What are learning styles? Learning styles are the methods that best foster learning for students. Most individuals rely on a mixture of learning styles though one tends to be dominant. Different styles can be used in different situations. In a sense, the mixture of learning styles used by students is specific to the individual. However, all of the learning styles can be placed under five categories.
Visual learners are the “show me” learners. Visual learners prefer pictures, graphs, and images. A picture truly is worth a thousand words for visual learners. Visual learners benefit from object lessons. These learners may prefer to read the book over the other classroom experiences.
Auditory learners are the “tell me” learners. Auditory learners prefer hearing the information. For example, auditory learners often benefit most from lectures.
Kinesthetic learners are “active” learners. Kinesthetic learners prefer to learn through movement or through their senses. In other words, kinesthetic learners want to touch and manipulate the information. They want to use the information as in role play, lab experiences, or projects.
Logical learners are the “lawyer” learners. Logical learners prefer processing information logically. Logical learners feel the need to integrate new information with knowledge they already possess. This style can seem confrontational in the classroom because they often want to debate or to engage in lengthy discussion analyzing the new information.
Social learners could be called “coffee shop” learners because they prefer learning through interpersonal interaction normally in informal small groups. The classroom experience may be boring and they may be prone to skipping class because the classroom dynamic is too formal.
What are the implications of learning styles for teachers and students and curriculum development? Teachers and students are likely to be more effective in the classroom if they recognize the influence of learning styles. For teachers, learning the balance the five learning styles can be a challenge because as individuals, teachers approach the learning experience through the perspective of their own preferred learning styles. For example, a teacher with a predominant auditory learning style is more likely to rely on lecture in the classroom. Incorporating visuals, projects, allowing for debate, and encouraging group interaction requires an intentional effort on the part of the teacher. This is could be a topic worthy of professional development courses.
The implication of learning styles for students is that students need to recognize their preferred learning styles. With this information they can take proactive steps to improve classroom performance. First, they can seek out professors who teach in a way that matches their learning style as much as possible. Usually, feedback from other students can be helpful including feedback on sites that rate professors online.
Second, students may need to take responsibility to go the extra mile in the classroom and to approach new information in a way that matches their learning styles. For example, a student who prefers a kinesthetic style and is in a class that depends on lecture might need to seek ways to put the information into action or to experience the information through all of the senses. This requires work, but it can be a powerful tool.