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Last Updated on March 31, 2020

4 Learning Styles to Help You Learn Faster and Smarter

4 Learning Styles to Help You Learn Faster and Smarter

When it comes to learning styles, “one size fits all” is an approach that simply doesn’t work.

For instance, when learning a language, some people prefer to predominantly hear and speak it, while others prefer to study the grammar, vocabulary and construction of the language. The first person is likely to look for opportunities to converse in the language, while the latter is most likely to have their head stuck in a book.

Now, neither of these learning approaches is wrong — they’re just different. One works for one person; the other works for another.

The trick of course, is to find the learning styles that suit you the most. These are different learning styles that will allow you to learn quicker and easier. These styles will feel natural to you. And they’ll encourage you to live a life of constantly learning new things.

That’s what this article is about. I’m going to help you discover the best learning styles for you, while encouraging you to be always learning in your life.

What Are Learning Styles?

Essentially, learning styles are the method, technique or system that are designed to help people learn.

There are actually several traditional different types of learning styles (and many more schools of thought on the subject of learning).

According to Vanderbilt University[1], there are well over 70 different learning styles, but by far the most popular are the four styles captured in the VARK Model:[2]

  1. Visual (spacial) — learners learn best by seeing.
  2. Auditory (aural) — learners learn best by hearing.
  3. Reading/writing — learners learn best by reading and writing.
  4. Kinesthetic (physical) — learners learn best by moving and doing.

Do you recognize yourself in one of the above styles?

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You probably do, although it’s not unusual for people to learn best with a blend of these styles.

Let’s look a little deeper into these four styles:

Visual Learning Style

The visual learning style is best suited to individuals who like to watch videos and like to see presentations that are embedded with pictures, charts and graphs. Education Corner states that:[3]

“the human brain processes visual information much faster than plain text. As a visual learner, you can take in and retain a lot of information really quickly because you prefer this processing method that humans are already very good at.”

Auditory Learning Style

The auditory learning style is best suited to individuals who like to listen to lectures and audio books. These learners find it easy to learn what they hear.

So much so, that if they watch a movie, they’ll most likely remember what was said in the movie – rather than the actions that took place.

Reading/Writing Learning Style

The reading/writing learning style is best suited to — as you’d expect — people who enjoy reading and writing. That’s because the words they read and write become easily imprinted on their minds.

Ideas, paragraphs and even whole chapters are retained with little effort by people who have this as their predominant learning style.

Kinesthetic Learning Style

The kinesthetic learning style is best suited to people who like to get “hands on.”

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For instance, at college, they might be drawn to science subjects that allow them to participate in experiments, or things like mechanical engineering, which again is a subject that has lots of physical interactions.

When Learning Styles Are Not Useful

Although each of us learns differently, there should always be flexibility in our learning approach. For instance, if you enjoy learning through reading books, you shouldn’t restrict yourself to just this medium. If you do, you could be missing out on some great content via videos and live presentations, etc.

My advice is that while it’s definitely helpful to find your predominant learning style, don’t let this hold you hostage. Be free and flexible with your learning. This will keep your mind fresh, and your thirst for learning at its peak.

It’s also worth remembering that there is no scientific consensus for the accuracy of learning styles. In fact, Scientific American recently dedicated a whole article to this topic. Titled “The Problem With Learning Styles”, the article delves into the scientific literature around learning styles, and finds out something interesting: There’s scant evidence to support the idea that learning outcomes are best when teaching techniques align with individuals’ learning styles.[4]

So, as you can see from the above, the science is definitely not settled on this matter.

Which is why I recommend that you…

Take an Individual Approach with an Open Mind

In my experience, what type of person you are undoubtedly has an effect on how quickly and easily you learn. But individual learning styles are only part of the picture.

Most people actually learn best through a variety of different learning styles.

I recommend that you experiment with various learning styles, rather than obsessively focusing on a single one. This is almost always the most effective way to boost your learning abilities.

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An article on this topic from the International Journal of Applied and Basic Medical Research concluded:[5]

“Awareness of individual learning styles among 1st year medical students and the use of an externally regulated strategy for enhancing learning helped students adapt to other learning styles. This enhanced the use of better learning practices and, therefore, better learning outcomes. Thus, knowledge of VARK learning style preferences of the student should not be considered as a restriction to use that particular style only. Rather, teachers should make a conscious effort to let the students explore other learning styles as well.”

5 Tips for Faster and Easier Learning

Ready to make your learning faster and easier? Then put into action these five tips:

1. Match Your Own Dominant Learning Style and See Where You Can Apply This in Your Life

For example, if you’re learning how to build cabinets for your home, would you learn best through several how-to videos, or having someone directly show you how it’s done?

And how about when you’re learning someone’s name — maybe you find it easiest to write their name down (such as adding them as a contact in your smartphone) to retain the information?

Once you understand what type of learning style best suits you, then you can assess which areas you should apply it to, and where you could adopt other learning styles in certain situations.

2. Mix up Your Techniques

Just as your muscles can grow and strengthen as you exercise, so can your brain — especially if you break out of your normal learning routines. A recent research study by Johns Hopkins School of Medicine backs this up:[6]

“What we found is, if you practice a slightly modified version of a task you want to master, you actually learn more and faster than if you just keep practicing the exact same thing multiple times in a row.”

3. Improve Your Weaker Areas

Perhaps you’ve discovered that you are NOT an auditory learner. Well, rather than just dismissing auditory learning, instead, look at it as an exciting challenge to improve in this area. One way you could do this is by making a determined and persistent effort to listen to podcasts and audiobooks.

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Learning is simply a matter of honing and improving on areas you’re deficient at, so it’s smart to focus on learning itself to get fast results. And the good news is, as you strengthen your cognitive skills overall, learning will become easier for you.

4. Read Whatever You Are Trying to Learn out Loud for Better Retention

Have you ever tried to do this when reading an article or book? Sure, it slows you down a little. But it genuinely helps to sink the information you’re reading (and speaking) into your mind and memory. And you don’t need to take my word for this, as a University of Waterloo study found that “speaking text aloud helps to get words into long-term memory.”[7]

5. Regularly Test Yourself

One of the best ways to boost your retention of information is to test yourself on it.[8] For example, if you’re watching a video on how to start your own business, don’t just watch it and forget it. Instead, test yourself the day after on the key messages of the video. This will definitely help you to remember and understand the content.

Final Thoughts

I sincerely hope these tips will help you to learn faster and smarter. But of course — as I always like to say — you need to put the tips into action in your life for them to have any real effect.

It’s one thing to read about something, and another to do something about it.

However, as you’ve come to the Lifehack website and made it almost to the end of this article, then I’m sure that you have the necessary motivation to apply and benefit from these tips. And once you do, I guarantee that you’ll start to learn better than ever before, and as a consequence, you’ll develop a new love for learning that will last you a lifetime.

“Learning should be a joy and full of excitement. It is life’s greatest adventure; it is an illustrated excursion into the minds of the noble and the learned.” — Taylor Caldwell

More About Learning

Featured photo credit: Kyle Gregory Devaras via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Vanderbilt University: Learning Styles
[2] Education Corner: Discover Your Learning Style
[3] Education Corner: Discover Your Learning Style
[4] Scientific American: The Problem With Learning Styles
[5] International Journal of Applied and Basic Medical Research: Students awareness of learning styles and their perceptions to a mixed method approach for learning
[6] Johns Hopkins Medicine: Want to Learn a New Skill? Faster? Change Up Your Practice Sessions
[7] ScienceDaily: Reading information aloud to yourself improves memory of materials
[8] Psychology Today: Test Yourself to Learn Better

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Published on January 19, 2021

What Is Learning by Doing And Why Is It Effective?

What Is Learning by Doing And Why Is It Effective?

The list of teaching techniques is ever-expanding as there are multiple ways for us to gain knowledge. As a result, there are multiple techniques out there that leverage those particular skills. One such technique I want to share with you is learning by doing.

This technique has been around for a long time, and it’s a surprisingly effective one thanks to the various perks that come with it. Also called experiential learning, I’ll be sharing with you my knowledge on the subject, what it is deep down, and why it’s such an effective learning tool.

What Is Learning by Doing?

Learning by doing is the simple idea that we are capable of learning more about something when we perform the action.

For example, say you’re looking to play a musical instrument and were wondering how all of them sound and mix. In most other techniques, you’d be playing the instrument all by yourself in a studio. Learning by doing instead gives you a basic understanding of how to play the instrument and puts you up on a stage to play an improvised piece with other musicians.

Another way to think about this is by taking a more active approach to something as opposed to you passively learning about it. The argument is that active engagement provides deeper learning and that it’s okay if you make mistakes as you learn from those as well. This mentality brought forth a new name for this technique: experiential learning.

What Are Its Benefits?

Experimental learning has been around for eons now. It was Aristotle who wrote that “for the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”

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Over the years, that way of thinking changed and developed and for a time was lost once computers were integrated into schools. It’s only been in recent years where schools have adopted this technique again. It’s clear why teachers are encouraging this as it offers five big benefits.

1. It’s More Engaging and More Memorable

The first benefit is that it’s more engaging and memorable. Since this requires action on your part, you’re not going to be able to weaken your performance. This is big since, traditionally, you’d learn from lectures, books, or articles, and learners could easily read—or not read—the text and walk away with no knowledge at all from it.

When you are forced into a situation where you have to do what you need to learn, it’s easier to remember those things. Every action provides personalized learning experiences, and it’s where motivation is built. That motivation connects to what is learned and felt. It teaches that learning is relevant and meaningful.

Beyond that, this experience allows the opportunity for learners to go through the learning cycle that involves extended effort, mistakes, and reflection, followed by refinement of strategies.

2. It Is More Personal

Stemming from the reason mentioned above, learning by doing offers a personal experience. Referring back to the cycle of effort, mistakes, reflection, and refinement, this cycle is only possible through personal emotions—the motivation and realization of knowledge of a particular topic tying into your values and ideals.

This connection is powerful and thus, offers a richer experience than reading from a book or articles such as this one. That personal connection is more important as it encourages exploration and curiosity from learners.

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If you’ve always wanted to bake a cake or cook a unique dish, you could read up on it or watch a video. Or you could get the ingredients and start going through it all yourself. Even if you make mistakes now, you have a better grasp of what to do for the next time you try it out. You’re also more invested in that since that’s food that you made with the intention of you having it.

3. It Is Community-Connected

Learning by doing involves the world at large rather than sitting alone in your room or a library stuck in a book. Since the whole city is your classroom technically, you’re able to leverage all kinds of things. You’re able to gather local assets and partners and connect local issues to larger global themes.

This leans more into the personal aspect that this technique encourages. You are part of a community, and this form of learning allows you to interact more and make a connection with it—not necessarily with the residents but certainly the environment around it.

4. It’s More Integrated Into People’s Lives

This form of learning is deeply integrated into our lives as well. Deep learning occurs best when learners can apply what they’ve learned in a classroom setting to answer questions around them that they care about.

Even though there is a lot of information out there, people are still always asking “what’s in it for me?” Even when it comes to learning, people will be more interested if they know that what they are learning is vital to their very way of life in some fashion. It’s forgettable if they’re unable to tie knowledge in with personal aspects of their lives. Thus, experiential learning makes the application of knowledge simpler.

5. It Builds Success Skills

The final benefit of learning by doing is that it builds up your skills for success. Learning by doing encourages you to step out of your comfort zone, discover something new, and try things out for the first time. You’re bound to make a mistake or two, but this technique doesn’t shame you for it.

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As a result, learning by doing can build your initiative for new things as well as persistence towards growth and development in a field. This could also lead to team management and collaboration skill growth. These are all vital things in personal growth as we move towards the future.

How to Get Started

While all these perks are helpful for you, how are you going to start? Well, there are several different approaches that you can take with this. Here are some of them that come to mind.

1. Low-Stakes Quizzes

In classroom settings, one way to introduce this technique is to have many low-stakes quizzes. These quizzes aren’t based on assessing one’s performance. Instead, these quizzes are designed to have learners engage with the content and to generate the learned information themselves.

Research shows that this method is an effective learning technique.[1] It allows students to improve their understanding and recall and promotes the “transfer” of knowledge to other settings.

2. Type of Mental Doing

Another approach is one that Psychologist Rich Mayer put together. According to him, learning is a generative activity.[2] His knowledge and the research done in his lab at Santa Barbara have repeatedly shown that we gain expertise by doing an action, but the action is based on what we already know.

For example, say you want to learn more about the Soviet dictator Stalin. All you need to do is link what you do know—that Stalin was a dictator—and link it to what you want to learn and retain. Stalin grew up in Georgia, killed millions of people, centralized power in Russia, and assisted in the victory of World War 2. This technique even applies to the most simple of memory tasks as our brain learns and relearns.

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3. Other Mental Activities

The final method I’ll share with you is taking the literal approach—getting out there and getting your hands dirty so to speak. But how you go about that is up to you. You could try reading an article and then going out and applying it immediately—like you could with this article. Or maybe you could find further engagement through puzzles or making a game out of the activity that you’re doing.

For example, if you wanted to learn about animal behavior patterns, you can read about them, go out to watch animals, and see if they perform the specific behaviors that you read about.

Final Thoughts

Learning by doing encourages active engagement with available materials and forces you to work harder to remember the material. It’s an effective technique because it helps ingrain knowledge into your memory. After all, you have a deeper personal connection to that knowledge, and you’ll be more motivated to use it in the future.

With that in mind, I encourage you to take what you’ve learned from reading this article and apply that in the real world. It’s only going to benefit you as you grow.

Featured photo credit: Van Tay Media via unsplash.com

Reference

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