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Learning Styles



 A. understand what learning styles are;
 B. identify your preferred learning style;
 C. reflect on how the knowledge of learning styles can improve learning experiences.
The idea of a learning style is that we all have a way in which we prefer to learn. For example, some people like to sit down and read about a subject while others prefer to learn by engaging in some kind of physical activity.

There are many different learning styles models; one literature review identified 71 different models.
Time needed to review this content: 20 MIN

However, it's not so simple as learning preferences can change over time or depending on circumstances - as you are required to do different things at work and in life more generally.  There are substantial criticisms of learning-styles approaches. Although there is ample evidence that individuals express preferences for how they prefer to receive information, few studies have found that using learning styles in education is really effective. Despite of this, the theories of learning styles remain very popular and widely accepted.
Would you like to determine your learning style as well as those of your colleagues and see how that can benefit your company?

One of the most popular theories of learning styles is that they fall into three “categories:” Visual Learners, Auditory Learners and Tactile or Kinesthetic Learners.



If you are a visual learner, you learn by reading or seeing pictures. You can picture what you are learning in your head, and you learn best by using methods that are primarily visual. You like to see what you are learning.
As a visual learner, you are usually neat and clean. You often close your eyes to visualize or remember something, and you will find something to watch if you become bored.
You may have difficulty with spoken directions and may be easily distracted by sounds. You are attracted to color and to spoken language (like stories) that is rich in imagery.

Here are some things that visual learners can do to learn better:

• Sit near the front of the classroom
• Try to visualize things that you hear or things that are read to you
• Write down key words, ideas, or instructions
• Draw pictures to help explain new concepts and then explain the pictures
• Color code things
• Avoid distractions during study times


If you are an auditory learner, you learn by hearing and listening. You store information by the way it sounds, and you have an easier time understanding spoken instructions than written ones. You often learn by reading out loud because you have to hear it or speak it in order to know it.
As an auditory learner, you probably hum or talk to yourself or others if you become bored. People may think you are not paying attention, even though you may be hearing and understanding everything being said.

Here are some things that auditory learners can do to learn better:
• Sit where you can hear
• Use flashcards to learn new words; read them out loud
• Read stories, assignments, or directions out loud
• Record yourself spelling words and then listen to the recording
• Have test questions read to you out loud
• Study new material by reading it out loud


If you are a tactile learner, you learn by touching and doing. You are a "hands-on" learner who prefers to touch, move, build, or draw what you learn, and you tend to learn better when some type of physical activity is involved.
You need to be active and take frequent breaks, you often speak with your hands and with gestures, and you may have difficulty sitting still.
As a tactile learner, you like to take things apart and put things together, and you tend to find reasons to tinker or move around when you become bored. You may be very well coordinated and have good athletic ability.
You can easily remember things that were done but may have difficulty remembering what you saw or heard in the process. You often communicate by touching, and you appreciate physically expressed forms of encouragement, such as a pat on the back.

Here are some things that tactile learners like you can do to learn better:
• Participate in activities that involve touching, building, moving, or drawing.
• Walk around, rock in a chair or hold on to something while reading or studying.
• Use flashcards and arrange them in groups to show relationships between ideas.
• Trace words with your finger to learn spelling (finger spelling).
• Take frequent (but not long) breaks during reading or studying periods.
• Use a computer to reinforce learning through the sense of touch.

Once you know your own natural learning preference, you can work on expanding the way you learn, so that you can learn in other ways, not just in your preferred style.
And, by understanding learning styles, you can learn to create an environment in which everyone can learn from you, not just those who use your preferred style.



If you are in the role of a teacher/ trainer, you can try using different methods for different kinds of learners, or better a combination of methods that accommodate different styles:
• Learning methods for visual learners will ensure that students can see words written, using pictures, and drawing timelines for events
• Methods for auditory learners will include repeating words aloud, small-group discussion, debates, listening to books on tape, oral reports
• Methods for tactile/kinesthetic learners will include hands-on activities, projects, frequent breaks to allow movement, visual aids, role-play, and field trips

By using a variety of teaching methods from each of these categories, teachers cater to different learning styles at once, and improve learning by challenging students to learn in different ways.

Despite the popularity of theories on learning styles, they have been criticized by many researchers, which claim that there is no scientific evidence to support the idea that matching activities to one’s learning style improves learning. According to Susan Greenfield the practice is "nonsense" from a neuroscientific point of view: "Humans have evolved to build a picture of the world through our senses working in unison, exploiting the immense interconnectivity that exists in the brain."

Many trainers believe that labeling learners as having only one specific learning style is not the correct way to go about teaching and training; there is a multimodal style of learning as well. You can be an auditory learner when it comes to a specific subject and be a visual learner when it comes to a different topic.
Despite the lack of scientific evidence, many teachers and educators continue to find value and benefit by using learning styles theories in one way or another.
Understanding preferred learning styles may help you to find new ways of studying that better work for you and appreciate the other learning methods as well. On the other hand, if you attempt to train others, mixing different learning experiences may help achieve better results.

Animated examples of different learning styles (3:16 min)

"Good Thinking! — Sending "Learning Styles" Out of Style" - this video argues that independent of a preferred "learning style", all students benefit from a combination of different learning methods (7:16 min)

What's your learning style? (1:34 min)


You can get clues to whether someone is visual, auditory or tactile from the kind of language that they use:

• Visual persons will use phrases like “I see what you mean”, and “Let me get the picture straight in my mind”
• Auditory persons will be more likely to say “I hear what you’re saying”
• Tactiles, on the other hand, will “feel your pain” and give you a hug

A knowledge of learning styles may help you identify which ways of learning might be more enjoyable for you.
Even if there are elements of your course which do not particularly suit you, bear with it! Different experiences will broaden your ability to learn in different ways, which is always helpful. 


• Learning styles are the ways we prefer to learn;
• According to one of the main learning styles theories, learners can be divided into auditory, visual and tactile;
• There is a lack of scientific evidence that matching activities to one’s learning style improves learning;
• However, understanding learning styles and the natural learning preference, you can choose more enjoyable learning experiences and work on expanding the way you learn;
• By using a variety of teaching methods, teachers can cater to different learning styles at once, and improve learning.



What do you think is your learning style?
How understanding different learning styles can help your business?

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