An Introduction To Learning Styles
Sep 17, 2011 Learning Methodology 2943 Views
We all have certain preferences when it comes to receiving information. Some of us like to learn exclusively by reading books, while others favour discussing ideas with other people to help themselves understand a topic or problem. Recognising what your preferences are is generally considered a good way to improve the way you perceive and process new information. It can be a very useful skill for someone still progressing through education.
This concept of "learning styles" has been a topic of much debate among educational professionals and academics over the years, with many different models and theories springing up as a result. One of the most popular models is the VARK model, which recognises three different types of learning style:
- Visual - Refers to those who like to learn from written sources. This can include books, slideshows, charts and images.
- Auditory - Refers to those who prefer to hear and talk about new information. This means that they typically favour educational formats such as lectures and seminars, with the former offering the chance to hear large amounts of information while the other facilitates discussion, debate and group consensus.
- Kinesthetic - Refers to those who need to experience the subject they are being taught. This means they favour practical subjects where learning takes place through real-world applications of theoretical material and where the student is allowed to take a hands-on approach to the subject. Actual physical movement improves learning for people who favour this style.
These three learning styles cover a wide range of different educational activities, and most people will agree that they have preference for one or two styles over another. Knowing what your preferred learning style is can be very helpful, because it will help you tailor your own learning towards your strengths, subsequently making education more effective.
In order to help students recognise their learning preferences, it has been suggested that teachers should include in their lesson plans a variety of activities across the three styles. Encouraging an awareness of learning styles can also help students reflect more effectively on their own learning. Not only will they realise where their strengths lie but also their weaknesses, which will allow them to start to developing strategies to deal with the more challenging aspects of their education.
However, it is important to note that models of learning styles, including the VARK model, have received some criticism in recent years. One notable complaint has been that learning style theory implicitly suggests that we have one fixed or exclusive learning style to which we must adapt. This argument suggests that focusing too narrowly on "inherited" learning styles can actually damage our education, when really we should be developing learning strategies which will help us make the most out of each type of learning.
This argument highlights a popular misconception about learning styles being fixed and limiting. In fact, it is widely recognised that the most effective learners make use of all learning styles, responding to the demands and benefits of each to maximise their ability to receive and interpret new information. Perhaps the best approach that students can take is to recognize where they stand in relation to learning styles, so that they can tailor their education to make the most of their strengths while also working on their weaknesses. This will help them pursue a flexible and responsive attitude which, in turn, helps them get the most out of their education.