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Introduction

Learning is the process through which individuals acquire knowledge, skills or behaviors. It usually originates from an experience. An event or a sequence of events that happen on a number of occasions, help us learn. Learning is not confined to the realms of formal educational setups like schools or colleges. It is an ongoing activity and cannot be bound by time or place. However, the likelihood of acquiring knowledge or skill may vary with time or place. For instance, humans learn elementary social skills during their childhood years at their homes. Professional skills though, develop during their adulthood at an institution. Similarly, the manner in which different individuals prefer to learn or are likely to learn is also not predetermined. It is flexible and varies across individuals. For instance, an individual may prefer learning-by-seeing. Yet another might prefer learning-by-writing. Learning Styles are thus, the different approaches through which individuals learn

 

Flow Diagram for the process of learning
Representation of the Learning Process

Every individual has a unique learning style. This is because the manner in which an individual gathers, understands, organizes and remembers information is unique. However, the learning style of an individual does not stay the same throughout. It changes and evolves. Factors such as age, subject area, learning environment, social environment, cognitive skills and education influence the learning style. An individual’s unique learning style does not in any way limit their learning abilities. It is just their preferred way of learning, not their only way of learning. It may happen that an individual prefers to learn differently under different situations.

The articles: What is learning?  at the Queen’s University and Learning Styles at the Vanderbilt University websites offer more information on learning and learning styles to the reader.

 

Classification of Learning Styles

Researchers have conducted detailed studies to classify and describe the different learning preferences. A model known as the VARK by Neil Fleming, and another by David Kolb are widely discussed and cited on the internet. This article discusses the seven most commonly identified and discussed learning styles. The three fundamental types are: visual, aural and kinesthetic. The other four styles are: verbal, logical, social, solitary. Each of these styles is also known by alternate names in different print and online texts.

Fundamental  Learning Styles

Visual Learning Style: Visual learners prefer to use images, pictures or other visual media for learning. They are more likely to retain information which is rich in visual content (graphs, maps, diagrams). Graphic designers, architects, photographers, etc. are likely to belong to this category of learners.

Aural Learning Style: The aural learners prefer to learn through listening. They tend to retain information which is rich in aural content such as discussions, debates and lectures. Such learners may face difficulty in learning from visual content such as graphs or diagrams. Professionals, such as counselors and media program anchors are likely to belong to this category of learners.

 

Table summarizing the different aspects of fundamental learning styles.
Fundamental  Learning Styles

Kinesthetic Learning Style, also known as the Physical or Tactual Learning Style: Physical learners learn well if they are able to involve hand or body movement in the learning process. Examples of kinesthetic style exercises are: making drawings or role playing. Physical therapists and mechanics are professionals who belong to this category of learners.

The article, The Four Different Types Of Learners, And What They Mean To Your Presentations[Infographic] on the Prezi Blog provides a short introduction to fundamental types of learners. It also advises on the design of suitable infographics for such learners. Another article, The Importance of Understanding Employee learning Styles for working professionals is available at BGW-CPA web-page.

Developed Learning Styles

Verbal Learning Style, alternately known as the Auditory-Verbal or Verbal (Linguistic) Style: Learners in this category prefer to learn through the use of language in different forms, viz. reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Verbal style learners can learn different languages.

Logical Learning Style, alternately known as the Mathematical Style: Learners in this category employ logical and mathematical reasoning to further their knowledge and learning. Engineers, scientists, mathematicians, etc. belong to this category of learners.

 

Table summarizing the different aspects of developed learning styles
Developed Learning Styles 

Social Learning Style, alternately known as the Interpersonal Style: Learners in this category have a strong ability to communicate with people. They employ this ability to develop their own knowledge. Sociologists and psychologists belong to this category of learners.

Solitary learning Style, alternately known as the Intrapersonal Style: Learners in this category prefer to be on their own without any supervision. Such learners are self-motivated, self-managed, and may be introverts. Entrepreneurs belong to this category of learners.

The articles: Overview of learning Styles at learning-styles-online.com; The 8 learning Styles at visme.co/blog; and At Your Fingertips: The 8 types of Learning Styles at skillsyouneed.com offer an in-depth reading on the classification and definition of different learning styles. An elaborate article, Discover Your Learning Style – Comprehensive Guide on Different Learning Styles is available at the Education Corner website.

 

Importance and Identification of  Learning Styles 

Developing and employing effective pedagogy has always been an area of concern for educators. Employment of ineffective pedagogies may, ultimately, result in poor learning outcomes. The concept of learning styles helps mitigate this problem. Knowledge of learning styles helps an instructor decide the type of exercises, activities and method of instruction for a class. The method of instruction for visual learners may include charts, graphs, posters, pictures. The method of instruction for auditory learners may include recorded speeches, podcasts or audio books. A balanced combination of different methods of instruction is suitable for a class of students with different  styles of learning. The adoption of appropriate pedagogy thus, aids the learning process. This, in turn, ensures that the learning sessions become more fulfilling. Intended learning outcomes are thus achieved ultimately.

It is thus essential to identify the learning style of individuals, before picking suitable strategies for teaching and learning. The VARK is one of the most popular online tools which helps in identifying the learning preferences of an individual. It is available free of cost for use by the academia. Business and other users may have to pay a fee to use the tool. There are other similar tools available online for the identification of an individual’s learning style.

 

The Counterview

A popular counterview states that adopting teaching strategies in accordance with learning styles yields no distinct benefits in terms of learning outcomes. The video resource, Learning styles & the importance of critical self-reflection | Tesia Marshik | TEDxUWLaCrosse, on YouTube, offers an insight of the counterview.

This article is part of a series of articles on Learning Styles.

 

References:

  1. Your Guide To Understanding And Adapting To Different Learning Styles on the Cornerstone University website.
  2. The VARK guide to Learning Preferences at http://vark-learn.com/

Image Credits:

Pexels, Pixabay, Icons made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com.

 

 For further reading related to pedagogy and education standards, please visit the blog pages at Evelyn learning.

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