I’ve spoken often about how important it is to be a lifelong learner, someone who continuously pursues new information and new skill sets in every stage of life. But - what if learning hasn’t come easily to you in the past? What if you never quite figured out the way that you learn best?
My background is in education (how’d I end up starting a mobile boutique? (it’s a long story...), and I’ve learned through years of experience and study that there are distinct learning styles that, if identified and tapped into, can drastically impact a student’s ability to comprehend a subject.
The four different learning types that I’ve researched according to the VARK system are: visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic.
In case you were wondering, I am myself a visual learner, and have served as president and as an executive board member of the International Visual Literacy Association because of my passion for this topic. This means that I learn best through seeing photographs/illustrations/infographics of the information I am trying to absorb. Auditory learners learn best when they can listen to someone explain a concept, reading/writing learners prefer to, you guessed it, take in new topics through text, and kinesthetic learners are best served when they are able to learn a new skill through hands-on participation in an experience.
What Type of Learner Are You?
While it takes more than a simple quiz to determine what type of learner you are, there are a few questions that you can ask yourself to get started.
How do you recall information?
Your learning style is innate to you, so it’s best to start with a question that asks you to do something simple and subconsciously - how do you recall information when asked for it? Perhaps it’s how to spell a word, or giving directions to a specific place. Different types of learners will approach this task in a different way. Visual learners may create a diagram or a map, while auditory learners may say the letters of a word out loud to see if they sound right when spelt aloud. Reading/writing learners would write out the word and see if it looked like it was spelled correctly. Kinesthetic learners may ask the inquirer to simply follow them to the location instead of giving directions.
What skill sets come naturally to you?
Think back to what came naturally to you when you were at an age where everything was new. What did you gravitate toward most? Were you a reader early on, or could you be found most frequently playing with your building blocks? Were you entranced by music and drawn to playing an instrument, or perhaps you were more likely to be painting? Those early inklings of proficiency could point you in the direction of your ideal learning style and help you identify strategies that can put you in the best position to learn effectively today.
What distracts you?
It’s just as helpful to understand what doesn’t work for you as it is to understand what does. Think about the last time you had to truly study for an exam, or tried to learn a complex concept. Did you have to tuck yourself away in a quiet room? Did you work better in a cafe setting where background noise helped you zero in on the task at hand? Were you unable to stop fidgeting when trying to force yourself to sit and read a textbook? Pinpointing what factors keep you from learning can help you adjust your tactics and keep you focused.
Throughout my years as an educator, I’ve learned that each learning style requires a different approach. Asking yourself these questions is a great way to start exploring what may work for you and what will not.
Are you interested in diving deeper into learning styles and determining your own? Is this a topic that you would like to see me pursue further on the Wise Grasshopper blog? As always, I am open to your feedback!