The 4 Kinds of Learners and the Best Learning Strategies for Each
When you think back to your childhood, can you remember your favorite subject? Whatever it was, I’m sure you had your reasons for favoring it. Maybe you preferred the hands-on experiments that science offered or the chance to express yourself visually that art gave you. Well… actually, there may actually be more to it than that.
Over the past century, scientists and psychologists from around the world have put forth a number of different theories to help us understand the different ways that students learn. One of the most popular models to emerge is the VARK model, developed by Neil Fleming in the 1980s. VARK identifies four main kinds of learners:
The VARK theory suggests that each kind has its own set of common characteristics and responds most effectively to a particular method of teaching.
To illustrate the theory, let’s imagine you are learning a new skill, like learning to use a new app. What would you do first?
Watch a video of someone else using it.
Listen to a friend explain how to use it.
Read the instructions in plain text.
Try to use it by yourself and figure it out as you go.
In the example above, visual learners would likely choose option 1 to watch a video of someone else using the app.
As you can tell from the name, visual learners learn best through vision or sight. Visual displays, like photos, charts, illustrations, and videos, are all great tools for the visual learner to use. To further illustrate, students who favor visual learning may prefer to learn the name of a new animal by looking at a picture of it as opposed to reading a description.
In the example above, auditory learners would favor option 2 to listen to a friend explain how to use the app.
Auditory learners, sometimes known as aural learners, learn most effectively by listening to information. Audio-based activities, such as listening to lectures, music, ebooks, and podcasts, would suit auditory learners most when in the classroom or studying at home. Students who consider themselves auditory learners tend to prefer listening to a teacher explain a concept over reading about it in a textbook.
In the example above, read-write learners would primarily choose option 3 to read the app’s instructions.
Again, going by the name, you will be able to tell that read-write learners learn best when reading or writing words. Text-based activities, such as taking notes, reading novels or textbooks, and creating presentations, lend themselves well to the read-write learner when trying to learn something new or review old information. Those who are read-write learners would much prefer to read the Harry Potter books instead of watching the movies.
In the example above, kinesthetic learners would choose option 4 to try the app out for themselves and learn as they go.
Kinesthetic learners, also known as tactile learners, learn most successfully by touching, feeling, and, ultimately, doing. Hands-on activities, like building models, acting out scenarios, and carrying out experiments, work best for kinesthetic learners as it allows them to associate motion with information. As I’m sure many of you can confirm, a kinesthetic learner couldn’t care less about listening to lectures or reading textbooks; they want to get up there and give it a go themselves!
The Last Kind of Learner
Now I’m sure some of you are thinking, “I like to watch tutorial videos but I also like to read, too!” Well, if a few of the learning styles popped out to you or if you change preferences depending on the situation, you may well be what Fleming referred to as a multimodal learner. Lucky you! This just means you can take value and benefit from more than one style of learning.
What type of learner are you?
By now, you are probably leaning towards one or two of the styles, but if you want to find out for sure what kind of learner you or your child is, take our simple questionnaire below.