There are many different learning styles, although not everyone believes that they are as important as we once thought they were. But this article discusses how to find out what type of learner you are and how you can increase your receptiveness to learning new information.
It is a debate that rages in the hallows halls of educational and research establishments all over the world – are there certain types of ways that some people learn better?
Some people do prescribe to the notion that we learn in different ways but, say others, we learn different things in different ways.
For learners, however, there is no denying that there are some methods, tools and learning activities that seem to help our brains suck up information.
Whilst the discussion that follows focuses on different ways of learning, you may find that for certain topics of subject matter, you become a visual learner but at other times, you prefer the linguistic approach.
What does it all really mean? And why is it important when studying distance learning courses?
VISUAL – Look & learn
Do you like to see information in pictures and diagrams? When presented with a problem, do you visualise the process to finding a solution?
And how do you prefer to study? If you prefer the peace and quiet of solitude, along with a knack for noticing the smaller details, you may be a visual learner.
Visual learners will find the following useful;
- Use mind maps, diagrams and timelines to organise information
- Notes in different colours
- Draw instead of making notes
- Use a wall planner
- Use flashcards
- Watch videos
AUDITORY – Hear & learn
Auditory learners are people who have to use the spoken word, music or even rhythm to help them learn. Because you have the ability to hear different sounds that others may not notice, you find that using your voice is a great way of learning.
Do you love sound? Do you listen to music, or enjoy podcasts? Do you read out loud, repeating instructions, for example?
If so, you may find that using the following may help in your studies;
- Use rhyming mnemonics
- Read aloud or record your voice and play back your note
- Listen to podcasts
- Study in a group or with a buddy
- Ask questions or be part of discussion groups and forums
VERBAL – Learn with words
Do you enjoy reading? Do you ask ‘why?’ a lot? Do you keep a diary or express yourself through words?
Learners who love the spoken or written word will often find this their preferred method of learning and studying. From reading textbooks to writing pages of notes, as a verbal learner you may find that;
- Making notes or writing explanatory paragraphs works for you
- Talking through and explaining concepts is useful
- Use acronyms and other tools like flashcards
- Read, read, read
PHYSICAL – Do & learn
Physical learners are people who use their sense of touch, hands and their body to learn. This means they enjoy putting theory into practice, with it often being referred as ‘doing and learning’.
Are you an active person, enjoying sports and other physical activities? Do you fidget and doddle in a typical learning environment, such as sitting behind a desk?
If so, you may find tasks and activities such as these good for cementing your knowledge;
- Use a squeezy ball or object when studying to keep your hands active
- Use physical objects to explain information
- Make models to represent key events in a subject or course
- Do something physical during study breaks
LOGICAL – Learn with systems
Patterns and logic are, for some people, the way in which they make sense of the world and so it follows they like an ordered approach to learning.
Do you like numbers and math? Do you like patterns and try to create a pattern to your thoughts or actions? Are your organised but a deep thinker, wondering how something works?
If you seek rational explanations, you may find that;
- Organising your own workspace is essential for studying
- Breaking bigger learning tasks into smaller, bite-sized chunks, explaining each section an effective method of learning and working
- Having a reason to learn something is motivation to continue
- Researching a topic is more satisfying than it being done for you
SOCIAL – Learning with others
Are you a social person? Do you find studying on your boring but find you thrive in company?
If you do, you may assume that an online or distance learning course is not for you. But the learning environment has changed. No longer does learning have to take place in a classroom and no longer does distance learning means being at home on your own struggling to grasps new concepts.
Why not try…?
- Online study groups and forms are ideal places for testing out thoughts, theories and learning
- Role play or presentations to a family member or friends are great ways of adding the social aspect to learning that you crave
- Mind mapping information is also a great way of taking through a concept
- Why not join a club or group that specifically looks at your area of study, such as a local history group?
SOLITARY – Learning on your own
Some people struggle to learn with others and yet, for most of your school or college years, you were probably told you needed to interact, talk, discuss, role play and play games in order to access learning.
However, learning can be a solitary thing and there are many students who quietly study for all kinds of qualifications, completing courses in various subjects and topics.
You can learn in many ways, such as;
- Set personal goals to stay motivated
- Work at your own pace and in your own space
- Record achievements in your diaries
- Complete your own research projects
- Create self-assessment
- Summarise your learning at the end of each topic/study session
Does it matter?
On one hand, doing something outside your comfort zone is, or so we are told, the point at which we start to live and learn. But on the other hand, you want to learn in a way in which you do feel comfortable and supported.
When we attend taught sessions, we are taught using a variety of activities. Teachers and tutors are trained to do this. They are taught that to bring all their students along the same line of progress, they need to utilise different ways of learning.
And yet, say academics, there is very little evidence in the way to support that different learning styles do exist. And yet teachers from across the globe all believe that their teaching styles need to match their student’s learning style.
For online learning providers, this is welcome news. Self-study means there is no one figure that leads, guides or cajoles a learner – how they learn and when is decided by the learner alone.
But, for learners, it is a more interesting conundrum. Perhaps rather than thinking in learner types or which learning style suits you best, we should be thinking about which is our preference and what style or type of learning activity best suits the task in hand.
For example, if you are learning to fine art of gel and acrylic nails, you need to practice your new-found skill set. Or, if you are studying for an A-level qualification in History or English, there would be an expectation that there would be a lot of reading and writing.
But if reading and writing isn’t ‘your thing’, you could listen to podcasts and watch videos, TV programmes and so on, just as a ‘verbal learner’ could too.
What does matter?
What does matter when it comes to your learning is creating a mix of approaches to test your learning.
Academics and researchers have found that it is the feedback to students that matter because this is the process that cements learning.
And this is why we provide tutors experienced and qualified not just int heir chosen field of study but in the world of teaching and learning too.
To improve your learning;
- Try something different such as drawing a diagram rather than writing a paragraph of vice versa
- Re-cap a unit by talking through the key points or writing a summary paragraph
- Keep referring to past units and your notes
- Make engagement and interaction with your learning key to your success
What kind of learner are you?
There are many quizzes online that purport to show us what kind of learner we are. Why not try a few, just for fun?
Although American, the results from the BuzzFeed online quiz are scarily accurate. Or why not try the VARK questionnaire that looks at verbal, auditory, read or kinesthetic (sensory) learning styles which for a long time was the accepted theory of how we learn. This quiz asks questions about how well you learn to dance and what this means for your learning style…
How do you think you learn best?