Help and Advice7 Different Learning Styles

As is the case with how we understand most things these days, it is believed that people fall somewhere on the spectrum of preference for each of these styles. As an educator, to have the best chances of success with a student, it is important to not only incorporate teaching strategies that accommodate a variety of learning styles but also to learn which work best for your students so you can tailor your teaching to suit them.

Auditory Learners

Auditory learners also cement their knowledge and understanding through speaking about the information, so can find strategies like repeating flashcards out loud and having a conversation/ explaining the topic to others helpful. These types of people often gravitate to musical areas, as they are already more attuned to audio stimuli. On the flip side, they’re often easily distracted and can find background noise annoying, so they will do best in an environment that is quiet and calm when the discussion is not in progress.

Visual/ Spatial Learners

As is fairly clear in the name, visual learners like to be able to see things, whether it be in a photograph, video, chart, diagram or mind map. They learn through viewing concepts, creating/ drawing them out themselves, and most importantly, watching others create them. Visual leaners can vary wildly in their presentation, from an organised person who likes to make sure every line on their chart is perfectly straight, to a more chaotic/ creative presentation of a doodler who has arrows and diagrams throughout their notes. They’re often observant and focused, but can find it difficult to concentrate if the instructions being given are not accompanied by visual aids. 

Mind maps are an awesome teaching tool for visual learners to understand the way the different facets of a topic relate to each other and can be fantastic for study, particularly in humanities and science subjects and essay/ narrative planning in English.

Visual learners often find the incorporation of colours and symbols incredibly helpful too, as they can be great signifiers/ triggers for their memory and information retrieval process when used in specific codes. For example, a visual learner might like to give each of their subjects a colour, and write all the headings for that subject in the specified colour, or use a key where a circle might denote a definition, a triangle a learning objective and a star a key point to remember for an exam.

Kinaesthetic/ Physical Learners

Kinaesthetic leaners are commonly referred to as hand-on learners, and like to physically engage with their learning material. They often present as kids with lots of energy and usually show an aptitude for sports. They may like to ‘get their hands dirty’ and touch everything, be fidgety or struggle to sit still and can have poor handwriting.

Channelling their energy into focus on learning is essential, and they will benefit from aids like fidget toys or wobble cushions as outlets. Activities where they can be up and moving around are great, like setting up different stations to complete around a classroom, or getting them to write ideas on sticky notes and add them to different communal posters. In terms of increasing their understanding of the information, tangible things like 3D models, specimens and dioramas are helpful too.  

Logical/ Mathematical Learners

Logical or mathematical learners readily observe patterns and structures and rely on numbers and statistics to learn. They often have an aptitude for spotting patterns, are good with numbers and usually enjoy classifying or grouping information with sets of similar characteristics (like categorising people into seven different learning styles!). Logical learners thrive in structured environments and can struggle in subjects like English where the rules aren’t as ‘black and white’.

A significant strategy that can help logical learners is to incorporate systems that they can refer back to, and to let them be a part of their development. In English, teaching the structure of different types of texts is useful, as well as reference sheets for sentence structures and a checklist system for editing that can be used for all styles. Including statistics is another great way to engage logical learners, especially in humanities and science subjects.

Verbal Learners

Also called linguistic learners, verbal learners work best with words, both written and spoken. They usually enjoy and show an aptitude for reading and writing, and often the kind of people that are perceived as intelligent (through their wide vocabulary) and good at explaining things.

Verbal learners will do well with assigned reading material, as coming to a class already having an understanding can help them to process visual and auditory information. Note taking is another excellent strategy for verbal leaners, as it benefits them both through writing down the information and being able to read through the material later on. Other exercises they’re likely to enjoy are explaining a concept to a friend and developing and using mnemonics (particularly acronyms like BIDMAS, CAT or FOIL).

Social/ Interpersonal Learners

While we often associate extroverted personalities with social learners, it’s important to remember that not all interpersonal learners are outgoing. Social learners are people who learn best through collaboration and group work, and are often skilled at communicating and showing empathy.

They like to be involved with other people and the learning material concurrently, so group study, discussions and debates are all great tactics for them. To engage social learners, things like group presentations, working through questions as a class and sharing opinions are all helpful.

Solitary/ Intrapersonal Learners

Last but not least, solitary or intrapersonal learners describe those people who learn best when working alone. They are often quiet in class, and are independent, self-aware and self-motivated. Unsurprisingly, they are great at knowing what they need and function best in a quieter environment.

As an educator, taking your cues from intrapersonal learners is vital to ensuring they remain engaged and supported. Providing a quiet space and giving the option for solitary study can be a relief for them, and offering independent study time as a reward for completing activities can be very motivating.

After reading this blog, what kind of learner do you think you are? How about your child? Has it changed your opinions or provided an explanation as to why certain techniques are helpful and others aren’t? We hope so! Obviously, these seven different learning styles are not the be-all-end-all of education, but they can be a helpful tool for students, teachers and parents to understand how they learn and determine new ways to absorb and acquire information.

This blog on the 7 different learning styles was provided to you by HopeTutoring, Learning Difficulties tutoring, based in Brisbane.

Justin Clarke, Private Learning Difficulties Tutor