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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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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

How Social Learning Helps You Learn Faster and Easier

How Social Learning Helps You Learn Faster and Easier

Have you ever noticed that you tend to learn certain things simply by observing others? Learning in this way is called social learning, which is one of the 6 common types of learning. It helps you learn faster as knowledge and habits are acquired easily when they are practiced by people within a certain environment.

Throughout the centuries, humans have incorporated social learning in their lives as a major learning approach. The fact that human behavior is learned has made this possible. From initially being the only way to learn, it is now the fastest and most comprehensive learning method.

In this article, you’ll find out how you can make good use of social learning and observed behaviors to help you learn faster and easier.

The social learning theory as presented by Albert Bandura is simple. It suggests social learning is based on attention, retention, motivation and reproduction[1].

While these stages seem like common sense, there is a surprisingly large number of people who go through social interactions without learning anything because they aren’t actively practicing the different stages.

Let’s get started with the first stage, attention.

Attention

Since our mind has a limited capacity for storing data, it’s the things that we pay attention to that stay with us. Giving 100% of your attention to a situation you learn from is guaranteed to help you maximize social learning.

Stay in the Moment

When you’re focused on learning from your surroundings, your mind will focus only on what it wants to learn, so distractions fade away. However, it’s very normal to be in a situation where the information you are getting becomes monotonous or you get distracted for some other reason.

Make sure you are well-rested and energized so you can spend your energy learning things that matter to you[2].

social learning theory

    Be Mindful

    Mindfulness in its simplest terms is tuning into we’re experiencing in the present rather than thinking about something that could or did happen.

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    For social learning, you should be mindful only of the conversation or activity you want to learn from, filtering out other things that don’t matter to you as much at that moment. This way, your brain can make memories of what you are experiencing at that time only, which is the thing you want to learn.

    If you find yourself getting distracted, focus on deep breathing until the distractions fade away and you can bring your attention back to the learning opportunity at hand.

    For more tips on being mindful, check out this article.

    Don’t Multitask

    In today’s hyper-connected world, it’s normal, even expected, to be a multitasker. Being amongst people and checking emails on smartphones is now normal social behavior.

    However, when you want to maximize your social learning, don’t multitask. You should focus only on the interaction you want to learn from and block out all the rest.

    Don’t reach for your device, and don’t engage in multiple conversations simultaneously. In short, don’t have your mind and other senses deal with anything apart from learning.

    Engage Actively

    Similar to the above points, learning through social learning is fast and easy if you listen, speak, and observe actively.

    When you’re actively engaged, you respond to the situation by making relevant observations, mimicking important actions, and focusing on listening so you understand.

    To maximize the benefits of learning through social learning, be attentive to those who are around and looking to learn as well. A good example of this would be medical students on clinical rotations who are actively observing and listening to the doctor they are assigned to, and responding to his / her queries.

    Retention

    Paying attention is great for learning, but what about retaining the new information?

    Our brain has limited space to store data, so how do we ensure we remember things that are important to us?

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    These tips should help increase your retention power.

    Repeat to Remember

    Our brain starts developing from the moment we are born, absorbing things from people and experiences around us. It is learning constantly, and repeated experiences help reinforce the learning.

    A new experience opens up new neural pathways in our brain, and repetition of these experiences[3] strengthens the pathways, helping us retain the information better and for longer.

    Increase Brain Power

    You can improve retention by increasing your brain power: exercise regularly, sleep well, and stretch memory muscles by playing brain games.

    Here are more ways to help: How to Increase Brain Power: 10 Simple Ways to Train Your Brain

    Make Connections

    Connect a social learning opportunity with mnemonics. Use mental images, music, and anything else you want to retain and recall information.

    Link new information with old to reach new conclusions. You can use writing and speech for this.

    Remember That Less Is More

    When you are looking to retain knowledge through social learning, try taking in information in small quantities.

    Full day conferences, lectures that last for hours, and similar learning schedules do not have the desired effect. The human mind shuts down when it is faced with information overload, and the learning from these situations becomes minimal.

    Research shows that if you are looking to retain information from social learning opportunities, it’s a far better idea to put yourself in the situation more frequently for a shorter amount of time[4].

    Motivation

    The idea of a tangible reward or the emotional high that comes with the sense of accomplishment is what motivates us to keep doing a good thing, while the fear of repercussions or unpleasant outcomes is what keeps from doing something bad.

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    When a child observes that good behavior of a sibling results in them getting a treat, while bad behavior courts punishment, the child wanting a treat will be motivated toward good behavior by this social learning lesson.

    Motivation to learn new information and habits is a critical part of social learning. To stay motivated for social learning, you can try the following.

    Find a Role Model

    Finding a role model and basing your learning on them means you are motivated to duplicate the role model’s behavior.

    The medical students example fits well here again. The students will be motivated to observe and imitate better clinical skills and patient handling techniques by observing others around them and aspiring to be as good as they are.

    Make a Note

    Write down things that inspired you, and keep going back to them to stay motivated.

    Talk About It

    Talk to your role model or peers about what is motivating you in a shared social learning environment.

    An example of this is a person in rehab who is motivated to attend meetings by the presence of others who have managed to kick the addiction and are on the road to recovery.

    This is based on reinforcement or punishment. Positive motivation is reward-based motivation (satisfied patients) and negative motivation is punishment-based motivation (absolute dependence on drugs).

    Remember, no matter which type works for you, without motivation, there is no reason for us to do anything.

    Reproduction

    In the context of social learning, “reproduction” is not propagation of the learning, but the implementation of it.

    Reproducing learned information is the last stage of social learning. Once you pay attention to your surroundings and retain what you learned in the setting, you are then motivated to reproduce your learning so you can get the reward.

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    Bandura suggests direct reinforcement, vicarious reinforcement and self-reinforcement as the different ways to reproduce knowledge gained through social learning[5].

    Direct Reinforcement

    This is when you act on knowledge, knowing the result will be positive, or avoid the act because the result would be unpleasant.

    To repeat the medical students’ example here, direct reinforcement would be one of them practicing patient handling techniques learned from their role model, with the expectation that the result would be a satisfied patient.

    Vicarious Reinforcement

    Vicarious reinforcement in social learning is the application of knowledge that has not been learned first-hand but is learned by observing the consequences of the actions of a third party.

    A good example of this type of reinforcement would be learning not to take drugs after seeing the condition of a drug addict.

    Self-Reinforcement

    Self-reinforcement is when a person decides to reward him / herself for good behavior, or bring about a negative consequence as a result of an undesired situation.

    Think of a student who has promised herself a scoop of ice cream if she gets an A on an exam she studied hard for, or decided to ask for extra coaching if she got anything below a C.

    The Bottom Line

    Albert Bandura presented the social learning theory in the 1970s, and it immediately gained popularity because of its simplicity, practicality, and immense potential for success. While the theory never went out of fashion, it is now experiencing a resurgence for all the right reasons.

    If you want to become a smarter learner, take advantage of learning experiences and the social learning theory to learn faster!

    More About Effective Learning

    Featured photo credit: Alexis Brown via unsplash.com

    Reference

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