What’s your Learning Style?

Dec 13, 2018

Riya is finding the Biology class very tough since the teacher is only speaking about the topic and does not use any diagrams or slides to make it easy to understand. Some of her friends are not facing any challenges in this class, but for Riya, this class is frustrating. Unable to understand the flow of topic, Riya is spending large amount of time searching the internet to find illustrations or diagrams which can make sense to her. Being a good student who is doing well in all her other subjects, but not faring very well in Biology is leading to stress.

To find a solution, Riya reaches out to the teacher and expresses her concerns. The teacher is also finding it difficult to get through her and tries to figure out how she can help Riya score well. On discussions with her peers, the teacher finds out about Learning Styles and discovers that Riya's dominant learning style is Visual rather than Auditory. The teacher works closely with Riya to provide her more visual aids like slides, diagrams, videos for the topic. She also asks her to sit in the front row since visual learners find it more stimulating when they are at the front. Few weeks later, there is a marked difference in the learning outcome of Riya and like other subjects she soon starts acing in Biology as well. The teacher continues the practice of personalizing learning styles of each student and as a result sees a significant difference in the learning outcome of the entire class.

The above scenario reinforces the education sector's paradigm shift from teacher-centered learning to student-centered learning and personalizing learning to achieve better academic success.

What are Learning Styles?

The term, ‘learning style’ describes an individual’s preferred method of gathering, processing, interpreting, organizing and analyzing information. Developed by Neil Fleming in 1987, there are 4 different learning styles in the VARK model: Visual, Aural/Auditory, Read/Write, and Kinesthetic.

Source: Visually

The knowledge on the learning styles has implications for both educators and the students. The teachers become aware of the students’ learning styles and they can therefore incorporate teaching-learning strategies which are tailored to meet the students’ learning preferences. The students can prepare for their assignments or exams with the SWOT (Study without tears) techniques listed below based on each style.

Educator Strategies

Visual Learners

  • Use powerpoint slides, videos, flowcharts, maps, or mind maps.
  • Create checklists, write flashcards , draw pictures.
  • Highlight keywords

Auditory Learners

  • Record you lectures and provide the files to students
  • Use Audio books or podcasts
  • Stage debates and public discussions on key topics

Read/Write Learners

  • Have students summarize the concepts
  • Provide handouts for principles and concepts
  • Give reading list for students to do during vacations

Kinesthetic Learners

  • Use art supplies like crayons, origami paper to teach a concept
  • Design activities like asking students to imagine what they are learning and act out
  • Organize fields trips and lab experiments

Since the learning styles are not fixed, using a multi modal approach by mixing all the methods can assist the teacher is engaging all different learning styles in the class.

Student Strategies

As per Fleming, there are some SWOT (Study without tears) strategies that one can use to prepare better for an upcoming test or an assignment:

Visual Learners

  • Use mnemonics or symbols to replace keywords
  • Use color highlighters to remember important words
  • Use graphic organizers like charts, mind maps, graphs, diagrams

Auditory Learners

  • Read your notes or assignments out loud.
  • Record your notes and hear them back.
  • Discuss or brainstorm with other students.

Read/Write Learners

  • Write down the main ideas and principles
  • Convert diagrams, charts into statements to gain deeper understanding
  • Read your notes silently repeatedly

Kinesthetic Learners

  • Connect with real life examples , field trips or case studies for abstract concepts.
  • Redo lab experiments or projects
  • Use pictures and photographs that illustrate an idea.

How technology can help?

With technology rapidly becoming an integral part of classroom lesson plans, educators and students can use various technological tools to identify each student's learning style and engage with each one of them as per their preferences. School education management platforms like EdSense can help by surveying the students on their learning preference and providing blended learning methods like interactive content, gamification of tasks and concepts, prioritization of time, and videos which meet the objective of personalized learning pathways. This would not only create an efficient learning environment, but it would also motivate the students to achieve academic success.

If you want to analyze your learning style, take the questionnaire available on student accounts on your school's EdSense platform. To make the most of your learning, it is important not to limit yourself to the dominant style, rather address as many learning styles as you can. Strengthen your knowledge with the main learning style, then follow with different styles.

In the above scenario, after gaining confidence in a subject, Riya and her teacher can move on to explore auditory learning techniques. This will assist Riya to become a lifelong self-directed learner and maximize her true potential.

- Madhavi Agnihotri

Madhavi Agnihotri

A technologist passionate about how an effective education system can build a future ready generation.