Different students have a different way of understanding and retaining information. Teachers must therefore employ different teaching methods to accommodate all students.
Teachers must understand the different learning styles and determine the style that works best in their classroom.
There are four main learning styles- visual, auditory, kinesthetic and reading/writing — but experts count up to 70. They all aim to help students learn more efficiently and perform better in school.
Today, we’re going to do a comprehensive analysis of the different styles of learning. We’ll demonstrate how they impact learning and give examples of how you can implement them in a classroom.
What Is a Learning Style?
A learning style is the strategy each student uses to retain information more efficiently while studying.
According to Western Governors University, learning styles can be traced back to 334 BC when Aristotle declared that “every child possessed specific talents and skills.”
In a classroom setting, teachers incorporate different teaching methods to cater for different students’ learning styles. This ensures all students have an equal opportunity to learn and succeed academically.
In recent decades, learning styles have continued to gain popularity among educators. Several factors have contributed to this:
The rise of individualized learning where educators are tailoring instruction to meet the individual learning needs of every student.
Availability of technology, such as videos and other online resources that have made it easier to incorporate different learning styles in the classroom.
Increased awareness that is enabling teachers to acknowledge the differences among their students
Acceptance of culturally responsive learning that allows inclusivity and diversity in the curriculum.
What Is a VARK Model?
The VARK model is a framework for categorizing different learning styles. VARK is an acronym for visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic learning styles.
According to the model, most individuals have a dominant learning method that helps them grasp and retain information better. For example a visual learner may benefit from using pictures, diagrams, and other visuals to supplement normal classwork.
On the other hand, an auditory learner will benefit from podcasts, audiobooks, debates, and class discussions to reinforce their understanding of concepts and learning material.
Both students will have improved educational outcomes through different instructional methods.
Educators should strive to understand their students’ preferred learning methods to create lessons that are more engaging, effective, and tailored to the individual needs of each student.
Benefits of Learning Styles for Teachers
Students learn differently based on their environment, cognitive abilities, and emotional states. When teachers understand this, they can employ various teaching methods in the classroom to help students engage and succeed academically.
Learning about the different learning methods is crucial for teachers because it empowers them to use the skill in the classroom with their students.
If you feel you’re not skilled enough to teach in a particular style, you should develop the skills needed. You should be able to teach in more than one style to meet the learning needs of your students.
Understanding your learning style means you know what works best for you. You can then adapt your education experience accordingly to tailor instruction for your learners.
Benefits of Learning Styles for Students
Adapting different styles to teach is important for your students' academic success. It leaves you self-assured, leading to more productive learning and positive relationships in the classroom and the future.
Acknowledging various learning methods ensures students learn what best works for them, creating an inclusive and positive learning environment.
Learning styles offer a range of benefits that go beyond the classroom. For example:
Improved memory and retention
Better communication skills
By using teaching styles that align with student’s learning techniques, you can enhance your students' academic performance and improve other areas of their personal development.
Four Main Learning Styles
Students will often require a combination of different learning styles. However, understanding the four main ones will give you a better understanding of what might work and what might not.
The four learning styles include:
We’ll explore them deeply next to give you a clear picture of what each entails.
1. Visual Learning Style
Visual learning style is where students learn best through seeing and observing things. Visual learners have a strong visual memory and often use mental images to help them remember when learning different topics.
In a classroom setting, teachers can employ visual learning in different ways. For instance, a history teacher may use videos to teach historical methods.
In another example, a science teacher can use a diagram to help visual learners understand the process of photosynthesis. They can illustrate how plants convert sunlight into chemical energy.
By using visual aids, they help visual learners grasp the concept more effectively than with just a verbal explanation.
Examples of tools that can help you engage your visual learners include:
Visual organizers such as maps and timelines.
2. Auditory Learning Style
Auditory style is where students learn best through listening and hearing things. Auditory learners have a strong verbal memory and tend to recall information they’ve heard.
Auditory learners enjoy participating in debates and discussions because they can process information through the exchange of ideas and arguments.
Unlike visual learners who thrive with purely visual instructions, auditory learners struggle remembering information that’s presented without a verbal explanation.
For example, suppose a teacher is teaching a history class. In that case, auditory learners may struggle with a textbook or other visual aids but find it easy to remember when the teacher explains the events verbally in class.
There are various tools that teachers can use to implement auditory learning style in the classroom, including:
Audiobooks and podcasts
These auditory learning strategies can help engage your students, leading to improved academic and overall success.
3. Kinesthetic Learning Style
Kinesthetic learning style is a learning method where students learn best through hands-on experience or physical activity.
Kinesthetic learners are also referred to as tactile learners. They rely on movement, touch, and manipulation of objects to remember information.
Kinesthetic learners tend to enjoy sports, dance, and other physical activities. They may find sitting still for long challenging but benefit from activities that allow them to move and interact with the learning material, such as experiments and hands-on projects.
As a teacher, you can help your kinesthetic learners understand and retain information by providing real life experiences. For instance, you can take your history class to the museum to see artifacts from a period you’re teaching them about.
Other tools you may incorporate for your learners include:
Physical objects such as blocks, puzzles, and counters
Whiteboard or chalkboard for students to sketch ideas and concepts
Physical games such as scavenger hunts and relay races
Virtual reality to simulate physical activities
4. Reading/Writing Learning Style
Reading/writing learning style is a learning method where students find it easier to learn through text based material. For example, books, articles, and written notes.
Students who prefer this specific learning style prefer reading and writing as a way to engage with new information. They have a strong ability to process written information and retain details from text.
Such students tend to take notes while reading or listening to lectures. They may prefer quiet study environments that allow for focused reading and writing.
As a teacher you can encourage your students with reading writing learning styles to take notes while you teach in class. You can also give them writing assignments such as essays or research papers to help them practice and improve their writing skills.
You can use several tools to help students with a reading/writing learning preference retain information. For example:
Providing written instructions
Group discussions where they write reports on ideas
Other Learning Styles
Besides the four learning styles we’ve covered, there are many others that teachers can consider implementing in their classrooms. These methods help educators cater to various student learning abilities. They include:
Let’s explore them in detail.
Social/Linguistic Learning Style
Social/linguistic learning style focuses on the social and communicative aspects of learning. Individuals with this style of learning perform best when they engage in activities that involve social interaction and communication.
When teaching students, an educator can encourage learners to participate in group discussions, debates and role playing to help social/linguistic learners process and understand ideas.
Logical/Analytical Learning Style
Logical/analytical learning style is a learning preference where students use logic, analysis and reasoning to learn new ideas.
Logical/analytical learners break down complex concepts into manageable parts and then analyze them to arrive at a solution. They enjoy categorizing information and working with numbers and patterns.
Teachers can use charts, graphs and diagrams to help students with this style see patterns and visualize connections that may not be very obvious.
Educators can also use real-life examples to show the students how certain concepts apply to the real world.
Solitary Learning Style
Solitary learning style is a learning method where students prefer to work alone and independently to learn new ideas.
Solitary learners prefer to reflect on their own thoughts and experiences and retain information through self study. Such learners may enjoy setting their own goals and timelines.
As a teacher, you can help solitary learners by giving them assignments to research certain topics by themselves through books and online resources. Once they’ve completed the assignment, you can encourage them to present or explain the concepts to the class.
Providing them with such opportunities of self-study can help improve their learning outcomes and help them enjoy the learning process.
Nature Learning Style
The nature learning style is a learning method where students learn by connecting to the natural world.
Students with this style of learning deeply appreciate the environment and are drawn to activities that allow them to learn about and explore the natural world.
Educators can cater to nature learners by incorporating learning tasks that allow them to connect with nature, For example, taking students to local parks, field trips, and nature reserves.
They can also incorporate class activities such as nature walks, gardening and experiments into the curriculum.
Models and Theories that Influenced Learning Styles
Learning styles didn't always look the same throughout history. Certain theories affected them as we know them today.
Teacher asking her students a question at the elementary school
1. David Kolb and Experiential Learning
David Kolb is an American education theorist and psychologist best known for his theory of experiential learning.
According to Kolb, learning is a process that occurs through experiences, and the knowledge gained from those experiences is used to guide future actions and experiences.
Kolb's theory of experiential learning consists of four learning methods, namely:
Kolb’s theory has been influential in educational psychology and management. It emphasizes the importance of active participation in the learning process.
2. Honey and Mumford's Learning Styles
Honey and Mumford’s theory is based on the idea that each individual has a preferred learning style, and identifying these preferences can lead to more effective learning.
Honey and Mumford identified four learning styles, namely:
Activist: Prefers to learn through active experimentation and experience
Pragmatist: Prefers to learn through practical application and problem-solving
Reflector: Learn through observation and reflection
Theorist: Learn through abstract conceptualization and models
3. Anthony Gregorc's Mind Styles
Anthony Gregorc is an American psychologist who developed a theory of mind styles that identify how individuals perceive, process, and organize information.
According to Gregorc, we have four learning styles which are described in pairs of opposing concepts, namely:
Concrete vs. abstract thinking: Individuals with a concrete mind style prefer to learn with hands-on experience. In contrast, individuals with abstract thinking mind styles prefer to focus on ideas and concepts.
Sequential vs. random thinking: Sequential learners prefer to learn ideas in a step-by-step manner, while random learners prefer to learn information spontaneously.
Anthony Gregorc’s mind styles theory emphasizes that individuals have different strengths and preferences. Educators who understand this can employ individualized learning styles to promote effective learning and communication.
4. Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic Learners (VAK)
The VAK learning style model identifies the three primary sensory modalities that individuals use to receive and process information. I.e., visual, auditory, and kinesthetic
As mentioned earlier, the VARK model recognizes reading/writing as a learning style. VAK is a simpler method that does not include reading/writing learning methods.
The VAK model is widely used in educational training. It’s a useful tool for identifying general preferences and tendencies.
The NASSP task force model consists of three learning methods:
Accordingito the model these three factors determine an individual’s approach to learning. They have been used over the years to improve educational practices..
6. The Index of Learning Styles™
The index of learning styles is a learning model developed by Dr Richard Felderand Barbara Soloman of North Carolina State University.
It recognizes four styles of learning:
Sensory/Intuitive: This style refers to how learners prefer to focus on concrete, factual information (sensing) or abstract concepts and theories (intuitive).
Visual/Verbal: Refers to how learners prefer to learn through visual aids and verbal explanations such as lectures and discussions.
Active/Reflective: This refers to the extent to which learners prefer to be actively involved in the learning process or to reflect on the material before responding.
Sequential/Global: This is the extent to which learners prefer to learn information in a step-by-step manner versus seeing the big picture first and then fill in the details.
The ILS is widely used in educational training to help educators and students adapt to individual learning styles.
Asking Your Students About Their Learning Styles
Besides learning and understanding different learning styles to incorporate them in the classroom, you can also discuss it with your students.
For example, you can give your students a learning styles questionnaire to understand their personal preferences.
Here are some questions you can add to the questionnaire:
Do you prefer reading a book with a lot of a) pictures, b) words, or c)with word searches/crossword puzzles?
When unsure how to spell a certain word, are you more likely to a) write it down, b) spell it out, or c) trace the letters in the air?
When waiting in lines, are you most likely to a) look around yourself, b) talk to the person next to you, or c) move back and forth?
When you see the word “cat,” do you first a) picture a cat in your mind, b) say the word cat to yourself, or c) think about being with a cat?
When you study for a test, do you a) read the book and your notes, b) have someone asking you questions, and you answer out loud, c) create index cards?
You can use the answers to these questions to understand each student and identify the common learning style in your classroom.
Steps to Determining the Right Learning Style
Analyzing how your students learn can help you in crafting your teaching strategies. It can also help you become more organized, use prior knowledge as a foundation for new learning, and choose effective methods for different learning tasks.
1. Understand the bigger picture.
To understand the big picture, educators must ask the why and the how. This way, they can figure out why a particular learning style approach is better and how to incorporate it in their teaching.
Learning the preferred way refers to the idea that individuals have different learning styles, preferences, and strengths and that teaching and learning should consider these differences.
Learning the efficient way, on the other hand, refers to the idea that there are certain teaching and learning methods that are more effective and efficient for all learners, regardless of their individual learning styles or preferences.
For example, research has shown that techniques such as active learning, spaced repetition, and retrieval practice can be effective for all learners, regardless of their preferred learning style.
While it is important to recognize and accommodate individual learning styles, it is also important to consider the most efficient and effective teaching and learning methods.
2. Identify your strengths.
Every teacher is naturally skilled in every learning style. You should identify your strengths and how you naturally approach teaching.
Having this understanding will help you work toward developing different teaching styles in order to meet the needs of your earners.
3. Learn how to communicate chosen learning styles.
Once you’ve learnt your strengths and chosen the learning styles to employ, you should also explain them to your students.
Communicating your chosen learning styles will help your students prepare for the tasks and activities they’ll be doing. It’ll also help students take ownership of their learning and identify the methods that best work for them.
You can introduce learning styles as a topic and encourage students to engage in trying different styles. You can also give examples and demonstrate different learning methods to help them understand.
Learning Styles Go Beyond Classrooms
Learning styles are not only efficient in the classroom, but they also help prepare students for their future.
How a child learns can tremendously affect their ability to connect with the topics you’re taching and how they engage with the rest of the class.
How young children approach learning will also have a strong impact on their future careers and how they deal with everyday situations later in life.
Understanding the style that works best for you as a teacher also affects your classroom management and how you relate to your students.
SimpleK12 can help you understand the different learning modalities and help you in matching instruction with your students’ capabilities.