Not everyone learns the same way. Educators and others who present information to learners can enhance the effectiveness of their lesson plans and instructional activities by incorporating strategies that appeal to students across all types of learning styles.
Key Types of Learning Styles Explained
Visual Learning Style
Visual learners retain knowledge best by what they see. This learning style is sometimes referred to as spatial. Visual/spatial learners retain more knowledge from the use of charts, graphs and spreadsheets than from oral lectures or other more auditory teaching aids.
- These types of learners should use notes that they can read and review later on.
- They should make use of highlighters to color code information so it is more visually appealing and easier to read.
- Computer-based training modules and other types of visual aids can enhance their comprehension.
- Flashcards are also a great source of learning for visual style learners. A visual learner can maximize the use of flashcards if they are responsible for creating and reviewing them.
- Visual learners can benefit from organizing material, as this will require them to examine information closely.
- Memory tools like visual chains and mnemonic devices can be very useful for visual learners.
Auditory Learning Style
Auditory learners gain the most knowledge from what they hear. Lecture and discussion methods can be effective with people who prefer to learn this way. Teaching strategies that involve the use of music or other forms of sound can also be beneficial to auditory learners.
- Auditory learners should be encouraged to summarize orally what they have read after they have read it. This will allow an auditory learner to hear the information, so they can get a better handle on it.
- Auditory learners tend to retain information from funny little jingles that they make up or that can be taught. Jingles, songs and poems spoken aloud can help auditory learners remember dates and events of importance.
- Videos or audio recordings may help auditory learners to gain the necessary knowledge that is required of them in a given setting.
- Study groups where topics can be discussed and debated aloud can also help auditory learners grasp the information they are learning.
Physical Learning Style
Physical learners tend to retain knowledge the best when they learn through hands-on activities and when they move around while learning. This learning style can also be referred to as tactile, kinesthetic or haptic learning. It is more difficult for the tactile learner to retain knowledge by reading a textbook, either to themselves or aloud, than it is for other types of learners.
- When tactile learners must comprehend textbook material, they should be encouraged to get up and move around the room while reading. Additionally, they can be encouraged to move their hands or tap their feet while they are otherwise sitting still.
- Computer usage can help tactile learners by allowing them to use their sense of touch.
- Tactile learners can have a hard time sitting still and focusing, but concentration can sometimes be improved by allowing them to sit in the front of the classroom where there are fewer distractions.
- Comprehension can be enhanced by allowing tactile learners to point things out as they explain concepts, allowing them to exaggerate their lip movements, or having them learn from auditory sources that they can listen to while they move around.
- This type of learner can learn concepts by putting them to a beat and being allowed to tap out the beat as they recite what they need to know.
Verbal Learning Style
Verbal learners tend to learn best through the use of words, including via reading, writing and speaking. They tend to learn well when provided with opportunities to discuss, explain, present, or write about information they are learning.
- Writing essays and other activities that involve writing, such as journaling and summarizing, can be very effective with verbal learners.
- Outlining textbook content or notes can be beneficial for verbal learners.
- Having opportunities to present information aloud, such as through reading essays or delivering speeches, can be helpful to people who learn this way.
- Word games, such as crossword puzzles, anagrams and word searches, can be a particularly effective activity for verbal learners.
- Encouraging learners to follow along in a book during lectures can be beneficial for verbal learners.
- Small group discussions can be beneficial to verbal learners, especially those who also tend to enjoy opportunities for social learning.
Logical/Mathematical Learning Style
People with a logical/mathematical style tend to learn best through finding patterns or otherwise organizing information into logical structures. This applies to all learning, not just math class.
- When presenting verbal content to students, organize it in ways that show the relationships between different concepts.
- Include data and statistics relevant to the subject matter that is being covered in lessons.
- Provide specific examples of ways in which the information can be used for practical purposes.
- Assign projects or worksheets that involve sorting or organizing information into categories, classifications or taxonomies.
- Include some content analysis type projects, in which students seek out occurrences within the text. (For example, have students look for occurrences of certain types of language usage in a work of literature in addition to the more traditional interpretation-focused activities).
Social learners are sometimes referred to as interpersonal learners. People who prefer social learning tend to learn best when they have opportunities to collaborate and engage with others as they are learning. This style is not so much about how a person best processes information but is more focused on how they prefer to engage with others during learning. Social learners may be visual, auditory, physical, verbal learners, or logical learners. What they have in common is a preference for collaboration.
- Social learners tend to thrive when they have opportunities to participate in group projects or other collaborative learning opportunities.
- Group discussions that provide opportunities to share perspectives and discover what others think are appealing to those who have a social learning style.
- Small group or team activities are particularly appealing to social learners.
- Social learners also tend to like to work with study buddies.
- In remote learning environments, being able to chat with other learners and see others via video can be very important for social learners.
Solitary learners are sometimes referred to as intrapersonal learners. As with social learners, solitary learners may prefer visual, auditory, physical, verbal, or logical approaches to acquiring new information. What solitary learners have in common is that they prefer to learn individually rather than through collaborating with others. They would rather study on their own than be assigned to work with a study buddy.
- Solitary learners prefer assignments and activities they can perform individually, so be sure to assign tasks that can be completed individually.
- When assigning group work in class, specify the amount of time allocated to the activity so solitary learners will know when it will end.
- Allow for choice when it comes to collaborating. For example, for some projects, allow students to choose to work on their own or with a partner or in a small group.
- When it comes to sharing in class, allow students to volunteer rather than forcing the matter, especially when the content is personal (such as reflective writing). This will allow solitary learners to opt out of situations that they find demotivating or uncomfortable.
Meeting Learner Needs
It's important for teachers to use differentiated instructional strategies that incorporate elements that will appeal to all learning styles. Not only will this help improve the learning experience for all students by ensuring that their preferences are considered, but it will also help individual learners expand their capabilities beyond their own natural tendencies. While individual students may have a preference for a certain approach to learning, it's important for everyone to develop a well-rounded approach to learning.