlight when listening to lectures. Physical props or activities help them memorize.
Determining your learning style - Although you may have a good idea of your preference as you read the descriptions there are a number of self-assessment tools that you can use. For example, Franklynn Chemin of George Brown College provides one that includes the assessment quiz, detailed explanations and information on how to lead with your strengths. Brad James at University of South Dakota provides one that calculates the results online.
In addition to understanding your own learning style, awareness of other people's preferred style can help you communicate more effectively by adapting to accommodate their learning style. The Swassing Barbe Checklist of Observable Modality Strength Characteristics is useful for understanding the style of others as well as your own.
Compensating when 'their' style is not 'your' style - Once you know your learning style there will still be situations in workplaces and classrooms where the person or media providing the information doesn't use your preferred mode. There are numerous ideas tailored to each style that you can try out and refine available from homeworktips.com:
For Visual learners
Remember, the VAK model addresses how we receive and remember information. Here are some additional Techniques to Enhance Your Memory.