Learning Styles

“Perhaps the most simple way of describing ‘learning styles’ is to say that they are different  methods of learning or understanding new information, the way a person takes in,  understand, expresses and remembers information” (Anon., 2008) There are different methods of learning and each person may have their own preferred way or a mixture. In a classroom situation a teacher or lecturer needs to try and accommodate each type of learning style; visual, aural, kinesthetic and read/write.

“Different students have different modes of learning, and their learning could be improved by matching one’s teaching with that preferred learning mode” (Riener & Willingam, 2010) A visual learner prefers to learn through pictures, diagrams, graphs etc. An aural learner finds by listening to the teacher or lecturer they learn better. Kinesthetic learners learn by ‘doing’ and read/write learners prefer reading handouts and rewriting the notes while studying. I personally am a read/write learner primarily. I rewrite any handouts I receive several times until I end up with headings and I will expand on each and if I struggle here I will return to previous notes to refresh my memory.

“Approximately 40% of college students are visual learners, preferring to be taught through pictures, diagrams, flow charts, timelines, films, and demonstrations” (Clarke, et al., 2006) Visual learners may draw diagrams on the side of pages or highlight important phrases within a text, this does not mean that they are not paying attention to the teacher or lecturer. Mind maps are also very useful to a visual learner as they are able to use colour and pictures to link concepts instead of texts. “Without visual instruction, some students may be underperforming because of the inconsistency between teachers’ teaching styles and students’ learning styles. Because it has been suggested that some college students learn better from visual stimuli, an improved balance between verbal and visual techniques could offer significant learning benefits” (Clarke, et al., 2006) Form my experience while studying at the Athlone Institute of Technology since January 2014, the lectures are very accommodating to visual learners by presenting their lectures via a projector. The presentations they have created contain colour, pictures and diagrams and are available to the students via Moodle. “To many people, the key to memory lies in providing a visual depiction of the material. Because visual learners learn best through sight, pictorial depictions of the materials become central to memory. The brain’s memory power primarily works with key concepts that are interrelated, or linked, in some manner” (Higgins, 1994) “Other tricks to try for visual learners include spatially rearranging your page—instead of writing across a page horizontally, write in a way that is more descriptive of the relationship being described—for example, write the words out in a circular pattern if that more truly represents the relationship you are describing” (Anon., 2008)

“Aural learners concentrate on what lecturers say. Moreover, aural learners may talk out their answers or listen to taped discussions about exam topics” (Alkhasawneh, et al., 2008) Aural learners tend to read aloud when studying and it can be helpful to make up a rhyme to remember lists. “An auditory learner may not remember a silent demonstration. They need accompanying verbal explanation of what is happening” (Fairclough, 2008) I believe aural learners are the most catered for by teachers and lectures. Throughout my educational experience, the majority of lectures I attended were presented by a facilitator who delivered the message by speaking, explaining and asking questions. I have often been in lectures where I am listening to the lecturer and writing down key words or phrases as it is part of my learning style and then it is announced to the class that there is no need to be writing as we will receive the notes later. Some teachers and lecturers need to understand that this is a way of a student retaining the information they are presenting and be accommodating to it.

“Hands-on learners are kinesthetic learners. These learners prefer to practise a new behaviour or skill by manipulating equipment. Simulation, hands-on demonstration, and role playing are effective teaching strategies for this group” (Adrianne E. Avillon, 2009) Kinesthetic learners are hands-on learners and teachers and lecturers may find it difficult to accommodate them. They prefer to be able to use their hands in a practical situation to understand what it is they are being taught. There are ways to help a kinesthetic learner in a classroom situation; flashcards can be used as an aide as they are a physical item and can be held and moved around; also being asked to redraw a diagram is helpful as they will be using their hands.  During my Initial Tutor Training from the Longford Westmeath Adult Training Board I was shown some techniques to help a kinesthetic adult learner. One was when teaching spelling, to have them spell it on a mobile phone; with predictive text turned off or a computer as the movement of their fingers will help them to remember. For writing it was suggested to have the adult learner ‘draw’ with their finger on sandpaper because when it came to writing they will remember the ‘feel’ of the sandpaper and movement of their finger. These methods suit a one to one situation but can be suggested as a method outside the classroom. “Try taking an example from the text, or lecture, or lab, and then try creating your own example. As a general rule, the more personal your created example is, the better your recall will be for that example” (Anon., 2008)

“Read & Write Learners make good traditional studiers. They fit in with the conventional, school-taught study method of reading textbooks and writing notes. Read & Write Learners are good at taking notes during class. They study best by reading over these notes or copying them out” (Clare, 2010) Read/Write learner which I believe I primarily am learn best by reading themselves and rewriting notes. Read/Write learners would prefer to put a diagram into words to learn it. When I was in secondary school a physics teacher once told me to concentrate on learning the short, straight to the point definitions but this was a struggle for me. I was able to give a long explanation to why something was true as I had rewritten my notes and explained the diagrams in words that I could study. Reciting a one line definition was difficult for me as I needed an explanation behind it. “If you’re a read/write learner, pay special attention to text book glossaries—better yet, make your own as you progress through a course. After lecture, return to your notes for review, read them over, and then create a new, condensed set of study notes. Lists can also be a very useful tool” (Anon., 2008)

It is important for a person to find out what works best for them. It will save them time, be less frustrating and benefit them greatly. “Determining your learning style – how you learn best – will help you learn to select the appropriate study strategies to use for each of the tasks you will need to complete for your courses” (Van Blerkom, n.d.) Also it would be beneficial to try and practise all the learning styles as your preferred one may not always be the best method to use when learning certain items.

 Sources 

Adrianne E. Avillon, D. R., 2009. Learning Styles in Nursing Education: Integrating Teaching Strategies Into Staff Development. First ed. Marblehead: HCPro, Inc.

Alkhasawneh, I. M. et al., 2008. Problem-based learning (PBL); Assessing students’ learning preferences using vark. Nurses Education Today, 28(5), pp. 572-579.

Anon., 2008. Understanding your Learning Style. [Online]
Available at: http://web.wlu.ca/learning_resources/pdfs/Learning_Styles.pdf
[Accessed 24 March 2014].

Clare, 2010. The Study Gurus. [Online]
Available at: http://www.thestudygurus.com/read-write-study-tips/
[Accessed 24 March 2014].

Clarke, I. I., Flaherty, T. B. & Yankey, M., 2006. Teaching the Visual Learner: The Use of Visual Summaries in Marketing Education. Journal of Marketing Education, 28(3), pp. 218-226.

Fairclough, M., 2008. Supporting Learners in the Lifelong Learning Sector. First ed. Berkshire, GBR: Open University Press.

Higgins, J. M., 1994. Creating Creativity. Training and Development, 48(11), pp. 11-16.

Riener, C. & Willingham, D., 2010. The Myth of Learning Styles. Change, September, 42(5), pp. 32-35.

Van Blerkom, D. L., n.d. College Study Skills: Become a Strategic Learner. Seventh ed. Boston: Wadsworth Cenage Learning.

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