What is a Learning Style?
Have you ever sat in class feeling as if you were paying attention (at least, to the best of your ability), only to later realize that the information really just went in one ear and out the other? If you’re a student, I’m sure you have—if this happens often, maybe you haven’t yet determined your learning style.
Understanding your learning style can help you avoid these situations. More importantly, recognizing your learning style will likely provide you with the insight to better absorb and retain information, and ultimately grow as a student.
So, just what is a learning style? While this concept might seem pretty arbitrary, it’s actually quite straightforward. Learning styles highlight the different ways in which students best learn in school. Specifically, a learning style refers to each individual’s preferred approach to learning. This covers the different tools, methods, and strategies which students prefer in a learning environment.
If you have specific areas in school you’d like to work on (and let’s be honest, everyone does), recognizing the tools and strategies that help you learn will be a great way to tap into your potential and excel.
If certain learning methods haven’t been working for you, there are various ways to seek new and better ways for you to be the best student you can be.
Main Learning Styles
There are a number of different ways to learn, but the following approaches are the major four.
1. Visual Learner
If you’re more easily absorbing information through graphic forms—charts, diagrams, pictures, maps, etc.—you’re likely a visual learner. Visual learners learn best when they can spatially understand concepts.
In the classroom, it’s important for visual learners to utilize visual aids such as information from presentations, videos, homeworks, and worksheets. Try to save as many of these tools as you can, since they’ll be helpful when preparing for an exam.
When doing homework or studying for tests, it may also be beneficial for you to practice filling in diagrams or flowcharts themselves, as this is how you’ll be able to retain the information. You can also make great use of the internet, where there are tons of free educational resources where you’re sure to find visual resources.
2. Auditory Learner
Auditory learners thrive in an environment where they’re presented with information vocally. If you identify as an auditory learner, you’ll probably learn best through reading out loud, open-lectures, and group discussions. You may often require lessons involving talking, since this is how you’ll best retain any given concept.
If you’re an auditory learner, you usually understand information best when it involves speaking, hearing, and listening. You may have trouble absorbing and retaining information if you have to stay quiet for long periods of time.
In order to really grind in the information, you may want to discuss topics in groups (whether in or out of the classroom), verbally go over concepts with your teacher, or learn through video/audio tools.
Don’t forget about mnemonic devices! A mnemonic device is a great tool that can help auditory learners recall certain information.
Example: Order of Operations (algebra)
3. Reading & Writing Learner
Students who learn best through written sources are reading and writing learners. If you align with this learning style, you may perform better when you have access to written information. This may include flashcards, textbooks, worksheets—basically, any material that’s heavy in text.
If you identify with this learning style, you can likely strengthen your understanding through reading or writing about concepts and definitions.
You may find it helpful to take copious notes in class, which can help retain information. In addition, it might be useful to take notes while you study or read your textbook, and keep them to look back on.
4. Kinesthetic Learner
If you have a kinaesthetic learning style, you’ll probably benefit from lessons involving physical interactions, hands-on activities, and movement. You may learn best when using physical models/diagrams or participating in a hands-on experiment.
Once you know that this is how you learn, you can mention to your teacher that you’d appreciate some hands-on lessons. And many teachers will be thrilled to implement non-traditional days into their year! For instance, some science teachers like to do an activity where students create their own representation of the brain using candy or other materials.
As a kinesthetic learner, you may find that taking practice exams in an exam-like setting helps you absorb information and perform better. This might be because your body will remember the exam setting, subconsciously, and then feel more comfortable in that environment when the real exam comes.
Whether you’re trying to get through finals week, or just want to grow as a student, understanding your learning style can be beneficial, and in the end, help you succeed.
If you’re not sure how to go about identifying your learning style, or think you might have tendencies that fall in multiple categories, you can utilize online resources. For instance, if you book a session with My Private Professor, your tutor can work with you to understand and provide you some insight about your learning style.
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