Have you ever wondered why it’s so hard for you to apply the information that you hear in a lecture while your wife can quickly absorb almost every nugget of information that was spoken to her? Or perhaps you wonder why your sister understands concepts really well just by reading a manual while you prefer to take detailed notes. Well, the answer is probably rooted in a difference of learning styles.
Over the past few decades, researchers and educators have begun to take an interest in the different ways that individuals learn. What they have discovered has completely revolutionized the American educational system in many ways. Astute educators now realize that there is no ONE perfect way to teach the class as a whole because each student has a different learning style, or combination of preferred learning styles, that helps them understand and apply the information that they receive.
The University of Massachusetts identifies the three major learning styles as Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic, and we will explore each one in more detail in this article.
Visual: People who have a visual learning style learn best by seeing or observing information. You’ll often hear people with this learning style say, “show me how to do it” because they learn best by actually processing the information as it occurs. They retain information better when they have access to diagrams, demonstrations, flip charts, handouts, checklists, and highlighted information. Visual learners perform best after reading instructions or watching someone else perform the task first. Also, lists and written directions are quite helpful for visual learners.
Auditory: People who have an auditory learning style typically process information best by listening to information that is verbally spoken. You’ll often hear people with this learning style say, “tell me how to do it” because they learn best by hearing the information. They retain information by engaging in conversation, receiving or giving oral summaries, reading aloud, listening to audio tapes, or putting information to a rhythm or tune. Auditory learners perform better after listening to instructions.
Kinesthetic (or Tactile): People who have a kinesthetic learning style prefer a physical experience, or in other words, they learn by doing. Touching, feeling, and holding are actions that help these learners process information. You’ll often hear people with this learning style say, “let me try to do it” or “how do you feel about doing it?” because they learn best with practical hands on experiences. Kinesthetic learners retain information best by having actual opportunities to try it out because they learn as they go. They learn best with experimentation and being “hands on.” This type of learner will rarely look at an instruction manual or read the directions. They’re more likely to dive in with the pieces and see what comes out.
Now, that we’ve identified the three major learning styles, you may be wondering why some people prefer one learning style over another. Well, it all boils down to the brain. Research shows that each learning style uses different parts of the brain. For example, according to Learning Styles Online, the brain uses the occipital lobes in the back of the brain to manage visual tasks, the temporal and frontal lobes, particularly in the left hemisphere of the brain to manage verbal tasks, and the cerebellum and motor cortex at the back of the brain to manage physical or kinesthetic tasks. People generally use a combination of all these parts of the brain to learn, however, most people do have a learning style they prefer. In fact, when the brain is stressed or asked to assimilate new information, it may go into autopilot and gravitate toward its dominant area to solve the problem, learn the skill, or complete the task. This is not to say that you won’t ever use the other areas of your brain to acquire skills, it just means that in general, people are more comfortable with some learning strategies over others.
So, consider how you tend to organize information and what strategies help you learn best. That’s likely reflective of your preferred learning style. When trying to figure out how you learn best, you should also keep in mind that learning styles do not apply just in academic settings but it’s how you generally organize and process information in all settings. You may need to work with an expert to determine the specific learning styles of you and your family. However, it’s important to understand the various learning styles so that you, your family, and your students (if you’re an educator) can have the best learning experiences.
Aysha Ives is a Freelance Writer & Social Media Content Consultant who specializes in providing content for professionals in the mental health field. Using her astute writing ability and uncanny ability to powerfully interact with others, Aysha consistently delivers high quality content that her clients love.
Check out Aysha’s Website Here: Living Out Loud