College and University Blog

Know Your Learning Style

It is a common belief that most people favor a particular method of interacting with, taking in, and processing information. The idea of individualized “learning styles” originated in the 1970’s and has gained popularity in recent years. A learning style is the method of learning that allows an individual to learn best.

There are three basic learning styles – Visual, Verbal, and Kinesthetic. Determining what type of learner you are can help you to develop learning strategies that may improve your GPA. Learners actually use all three learning styles to receive information, but one is usually dominant. This dominant style defines the best way for a person to learn new information. This style may not always be the same for some tasks. The learner may prefer one style of learning for one task and another learning style for another.

There are two types of visual learners – linguistic and spatial. Learners who are visual-linguistic prefer learning through written language, such as reading and writing tasks. They tend to remember what they write down, even with no review. They like to write down directions and get more out of lectures when they watch them. Learners who are visual-spatial may have difficulty with the written word. They do better with charts, demonstrations, videos, and other visual materials. They can easily visualize things using their imagination and seldom get lost in new surroundings. About 60% of people are visual learners. In most college classes very little visual information is presented: students mainly listen. Since most people are visual learners, students do not get nearly as much as they would if a more visual presentation were used in class. Learning for visual learners can be improved by:

  • Use the information available in graphs, charts, illustrations, and other visual aids whenever possible.
  • Leave space on handouts to write additional notes.
  • Draw pictures in your notes to explain concepts.
  • Choose your seat in class wisely – you need to be able to see what the instructor is doing.

Auditory learners often talk to themselves. They may also move their lips and read out loud. They may experience difficulty with reading and writing tasks. They often benefit from talking into a tape recorder and hearing what was said. Some auditory learners concentrate better when they have music or white noise in the background. Since hearing and speaking are so closely related, you’ll often find auditory learners using their voice as well as their ears. They’ll often repeat what you’ve said. It helps them process the information. They may also remember information (sometimes complex) by putting it to song or rhythm. About 30% of Americans are auditory learners. Learning for auditory learners can be improved by:

  • Debrief after class. Going over information again will allow you to make connections between what you are learning and how it applies.
  • Verbalize any questions you may have.
  • Work in groups. You can gain understanding of the material by hearing classmates’ explanations and you learn even more when you do the explaining.

Kinesthetic learners learn best when touching and moving. There are two types – kinesthetic (movement) and tactile (touch). Kinesthetic learners tend to lose concentration with little or no external stimulation or movement. When listening to lectures they may want to take notes. When reading, they tend to scan the material first and then focus on the details. They typically take notes by drawing pictures, diagrams, or doodling. Only about 10% of the general population are kinesthetic learners. Learning for kinesthetic learners can be improved by:

  • Use colored markers or hi-liters to emphasize key points and connections.
  • Take frequent breaks while studying.
  • Keep a toy of some kind with you to give yourself something to do with your hands. This might cut down on fidgeting.
  • Transfer information from your text to another medium.
  • Record information as you hear it.