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Learning Styles and Appropriate Strategies

Learning theories abound, each with its own terminology, bias and advocates.  Countless dissertations, papers and books have been written on learning theory — a great sea of words and ideas.  Despite what learning theory an educator ascribes to, most teachers would agree that students learn in a variety of styles depending on how best they take in, process, and retain information.

Theorists have categorized learning styles in a variety of ways, but one popular way of looking at learning styles and types of learners is to divide them into the following four categories:  visual verbal learners, visual non-verbal learners, auditory learners (verbal), and tactile/kinesthetic learners. 

Within these categories there is also an added factor of whether one prefers solitary or social learning.   Some students learn most easily studying with friends because they stay on task better within the focus of the group and enjoy the exchange of ideas and information.  Other students are most productive learning alone.

A visual/verbal learner learns through reading and writing.  Material can be effectively taken in visually, through the printed word.  Often college professors assume their students learn in this style.

Visual/nonverbal learners learn best with visual aids, pictures, or diagrams.  They learn well from films, videos, graphs, illustrations and maps.  Visual non-verbal learners would often rather study alone and perhaps in quiet than with a study group.  They tend to draw mind-maps and lay concepts out diagrammatically.  They hang onto learning as visual pictures held in the mind’s eye.  Flashcards can also be a helpful prop in learning; the flashcards themselves with their information laid out can be visually remembered

Auditory learners take in information best through their ears rather than their eyes.   They learn well from lectures and study groups.   Books on tape can be a boon to them.  When studying alone and without technical help, auditory learners should talk to themselves and read out loud when reading to engage their ears.

Tactile/Kinesthetic learners remember best when they are moving in space and physically interacting with their surroundings.  They like lab settings, fieldwork, and other “hands-on” learning situations.  They draw diagrams, plot graphs, and sketch to remember concepts.  They often find it productive to pace or somehow keep moving while reading or memorizing.  These are the students who are listening to books on tape while exercising.  These are the students you see reciting while walking back and forth in their rooms.  These are the learners whom you see copying over and over the ideas they need to memorize as if the hand and not the mind must take in the knowledge.

Academic success can be achieved through any of these styles of learning.  It is significant, however, to understand how you best learn and to employ the study practices most advantageous to your learning style.           

References and Resources for further study:

http://tip.psychology.org/theories.html  (database of fifty learning theories outlined and explained)

Introduction to Learning Styles 

The Four Learning Styles  Diablo Valley College

The Four Learning Styles  Jean Morgan