BlogTuesday 25 Aug 2015

What is your learning style? How to turn your natural learning instincts to your advantage

What is your learning style? Does the question conjure up an image of you at your desk flipping from Facebook and Twitter to your textbook and then back to Instagram to see how many people liked your recent post? After ten minutes scrolling through pictures dreaming about the life you could be living, you spend another five minutes trying to find that assignment check list which has disappeared under a plate of cold toast.

Believe it or not, ‘learning style’ is not just about our study habits – good or bad – it’s about the way in which we learn new information, commit facts to memory and solve problems.

Leading educators and psychologists believe there are three main learning styles: 

  • visual, 
  • auditory and 
  • tactile, (also referred to as kinaesthetic.)

Most of us lean more towards one particular style of learning although we usually use a combination of two styles or sometimes all three.

For example, say you wanted to be master chef in your own kitchen and create a complicated Jamie Oliver recipe.

The visual learners would probably want to study the written recipe carefully, look at the diagrams and pictures and check off the ingredients and method as they went along.

Those with a more auditory learning style would probably search for a YouTube clip or online video to hear aural instructions as well as see the visual demonstration of the dish being prepared.

The tactile learners are more likely to want to go ahead and try out the recipe by themselves. Tactile learners tend to be ‘hands-on’, learning by doing, feeling and experimenting, and perhaps ditching the instructions altogether! 

Not recommended if you’re in a welding class, but fine if you’re attempting Jamie Oliver’s roasted chicken stuffed with fragrant couscous.

There’s no right or wrong learning style, but knowing what works best for you can make it much easier to learn new course work and set up good learning habits for life. 

Still confused? Then take this quick simple quiz to identify your learning style and you’ll be well on your way to plenty of light bulb moments.

How identifying your learning style can focus your study

Once you know whether you are a visual, auditory or tactile learner you can use that information to make the learning pathway a whole lot easier.

The visual learners will want to grab the highlighter pen, take notes and use graphics; the auditory learners will need to tune in to lectures, read aloud and get a study buddy; and the tactile learners will want to embrace all of their senses in workshops and field situations in order to learn by trial and error, physical sensation and ‘doing’.

Although the VAK model of learning is not an exact science, many educators now acknowledge that everybody learns differently and are providing useful study techniques to enhance individual learning styles.

In addition, North Coast TAFE counsellors and librarians offer support services to help you develop techniques to support your learning style once identified.

Visual, auditory or tactile … or a gifted combination of all three … whatever your learning style, it’s worth remembering this famous quote regarding learning in general:  

“The more that you read, the more things you will know, The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go”

Confucius? Einstein? No, Dr Seuss actually, but he makes a very good point.