There’s no one size fits all when it comes to how you comprehend information. Everyone is different but the concept of different learning styles is something that is vital to understand about ourselves so that we can get the most out of what we are taught. No matter what type of student or learner you are, you are more likely to understand the taste of salt if you actually try it rather than reading a book on it. However, having an idea of the basics of what to look out for when you are learning is a great tool for progressing your ability to learn. Learning is a journey and the more you give it a go the better you will become at it.
When it comes to navigating your way through education, you might find that you prefer certain ways of understanding information.
You may already know, for example, that you retain more information when you study alone; or that you understand a mathematical process faster when you walk through the steps with a friend. When you start to ask yourself how you learn best—little insights like this can help you thrive in your education.
Trying out different methods of learning can also be more engaging for you as the learner and it will help you to thrive when investigating further. This develops your skills or even just trying to pick up something new.
Learning styles can still have a real impact on your experience as a student. Consider learning songs to memorise material. If you find yourself staring at a list of important quotations from an English text or some historical dates and it is getting you nowhere, you might attempt making them into a song.
Many people recognise that each person prefers different learning styles and techniques. Learning styles group common ways that people learn. Everyone has a mix of learning styles. Some people may find that they have a dominant style of learning, with far less use of the other styles. Others may find that they use different styles in different circumstances. There is no right mix. Nor are your styles fixed. You can develop ability in less dominant styles, as well as further develop styles that you already use well.
By recognizing and understanding your own learning styles, you can use techniques better suited to you. This improves the speed and quality of your learning. Let’s examine some of the types of learner that there are out there – they can be broken into seven categories.
Seven Learning Styles:
- Visual (Spatial): You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
- Aural (Auditory-Musical): You prefer using sound and music.
- Verbal (Linguistic): You prefer using words, both in speech and writing.
- Physical (Kinaesthetic): You prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch.
- Logical (Mathematical): You prefer using logic, reasoning and systems.
- Social (Interpersonal): You prefer to learn in groups or with other people.
- Solitary (Intrapersonal): You prefer to work alone and use self-study.
A strong blend between these styles can be a great way to improve the way that you study and understand the information that you are learning and help you to form an easier path to success. However, your learning styles have more influence than you may realise.
Your preferred styles guide the way you learn. They also change the way you internally represent experiences, the way you recall information, and even the words you choose. Research shows us that each learning style uses different parts of the brain. By involving more of the brain during learning, we remember more of what we learn.
Researchers using brain-imaging technologies have been able to find out the key areas of the brain responsible for each learning style. It can be difficult to know how you learn best but continue reading this blog to discover some of the characteristics of different learning styles.
1) Visual (Spatial)
As the name suggests, visual learners are those that learn best when they have images to help them process the information. This learning style requires you to first see what they’re expected to know. You may also need to map out your thoughts in order to process them better.
These are some of the most common characteristics of visual learners:
- Have good spatial awareness and sense of direction
- Can easily visualise objects, plans, and outcomes
- Like colouring, drawing, and doodling
- Have good colour balance
For example, a visual learner in an English class may process the information better by seeing a video clip of how a film adapts the literature it was based on, instead of listening to the book being read aloud.
You are a visual learner if: You prefer pictures, images, and mind maps to help you process information. Why not try to use a flow diagram or mind map to explain the plot of the English text that you are studying? You may wish to use dual coding using a mixture of images and words to help speed up your acquisition and retrieval of knowledge?
2) Aural (Auditory-Musical)
Aural learning is used to classify those who respond primarily to sound and speech. Unsurprisingly, many musicians are aural learners. Auditory learners generally remember what their teacher says and readily participate in class.
- Find that certain music invokes strong emotions
- Enjoy listening to music in the background while learning
- Have a good sense of pitch or rhythm
- Skilled at oral reports and class presentations
- Able to work through complex problems by talking out loud
For example, a song that helps you remember the important mathematical formulae or some important dates in a period of history that you are studying is a way to tap into aural learning styles.
You are an aural learner if: You prefer learning through rhythms or tend to use clever rhymes to remember something. If you are not a skilled musician and find that you are an aural learner then you have nothing to worry about! Visit a streaming site, like YouTube, where you will find plenty of videos and tunes made for learners just like yourself. Listen carefully to the lyrics of your favourite songs but with adapted lyrics of course. You will know the tune quite often so you will only need to adapt the lyrics in your memory and you will soon be able to recall a new topic or concept.
3) Verbal (Linguistic)
Verbal learners learn best through the words they hear. Typically, they love both written and spoken word, excelling in both. These learners often go into public speaking, writing, journalism, and debating.
- Tend to flourish in reading and writing activities
- Ask questions and have an excellent verbal expression
- Often gifted at learning new languages
- Have a large vocabulary and enjoy learning new words
- Dislike silence and enjoy participating in study groups
For example, reading definitions of a word aloud or writing them down a few times, are ways for verbal learners to process information.
You are a verbal learner if: You need to read content out loud to learn something or prefer to have someone explain it to you so you can process it. It may sound crazy but talking out loud about a topic and how to do it can help greatly if you are an aural learner. Take a topic and explain to someone else or even yourself if you are alone (don’t worry nobody will know you are talking to yourself) and anything that you don’t remember you can look at your notes for. Repeat this and keep adding to what you can repeat each time. Make sure to have a different colour or note book to help record progress of what you have been able to remember each time.
4) Physical (Kinaesthetic)
If you are someone who likes getting their hands dirty, then you are likely a physical learner. Physical learners are animated, and they learn best by going through the motions of what they are learning.
- Have high levels of energy
- Notice and appreciate the physical world around them, such as textures
- Enjoy sports and exercise along with outdoor activities and working with their hands
- Have excellent motor memory (can duplicate something after doing it once)
- Perform well in art and drama
For example, if something is bothering you or you are trying to wrap your head around a concept, you would rather go for a run or walk than sit down and figure it out.
You are a physical learner if: You don’t learn something until you do it. You need to draw out your own diagrams or role-play to learn new information. Try acting out a scene of a Shakespeare play in order to visualise it better within your own mind or you may need to just try out that experiment in science again to remember the steps – make sure you get your teacher’s help so that you stay safe! You could play a game with some friends, for example, you may take a ball and a topic or question and as you pass the ball around the group you have to try to explain the next step of the process – you are not only helping yourself but the others around you too!
5) Logical (Mathematical)
Most logical thinkers end up being engineers, mathematicians, or pursuing the sciences. They are the individuals who want to understand the reasons behind and tend to enjoy games like chess and doing brainteasers.
- Classify and group information together to better understand it
- Perform complex calculations
- Create procedures for future use, after coming up with a solution to a problem
For example, those who prefer making neat and organised lists while studying and extracting key points from the material are typically logical learners.
You are a logical learner if: You can learn something only when you understand the bigger picture, along with the logic, reasoning, and systems behind the concepts. You may need to begin with a plan or list of what you want to achieve. Using resources such as knowledge organisers or learning mats are a great place to start if you want to start learning something new. It would be extremely useful as a logical learner for you to look at all of the information you have about a topic so that you can explore any gaps you may have and repeat any bits that you don’t understand.
As a logical learner, you will get pleasure in formulating lists of the tasks that you need to complete but don’t get caught up in simply writing lists. An excellent idea is to read the content, do something with it like make notes and then to quiz/test yourself on it – this may seem simple but it has a structure and logical plan behind it and will help you to get to grips with new and old information as a logical learner.
6) Social (Intra-personal):
As the name suggests, social learners are true people persons. They often prefer direct involvement with others in group projects. They are stimulated by dialog and may seek out feedback from instructors. However, they may not be comfortable or perform best when required to work alone or on self-paced projects.
- Prefer to socialise after and whilst learning – they may choose to join or form a study group outside of the classroom
- Enjoy playing group sports or participating in activities, such as speech, drama, and debate teams
- Bounce ideas off of others and work through issues in a group
- Listen well and are good at resolving conflicts
- Are often trusted by others for their advice
For example, when teachers assign group projects, it is often a way to appeal to social learners.
You are a social learner if: You prefer to work with other people and find you learn best in groups. Why not have a debate about the themes of the text and arguments that you could take in your essays? Quizzing each other in a group is another great way to solidify old and new information and you can have a lot of fun with your peers whilst doing this. Social learners often combine other methods such as visual and physical whilst learning too. For example, a social learner may engage with their learning by making a big mind map or timeline with their friends so that they can share ideas and add their individuals and build knowledge from each other.
7) Solitary (Interpersonal):
Solitary learners are individuals who prefer to learn on their own. They are self-motivated and highly independent. They favour a quiet environment both in their personal and academic lives.
- Spend time on self-analysis
- Struggle in large crowds and noisy rooms
- Excellent self-management skills
- Journal, write, and record personal thoughts and events as a way to improve
- Like to set goals and make plans
For example, someone who reads self-help books to develop a deeper understanding of themselves is often a solitary learner.
You are a solitary learner if: You need to sit alone and study by yourself in order to retain information. Your study may involve making notes, mind maps, flashcards or reading on your own so that you can concentrate carefully on what you are doing and are not distracted by others. Solitary learners might like to be away from their peers and attempt questions on the topic and mark it themselves to discover where they went wrong and then independently visit a teacher to get support if they really can’t work it out on their own. You may find that the best way to absorb new and old information is by repeatedly writing it out in different ways on your own using methods from other styles such as visual or logical.
These characteristics are not fixed, however, and it is important that you delve between the different learning styles in order to learn more effectively.
An assortment of styles will help you become a successful learner and develop your learning skills further. Flexibility is also important when it comes to learning; you must be able to adapt easily to different situations and quickly grasp which style is the best for what you are doing.
If you find that a method is not working very well, then take control of your learning. Try another technique. By doing so you will be using a different part of your brain that will help to embed the concept or information that you are looking at. The more that you try to learn the better that you will become at it.
If you want to get an idea of your dominant learning style, then you could have a go at taking this quiz by Oxford Learning College: https://www.oxfordcollege.ac/learning-type-quiz/
Whichever learning style(s) suit you is up to you but remember to follow certain rules whenever you are learning. Organise. Attempt. Stall. Practice. Understand. You are in control of your own learning. With perseverance and motivation, you can succeed in anything that you do however you like to learn and remember you need to try the salt to know what it tastes like!