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When educators talk about learning styles, they are referring to the belief that all students learn in different ways.

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What are the different learning styles?

The learning styles definition includes the way a student processes, absorbs, understands and retains the information that they’ve been given. For example, some people learn better by doing it themselves.

Other people are better able to learn by reading the information or seeing the explanation in words. Still others are better able to understand things by following instructions that are spoken aloud or by hearing explanations of abstract concepts.

The idea that students learn in different ways has become increasingly well-known and popular as a teaching methodology. Various factors influence learning styles. These include life experience, emotional development, and cognitive and environmental factors.

Learning styles are important for teachers to learn so that they can put teaching strategies in place that will give each student the optimal learning environment to succeed. In fact, many higher level teaching degree programs include coursework directly related to the integration of the different learning styles and education about obstacles that impede a student’s ability to learn.

Learning style questions include:
  • What is the learning styles theory?
  • What are the different learning styles?
  • How many learning styles are there?
  • How to accommodate different learning styles in the classroom?
  • How to determine learning styles?

Understanding VARK

A fundamental basis for understanding learning styles is VARK. VARK enables a better understanding of different learning types.

What are the 4 learning styles?

VARK categorizes learning styles into Visual Learners, Auditory Learners, and Kinesthetic Learners.

The educational theorist Neil Fleming created the VARK model. VARK stands for:
  • Visual
  • Auditory
  • Reading/Writing Preference
  • Kinesthetic

In some circles, VARK is simply VAK, which omits the reading/writing preference. VARK is a simplified way to express the different preferred learning modes of various students. An extended treatise on VARK is available in the 2006 academic article by Fleming & Baume, entitled, “Learning Styles Again: VARKing Up The Right Tree!”

What are the 3 types of learning styles for VARK?

The three main principles of VARK are:
  1. Learning strategies should complement a student’s preferred learning mode.
  2. A student’s preferred learning style significantly influences their behavior around learning.
  3. When the preferred learning mode is matched with teaching strategies, the student’s comprehension, meta-cognition and motivation all increase.

In short, as a teacher, you can measurably benefit your entire class by taking the time to identify each student using the VARK modality and implementing the complementary teaching strategies for each student.

When you pave the way for each student to process information through their individual modality preferences, there is a strong likelihood that their academic confidence and achievements will increase.

Following is a brief outline of the explanations for each type of learning style:

Visual learners are more comfortable when information can be accessed through visual aids such as graphics, maps and other image types. Auditory learners are best able to grasp and retain information through the auditory sense. They respond best to the spoken word.

For example, this group would be well matched with verbal discussions, lectures, mnemonic devices and even podcasts. Read & Write preference learners have a strong leaning toward the written word and even written symbols and numbers. This kind of student learns better through taking notes, reading notes, reading books and writing out information as they learn.

Kinesthetic learners are hands-on learners. They learn best by doing, not by reading or hearing instructions. This group needs tactile interaction in order to best grasp and retain information.

When a teacher can come to understand how the student best learns, a number of obstacles to learning can be successfully avoided. The VARK modality provides a foundation for teachers to build and implement creative teaching strategies that will connect with all types of student learning preferences, such as the following:

What is SWOT? & Strategies

SWOT is an acronym for Study Without Tears. With this, Fleming offers teachers valuable advice on specific teaching strategies for helping students study for an upcoming quiz, test or study assignment, all based on the VARK modality.

1. Visual SWOT Strategies

  • Heavily use graphic data organizers like pie charts, graphs and diagrams
  • Use memory recall to draw study images without looking at them
  • Substitute keywords or phrases with symbolic images or initials
  • Use a variety of colors to highlight key terms in reading material

2. Aural Strategies of SWOT

  • Read and record notes and listen to them through earbuds
  • Talk with others, like a study group, about the topic in depth
  • Read notes and study materials out loud to yourself
  • Lecture about the topic to fellow auditory learners

3. Read & Write Strategies of SWOT

  • Write out assignment notes over and over again
  • Rewrite the main ideas as if you had to explain them to others
  • Transform data from diagrams, charts, and pie graphs into written sentences of information

4. Kinesthetic Strategies of SWOT

  • Develop real-life scenarios of key concepts
  • Reconstruct situations through projects or live models
  • Curate and assemble a collection of physical images that best resemble your ideas

The different learning styles of students play a key role in how well any particular student will perform academically. When teachers take the time to understand how a student learns, it can significantly impact the student’s confidence and success for years to come.

There are courses available to help teachers learn how to implement the ideas behind VARK and to learn effective teaching strategies according to each learning style. If you’re a teacher and interested in such a course and require funding, learn more about our teaching funding service.

Interesting read: Best Practices in Education