What is a Learning Style?

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If you’re anything like me then you probably find revision really hard. Not only do you have to figure out where to start this revision, but you also have to figure out how to. There are so many different revision techniques out there that it can be absolutely impossible to know which one works best for you. From mind maps to flash cards to practice papers to even YouTube videos, the options can be overwhelming.

Just where do you start?

A good place to do just this is to find out what revision methods best fit your learning style. To do that, you’ll need to know what a learning style actually is and why they’re important.

In short, the term learning style is simply used to describe how different people learn best. While everyone will have their own personal way of learning, these ways have been categorised into different styles each focused on a main characteristic. There are 4 main learning styles. These are visual, auditory, reading and writing and kinaesthetic. However, people often fall into more than one category and it’s best to only use these types as a rough guide.

Continue reading to learn more about learning styles and their different types. If you are unsure about your own learning style, this article will give you some essential tips on how to figure it out on your own and the best revision methods for each type.

What is a learning style?

At school, we are normally taught in one set way. In my experience, this way is where the teacher is talking at you from the front of the class, and you scribble down the notes.

Some people can learn really well just by being in this classroom and copying out the notes. However, this isn’t going to work for everyone and so some serious revision may be in order.

However, you may also find that not every one of those revision methods is going to work for you. This can be for many reasons or simply preference, but it is often linked to your learning style.

Simply put, a learning style just sums up how someone learns best. This is all to do with how their strengths, weaknesses and the resources and methods that will allow them to be at their best and learn most effectively. For more information about learning styles, check out this article by Top Hat.

What are the different types of learning style?

Over the years, so much research has been done into learning styles. This became popular in the 1970s and since then there have been a vast number of different models and theories.

For example, there’s David Klob’s ‘Experimental Learning’ theory as well as Anthony Gregorc’s ‘Mind Styles’. It can be quite confusing to figure out what’s what. You can learn more about this research and all of these models and theories, in this article by Mind Tools.

The most commonly accepted learning styles are a combination of different models, taking aspects from many different ones. There are 4 of these most commonly accepted learning styles. These are a visual learning style, an auditory learning style, a reading and writing learning style and a kinaesthetic learning style.

While all of these learning styles have quite distinct descriptions and classifications for those who fall into the category, it is common for student to fall under more than one. After all, the idea that a student only uses one type of learning method isn’t very realistic. This is especially true as students may switch between different styles when revising for different subjects and even different types of qualification.

To learn more about the 4 main different types of learning style, check out this guide by Rasmussen University. You can also check out the following sections for more detail about each style.

What is a visual learning style?

The visual learning style is credited to Neil D Fleming, who set it out in his VAK model of learning with 2 other learning styles. Since then, it became one of the most commonly known learning styles. This is arguably due to how straight forward the visual learning style is.

The visual learning style is arguably the most straight forward learning style of these 4. It is self-descriptive and so as the name suggests, a visual learning style means that the student will best learn by seeing the information or their course content.

While put simply here, this can actually cover a vast variety of ways that students learn best while using. This is particularly true for revision as the student will have to take control of their own learning. You can check out the following section to find out what these are.

To learn more about the visual learning style, check out this article by ThoughtCo.

What revision methods suit a visual learning style?

For a visual learner, seeing is understanding. However, that doesn’t mean that their revision style is simply looking at their notes.

To begin with, that is an example of a revision method that doesn’t work, at least not properly. Also, visual learners can come in different forms with some preferring to use colour and other images to help them better understand.

When revising, there is still a great amount of variation as every student is different. However, some of the methods they may use are:

  • Pictures
  • Diagrams
  • Graphs and charts
  • Mind maps
  • Flash cards
  • Revision posters

To learn more about these methods used by visual learners, check out this guide by the University of Wollongong, Australia. If you want to know more about how to make the perfect mind map for revision, check out this Think Student article. To learn more about making flash cards, check out this Think Student article.

What is an auditory learning style?

The auditory learning style is once again credited to Fleming’s VAK model of learning. These students essentially learn best through verbal communication.

This means that the information that they’ve listened to and discussed is the information that they will retain best. Although, this can also extend to more one-sided forms of sound and speech.

An auditory learner will often have strong communication skills, particularly in speaking and listening. You can learn more about these characteristics and the auditory learning style as a whole, by clicking on this article by Indeed.

What revision methods suit an auditory learning style?

For an auditory learner, listening is the key to remembering information. However, due to the lack of the classroom and the teacher, this can be harder to do when revising at home.

However, with the right revision methods, it is most certainly doable for an auditory learner to optimise their revision to these preferences.

Some of the ways auditory learners may choose to revise, include:

  • Revising in a group
  • Verbally tested flash cards
  • Mnemonics
  • YouTube videos on their subject
  • Podcasts on their subject
  • Verbal repetition of information

For more about these revision techniques and the preferences of an auditory learner, check out this guide from the University of Wollongong, Australia.

What is a reading and writing learning style?

The reading and writing learning style is quite similar to the visual learning style. However, as the name suggests it involves both actively reading and writing to improve learning, rather than just seeing the content or information.

Students that are reading and writing learners will likely excel in the typical classroom setting. In this setting, students will often have to read information from a textbook, whiteboard or PowerPoint and then have to make their own notes.

For more information about the reading and writing learning style, check out this guide by Bay Atlantic University, Washington D.C.

What revision methods suit a reading and writing learning style?

As mentioned above, the reading and writing learning style is pretty similar to the visual learning style. This is particular evident when these types of learners revise as many of the most suitable revision techniques overlap.

Although the reading and writing learning style is more about the entire process and the visual learning style is more about the result.

The reading and writing style are slightly more limited when it comes to revision methods. However, there are still plenty to fill out meaningful revision sessions with. Some of the revision methods for a reading and writing learner are:

  • Making revision notes
  • Making revision posters
  • Making mind maps
  • Making flash cards
  • Pictures and diagrams with captions

For more information about these revision techniques, check out this article by the University of Wollongong, Australia.

What is a kinaesthetic learning style?

The kinaesthetic learning style is a lot more cryptic in its meaning as it is not a term that comes into our everyday use. Despite this, it is simply referring to a more hands-on or physical style of learning.

As opposed to both visual and reading and writing learners, the typical classroom setting is not an ideal place for students under the kinaesthetic learning style to learn.

However, when doing practical subjects and learning in a hands-on way, the student is likely to learn and retain the information better. For more information about kinaesthetic learners, check out this article from Bay Atlantic University, Washington D.C.

What revision methods suit a kinaesthetic learning style?

Translating the kinaesthetic learning style into revision methods can be pretty difficult as the exams you are revising for will typically be written exams. However, even then, the kinaesthetic learning style is all about actively doing rather than just memorising passively.

Some of my favourite revision techniques that fall into this category are:

  • Practice papers
  • Group revision
  • Revision games
  • Tutorials
  • Teaching their topic to others

As a kinaesthetic learner, you can even use flash cards in a gamified way to make it more hands-on. You can learn about 15 of these techniques in this Think Student article.

How to find your learning style as a student?

Now that you’ve been introduced to the world of learning styles, you may be wondering about your own learning style.

Personally, to figure out what my learning style was I thought about my preferences when it comes to studying and revising and then went from there. For you to do this, you can refer to the revision methods of each learning style above and tick off the ones that work for you and that you can use regularly to study.

If you tick off more under one style, then it is likely that you are slightly more suited to that learning style. Please note that you may also find that you fit in with more than one of the types, that’s perfectly fine too.

Another way to figure out your learning style is by doing a quiz. While the idea of learning styles, particularly when left to tests or quizzes can be very subjective, they can be a much easier method to figure it out.

For more information about the drawbacks of learning styles and their quizzes, check out this article by the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.

You can check out this quiz from How-to-Study.com, which will not only give you a clear answer but also some tips.

Are learning styles important for students?

Figuring out how to revise is an incredibly difficult process, especially if you’re not quite sure what works for you. While you can try using the trial-and-error method to help you figure it out, this can take up a lot of time and lead you to becoming unmotivated to revise at all. In order to avoid this, you need to try and get yourself a cheat method to finding the best revision methods and techniques for you.

One of the best ways to do this is by trying to work out your learning style. This is because a learning style categorises certain ways for you to learn. This makes it a great starting point to use in order to start your revision and studying.

As the idea of this is so that you can better personalise your studies, learning styles are arguably very important for students to be aware of in order to use for their own studies.

However, the idea of learning styles is also heavily criticised due to them being very subjective, overly simplified and based on students’ strengths rather than actually being styles. This criticism actually does make a lot of sense.

While I wouldn’t rule out the use of learning styles completely, it is best to take them with a pinch of salt. For more information about such criticism check out this guide by the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.

Learning styles can benefit you the best if you take them as a rough guide rather than a rule book. If you find that they don’t work for you, you don’t have to use them.

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