As a college student, you have a good 18+ years of learning under your belt, both in and outside of the classroom. Looking back, do you notice that you learned better from some teachers than from others, or that you sometimes learned material better on your own than in class? There is a school of thought which believes this is because each of us has a particular way we like to learn, or “learning style.” There are several different learning style models, but one of the best-known is New Zealand educator Neil Fleming’s “VARK” model.
VARK stands for the four learning modalities identified by Fleming: Visual (V), Aural/Auditory (A), Read/Write (R), and Kinesthetic (K). Fleming stresses that the modalities represent preferences rather than abilities. For example, a student who is a talented writer may prefer an aural/auditory learning style, and a visual art major may learn better with a read/write approach. In other words, your learning style won’t necessarily correlate to your talents!
Visual learners prefer the use of images, maps, and graphic organizers to access and understand new information.
Aural/Auditory learners best understand new content through listening and speaking in situations such as lectures and group discussions. This type of learner also uses repetition as a study technique and benefit from the use of mnemonic devices.
Read/Write learners learn best through words. They may be copious note-takers and/or avid readers, and are able to translate abstract concepts into words and essays.
Kinesthetic learners best understand information through tactile representations of information. They tend to be hands-on learners who learn best by figuring things out by hand (for example, understanding how a clock works by putting one together).
To find out which VARK modality best reflects your learning style, take the questionnaire here!
Fleming prescribes particular study techniques for each modality. See what he suggests for yours below!
- Reference pictures, graphs, videos, posters, slides, and flowcharts
- Underline or highlight your notes and readings with different colors
- Reconstruct the information in different ways by using different spatial arrangements
- Redraw your pages from memory
- Replace words with symbols or initials
- Always attend class!
- Discuss course material with your professors during office hours
- Join a study group and/or discuss course material with your classmates
- Take note of interesting examples, stories, and jokes from lectures
- Read your notes aloud, or record yourself reading your notes and listen back to them
- Explain a challenging subject to someone else
- Speak your answers inside your head when being tested.
- Focus on class readings
- Take thorough notes and reread them often
- Look up terms you don’t know in a glossary or dictionary
- Write out key words again and again
- Turn visual information such as graphs and charts into statements, e.g. “The graph shows that the trend is…”
- Prepare for a test by writing your own
- For science classes, pay special attention during the lab
- Relate concepts to real-life examples
- If possible, take field trips to museums or historic sites related to course material
- Make use of any apps or software that may be included with your textbook
- While studying, “act out” concepts and solutions to problems
- Refer to pictures and photographs that illustrate an idea