What Kind of a Learner Are You?

JAN 16, 2021

Visual, Auditory, Reading or Kinesthetic - which one are you?

The forced homogeneity of our education system may lead us to believe that there is one yardstick by which all learning is measured - exams. However, the truth seems to digress from this tenet. It has been long known that children differ in the way they learn best. While research indicates that these learning styles do not directly change academic outcomes, they do make learning a more pleasant experience. Moreover, when differences in learning styles are accommodated in testing methods, they may even help reshape academic outcomes.

One of the most popular classifications of learning styles comes from Neil Fleming, who expanded a pre-existing theory to create what is called the VARK model. The model outlines four different styles of learning based on a preference for different sensory modalities. These styles are: Visual, Aural/Auditory, Read/Write and Kinesthetic.

Visual Learners, as the name suggests, enjoy learning through visual media. However, this does not simply mean a visual depiction of the information to be learned. Visual learners prefer conceptualising and processing information through visual channels. Therefore, a visual representation of information, such as flow charts, illustrations, pie charts, bar graphs, maps, diagrams and other graphical representations are the most helpful to visual learners. A visualisation of concepts and the interrelationships between them forms the basis of the most optimal learning method for visual learners. This is why visual learners often benefit from making ‘mind maps’ at the end of each chapter, wherein they illustrate the various topics and subtopics within, as well as the connections between them.

Aural or Auditory learners work best with auditory stimulus. This includes both listening to the information that is to be learned as well as voicing it out loud. Traditional classroom methods such as lectures, seminars, group discussions and the like work best with auditory learners. Their memory seems to be the strongest when it comes to what they hear. This includes hearing their own voices as they read the material to be learned out loud, or engage in vocal depiction. In a classroom, aural learners are often found repeating what the teacher says or asking questions that have already been answered, because speaking it out loud helps them consolidate the information. Aural or auditory learners may benefit from mnemonic devices (memory tools) that rhyme or from converting their study materials in pro songs.

Read/Write learners have a pretty straightforward preference. Information is best understood and retained when presented in words through textbooks, essays, lists, reports, manuals and the like. Written assignments seem to be well suited for such learners as they better understand concepts when they write it down. Such learners heavily depend on making notes and studying from the same, especially when faced with an exam.

Lastly, Kinesthetic learners rely on experiential methods to learn. Models, demonstrations, experiments, and even videos and movies that depict the material to be learned, work well with Kinesthetic learners. They benefit greatly from tactile media - anything that can touch and hold in their hands. Such children often gain the most from field trips and practical or laboratory sessions.

Most people often prefer a combination of these learning styles as opposed to just one. Some people have a clear preference from specific styles for different types of information, and are called VARK Type One. While others need to learn through all of their preferred styles in order to be fully satisfied. Such people fall under VARK Type Two. Identifying one’s exact learning style helps streamline different methods of studying and helps tailor learning according to the type of learner. This, in turn, makes learning more fun and less tedious than it usually tends to be.