VARK Learning Styles: Visual, Auditory, Reading/ Writing, Kinesthetic
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The VARK model, invented by Neil Fleming in 1987, is a framework for understanding individual learning styles. The model identifies four primary types of learners: Visual, Auditory, Literacy, and Kinesthetic. Every person has a dominant way of processing information.
Visual learners process information better by looking at images and diagrams. Auditory learners learn by listening and speaking. Readers/writers prefer text-based input. Kinesthetic learners learn by doing and experiencing.
We all learn differently. This is crucial for education because understanding these differences can help create more effective learning environments. Adapting teaching methods to students' learning styles can improve their understanding and retention of the material.
Every learning style can be supported in a classroom. Visual learners can benefit from diagrams and illustrations. Auditory learners can benefit from discussions and lectures. Readers/writers can be helped by reading assignments and writing exercises. Kinesthetic learners can learn through hands-on activities and experiments.
A 2017 study entitled “Application of the VARK learning model to the course 'Data structures and algorithms'” by Stojanova et al. showed that the combination of traditional teaching methods with visualization tools, videos, animations and practical exercises has a significant positive effect on student learning and understanding.
In addition to formal educational environments, informal learning environments are also important. These often offer more flexibility and can better suit individual learning styles. Informal learning can also increase student motivation and involvement.
Important pedagogical learning theorists include David Kolb, Rita and Kenneth Dunn, Marilee Sprenger, and Neil Fleming. Their theories have contributed greatly to our understanding of how people learn.
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What we discuss in this comprehensive post:
- 1 What are the 4 learning styles in the VARK model?
- 2 What are the 3 learning types in psychology?
- 3 How can you accommodate all learning preferences in a formal classroom?
- 4 What is informal learning?
- 5 How can knowing your learning style help you?
- 6 What are the types of learning opportunities for children?
- 7 What are the most important pedagogical learning style theorists?
What are the 4 learning styles in the VARK model?
According to the VARK model, the four learning styles are visual, auditory, reading and writing, and kinesthetic. We all have a primary or dominant learning style. This means that we understand and remember information better when we receive it in our preferred style.
Visual learners benefit from visual materials such as diagrams and models. Auditory learners absorb information best by listening, for example to recordings or lectures. Readers and writers learn best by taking notes, writing summaries or essays. Kinesthetic learners thrive on engaging their senses and activities, such as building or doing.
Each type has its own unique benefits and strategies to improve learning. The VARK model helps individuals identify their dominant learning style and use it to improve their educational experience. Some people have a combination of learning styles, this is known as multimodal learning.
Below is a diagram of the four learning styles.
The quiz below can help you determine your learning style.
Read each question and select the answer that best suits you. Then press the “Calculate Learning Style” button and you will see what your preferred learning style is.
The VARK questionnaire on vark-learn.com is also a reliable option. This questionnaire helps you identify which learning style is dominant: visual, auditory, reading/writing or kinesthetic.
By answering the questions you will gain insight into your preferences. For example, you may discover that you remember information better by listening than by reading. Or that you use a combination of different styles.
Visual learning is a teaching style in which information is understood and remembered by seeing it. It involves using images, diagrams, graphs and other visual materials to learn and remember details. This style uses the strengths of the student's visual memory.
Characteristics of this learning style include a greater ease in remembering information that is presented visually and a tendency to organize information into a visually understandable form. Visual learners often struggle with traditional learning methods that are primarily text-based.
Visual learners have certain characteristics. They are often good observers, have a keen eye for detail and can effectively interpret situations by looking. They often have a neat appearance and an organized manner, which can be an indicator of their preference for visual planning and organization.
Examples of learning methods and activities that fit this type of learning include taking notes with plenty of white space and diagrams, using flashcards with pictures, and practicing problems on a whiteboard. These techniques help visual learners process and remember information effectively.
About 65% of students learn this way, making it the most common learning style. It is important for education professionals to recognize this preference and leverage it to improve learning.
Auditory is a method of processing information by hearing it. It is often seen as the opposite of a visual learning style, where information is better processed by seeing.
An auditory learner has certain characteristics. They are good at remembering information given orally and often have a talent for languages. They learn more efficiently by listening and speaking, rather than reading and writing.
Examples of learning styles and activities that match an auditory learning style include discussions, group activities, listening to lectures and using music or sounds to reinforce knowledge. These students also benefit from repetition and reciting information aloud.
About 30% of students have an auditory learning style. They often tend to remember information better when they hear it, rather than when they see it. This means they can benefit from teaching strategies that include oral instruction and discussion.
3. Reading and writing
Learning to read and write is sometimes also called the second visual style and therefore falls among the 65% of students who have visual learning as their preferred style. Students with this preference rely on reading and writing as their primary mode of learning. They prefer learning information by reading notes, handouts, and textbooks.
They benefit from taking notes to remember and learn information and may find it easier to express themselves in writing than orally.
Some common learning techniques and activities for reading and writing students include writing summaries or essays to reinforce learning and using flashcards with written information. Creating overviews or mind maps to organize information can also help with this form of learning.
Kinesthetic learning is a learning style in which an individual learns most efficiently through physical activity and movement. Kinesthetic learners tend to be practical and thrive on involving all their senses during their studies.
They prefer to learn information through hands-on experiences such as experiments, role-playing and model building and may have difficulty understanding information presented to them through lectures or written form.
They are often wobbly and may have difficulty sitting still for long periods of time, but benefit from multi-sensory learning environments that include movement and physical activity and often struggle in traditional classroom environments while benefiting from more interactive and hands-on learning experiences.
Some common learning techniques and activities for kinesthetic learners include participating in hands-on experiments and activities or role-playing and simulations. Building models or creating physical representations of concepts can also help.
It is estimated that kinesthetic learners represent approximately 5% of all learners. This means that a relatively small percentage of students have this preferred style when acquiring new knowledge and skills.
The opposite of hands-on learning is theoretical learning, which focuses on abstract concepts and understanding information without physical involvement or practical application.
What are the 3 learning types in psychology?
Psychology distinguishes three types of learning: classical conditioning, operant conditioning and observational learning. Each type has a unique structure.
Classical conditioning involves pairing a neutral stimulus with a stimulus that already evokes a response. Pavlov's dogs are a famous example: the sound of a bell was associated with food, so the dogs learned to salivate at the sound of the bell.
Operant conditioning is about modifying behavior through rewards and punishments. Behavior that is rewarded is more likely to be repeated, while punished behavior is less likely.
Observational learning involves observing and imitating the behavior of others. It is an important part of social learning, where individuals learn strategies and behaviors by watching others.
These three types of learning form the main structure of learning theory in psychology. They help understand how and why we learn the way we do. Each type offers a different perspective on the learning process, but all are essential to a full understanding of learning.
1. Classical conditioning
Classical conditioning is the process of linking an automatic, conditioned response and stimuli (McSweeney & Murphy, 2014).
In learning, this works as follows: a neutral stimulus is linked to an unconditioned stimulus. Over time, the subject learns to associate the neutral stimulus with the unconditioned stimulus. This results in a conditioned response to the neutral stimulus.
The term 'classical conditioning' comes from the Russian physiologist Pavlov. His famous experiment with a dog laid the foundation for this type of learning. Pavlov discovered that his dog began to salivate at the sound of a bell, a response that was linked to the presentation of food. This is now known as Pavlovian conditioning.
2. Operant conditioning
Operant conditioning is a learning process that involves behaviors in the association of actions with consequences. It is a key principle in behavior modification, where rewards (reinforcements) and punishments are used to change behavior. This form of learning, also known as instrumental learning, depends on the environment and the consequences of behavior.
In operant conditioning, behavior followed by pleasant consequences (rewards) is increased, while behavior followed by unpleasant consequences (punishments) is reduced. This differs from classical conditioning, in which a biologically significant stimulus is paired with a reflexive response. Operant conditioning involves voluntary behaviors, while classical conditioning involves involuntary reflexive responses.
BF Skinner conducted several experiments with pigeons to demonstrate the principles of operant conditioning. One of the most famous experiments is often informally called “Pigeon Superstition”. Pigeons were placed in a cage with a food bowl. The food was given at regular intervals regardless of the pigeon's behavior.
Skinner observed that over time the pigeons came to associate random actions with the delivery of food. This led to the pigeons repeating these actions, believing that their behavior made the food appear. This experiment shows that behaviors can be conditioned even without a direct cause-and-effect relationship. Just like humans, pigeons can develop “superstitious” behaviors based on chance events.
3. Observational learning
Observational learning is a form of learning that takes place by observing the behavior of others. It is an important aspect of social learning and is believed to lead to changes in behavior and knowledge. This type of learning requires a model, such as a teacher or authority figure, whose behavior is observed and ultimately adopted.
In observational learning, the process of imitation plays a crucial role. The individual observes the behavior of the model, absorbs this behavior, and then reproduces it. This process is also called incorporation. It is a form of learning that requires a higher level of cognitive processing because the individual must interpret and understand the model's behavior in order to imitate it.
In a classic study by Bandura on imitation learning, children who saw a model punished for aggressive behavior showed less aggressive responses than children who saw the model rewarded for such behavior, or than those who saw the model neither rewarded nor punished.
How can you accommodate all learning preferences in a formal classroom?
To accommodate all learning preferences in the classroom, it is important to find a balance between visual, auditory, logical, verbal, kinesthetic, interpersonal and intrapersonal learning. This means employing multiple learning methods to meet the unique needs of each student.
A study by Joyce, Showers (1989) shows that on average after three days we can remember 10 to 20% of a spoken word, only 10% of a written word, but an astonishing 65% of a visual image. Therefore, the most efficient knowledge transfer must appropriately include all materials and learning methods - spoken, written and visual.
Global learners are those who prefer an overarching approach to learning, seeing the big picture before focusing on specific details. A combination of different types of learning can also help them best.
It's important to in formal education incorporating a variety of learning methods into lessons to reach all students, regardless of their learning style. This may mean designing tasks that appeal to multiple learning styles, or using different instructional methods to convey the same information.
By doing this, teachers can create a learning environment that is engaging, supportive, and effective for all students.
1. Visual learning
Visual learning in the classroom is similar to the VARK model. It means that students understand and remember information better by seeing it. This can be done, for example, through images, diagrams, graphs, videos and other visual aids.
Educational tips for this type of learning include using mind maps to organize complex concepts, encouraging students to take notes with diagrams, and using interactive apps. These work well because they help students visualize and remember the information better. For example, some students would appreciate a film on the subject.
According to a study by Kim et al. (2006), the number of visual learners among students is 80% compared to verbal learners. This study selected students with a visual learning style using the subjective measures of the Felder-Silverman's index of learning style (ILS).
2. Auditory learning
Auditory learning in the classroom is also the same as in the VARK model. Auditory learning works by absorbing information through hearing. They participate actively in the classroom and often use multimedia and recorded materials to understand complex topics.
Some educational tips for this type of learning include using audio as a learning tool, encouraging students to ask questions, and holding specific audiovisual sessions. These strategies work well because they keep students engaged and help them absorb the material more easily. Music can also be a powerful tool, such as singing the information (this is often done in kindergarten), as can repeating information out loud to help you remember it better.
The study of Robinson, K., & Summerfield, A. (1996) “Adult auditory learning and training. Ear and hearing” emphasizes the importance of adapting auditory learning to the needs of students, such as their cognitive skills and even possible hearing loss.
3. Logical learning
Logical learning is a learning style in which the student prefers structured materials and clear procedures. This type of learning requires a good connection between information, where recognizing patterns and setting up categories is important. Logical learning also involves solving puzzles and riddles, applying analytical thinking and developing knowledge through the development of classifications and models.
This is often the learning style of a theorist. Theorists enjoy gathering information and drawing conclusions. They look for logic and structure in the things they learn. They prefer complex ideas and concepts, and often have an ease with numbers and analytical skills. Theorists benefit from actively participating in the learning process, rather than passively receiving information.
The reflective learning style is different. Reflective students prefer time to think about new information and ideas. They are often good at understanding complex information by processing it in different ways.
Educational tips for these learning styles include providing clear expectations and requirements, offering different ways to process information, and encouraging active participation. It is important to ensure that the learning material is presented in a structured way, so that logical and reflective students can process the information in their own way.
4. Verbal learning
Verbal learning involves absorbing information through spoken or written words. This type of learning includes strategies such as reading, writing, listening and speaking. Verbal learning is crucial for understanding and remembering information, especially in an educational setting.
Educational tips for verbal learning include encouraging discussions, assigning writing projects, and giving lectures. These methods work well because they actively involve students in the learning process. They help students to remember information better by processing and repeating it.
A visual learner differs from a verbal learner in the way they process information. Visual learners tend to perform better when they see information in the form of images, diagrams, or graphs. They may have difficulty with purely verbal instructions.
According to the study by Perlow, R., Jattuso, M., & Moore, D. (1997) “Role of Verbal Working Memory in Complex Skill Acquisition”, verbal working memory is related to initial performance in complex skill acquisition. This is based on the cognitive activities that people perform when learning complex skills.
5. Kinesthetic learning
Kinesthetic learning in the classroom is similar to the VARK model. It helps process difficult information by creating physical pathways that connect to the content.
Educational tips for these learning types include integrating physical activities into lessons, using games to make learning easier, and incorporating tactile experiences. These work well because they involve students in the learning process. Incorporating exercise into education is known to help strengthen muscle memory and improve retention.
For example, toys are a hands-on form of kinesthetic learning that allows the child to feel as they learn about concepts.
The study “Kinesthetic learning applied to mathematics using Kinect” by Ayala, N., Mendívil, E., Salinas, P., & Rios, H. (2013) shows that kinesthetic learning offers a new experience in education. It enables students to take action in the learning process and better understand mathematical concepts, graphs and formulas.
6. Interpersonal learning
Interpersonal learning involves acquiring knowledge and skills through interaction with others. It includes group work, discussions and peer tutoring. This type of learning is effective because it promotes communication and collaboration, which helps in understanding and remembering information.
Educational tips for interpersonal learning include encouraging group activities and discussions. These work well because they allow students to develop different perspectives and learn through interaction. Additionally, by incorporating peer tutoring, students can better understand complex concepts by explaining them to others.
Interpersonal learners enjoy learning about others. They thrive in social situations and derive satisfaction from working in groups. They enjoy debating and discussing, and they develop a deeper understanding of a topic by interviewing experts.
According to the study “Inferential social learning: cognitive foundations of human social learning and teaching” by Gweon, H. (2021), even young children can draw rich inferences from evidence provided by others (social learning) and generate informative evidence that helps others learn (teach).
7. Intrapersonal learning
Intrapersonal learning is a process by which individuals absorb, process, and understand information in a way that aligns with their personal beliefs, values, and goals. These learners are independent, have a keen sense of self and are aware of their strengths and weaknesses. They prefer to complete learning projects independently and spend time on reflection to improve their learning process.
Educational tips for intrapersonal learning include encouraging students to keep journals to track their thoughts, feelings, and goals. This helps them tailor their learning strategies to their strengths. Providing time for self-reflection can also be effective, as it allows them to think critically about their learning and find ways to improve it.
According to the study “INTRAPERSONAL INTELLIGENCE AND MOTIVATION IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEARNING” by Perez, M., & Ruz, N. (2014), a methodology that develops intrapersonal intelligence can help students know themselves and apply this knowledge to develop learning strategies develop based on their strengths.
What is informal learning?
Informal learning is a form of learning that takes place outside a structured, formally designated educational or training environment. It is characterized by its unstructured nature and lack of clear learning objectives.
Informal learning refers to learning that takes place without a specific plan or organization, often unintentionally or unconsciously. It can happen during free time, by participating in forums, chat groups, coaching or even by watching videos or games.
An example of informal learning is learning by doing, also known as experiential learning. This is often informal because it takes place outside a structured educational environment, without a clear syllabus or learning objectives. The advantage of this type of learning is that it helps the learner develop deeper understanding and practical knowledge because the learning takes place in a real, practical context.
Playing with toys is a good example of learning in an informal setting without preset goals.
The study “There Must Be a Better Way to Do This: A Qualitative Study of Informal Learning Among Instructional Designers” by Yanchar, S., & Hawkley, M. (2014) suggests that informal learning is an essential part of instructional design practice and plays a key role in different professions and contexts.
How can knowing your learning style help you?
Knowing your learning style can help you by improving your understanding, methods and techniques. It is important to know that your learning style is not intended to limit you, but to help you learn, understand, work and live more efficiently. This is the core of the study “Learning Styles: An Overview” by Sood and Sarin (2021).
Knowing your learning style allows you to optimize your learning experience and increase your academic success. It allows you to develop a personalized approach that suits you, minimizing frustrations and improving your learning. It also helps you boost your motivation and develop a sense of achievement by experimenting with different learning styles.
What are learning styles versus learning preferences?
Learning styles refer to the concept that individuals process information better when it is presented in certain ways. These styles are often categorized as visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic. Learning preferences, on the other hand, have more to do with the context in which someone prefers to learn. This can vary from online learning to learning in a group, or from watching a video to reading a text.
Research shows that learning preferences are stronger than learning styles. This is because they are more flexible and adaptable to the needs of different individuals.
The distinction between learning styles and learning preferences is important for an effective educational approach. By taking both aspects into account, a more comprehensive learning experience can be provided.
Although the idea of learning styles is popular, it is not strongly supported by evidence. Many researchers argue that focusing on learning styles can distract from other important aspects of the learning process.
Therefore, it is important to focus not only on an individual's preferred learning style, but also on their learning preferences. This can help to provide a more effective and customized learning experience.
How can games respond to different learning styles?
Games can respond to different learning styles by integrating various elements. Visual learners benefit from clear images and graphs. Games can include visual cues and problems to help this group. Auditory learners are engaged through music, sound effects and spoken instructions. Kinesthetic learners are served by incorporating physical movement into play, such as dancing or manipulative activities.
By combining these different styles, games can provide an effective and immersive learning experience.
What are the types of learning opportunities for children?
There are various learning opportunities, varying in type and approach. Primary learning opportunities for children include online learning, where connections and information are essential for understanding, and social learning, where students gain new ideas through interaction with a group or peer.
Logical learning refers to recognizing patterns and being comfortable with numbers. Reflective learning is a different approach, where the individual learns by absorbing experiences, reflecting and acting.
Experiential learning is a unique method in which the individual learns by doing. This type of learning is intrapersonal and can be carried out independently, with the learner spending a lot of time understanding the consequences of their actions.
What are the types of learning environments?
There are different learning environments. Physical learning environments are structured spaces such as classrooms and universities. They are organized to promote and enhance learning. Virtual learning environments are online spaces that enable digital learning. They are important for providing flexibility and accessibility.
Formal learning environments are organized and structured, such as training and education. Informal learning environments take place outside structured settings and involve personal life experiences. Social learning environments emphasize interactions and collaboration to create a sense of community.
Creating a conducive learning environment takes into account the psychological and emotional climate, values and culture. It provides a supportive and inclusive atmosphere. Assessment in learning environments is continuous and timely, with constructive feedback to improve learning outcomes.
Understanding the different types of learning environments is essential to meeting the needs of students. It involves offering the right space for improvement and growth.
What are the most important pedagogical learning style theorists?
Major pedagogical learning style theorists include the following.
- David Kolb: Developed the experiential learning model, a cyclical process that includes concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation. Kolb states that individuals have a preference for a certain learning style.
- Rita Dunn and Kenneth Dunn: Their model emphasizes the influence of sensory channels and psychological factors on learning. They suggest that students need different strategies to process information.
- Marilee Sprenger: Her theory emphasizes the importance of differentiation, taking into account the different ways in which students receive and process information. She argues that teachers must adapt their instruction to meet students' needs.
- Neil Fleming: Developed the VARK model, which categorizes students based on their preferred way of receiving information: visual, auditory, reading/writing, or kinaesthetic. This model is widely used in teacher training.
Despite the prominent role of these models in education, their effectiveness has recently been questioned. Research suggests that teachers should remain flexible and... need to adapt their teaching style with pedagogy to meet the diverse needs of students.
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