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Published on September 26, 2019

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

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

5 Proven Memorization Techniques to Make the Most of Your Memory

5 Proven Memorization Techniques to Make the Most of Your Memory

Do you forget stuff every now and then? Are you trying to enhance your memory but not sure how?

All you need is the right memorization techniques to make the most of your memory.

The human brain is fascinating. More specifically, the vast interconnections within our mind. Mendel Kaelen compares the human brain to a hill covered in snow,

“Think of the brain as a hill covered in snow, and thoughts as sleds gliding down that hill. As one sled after another goes down the hill a small number of main trails will appear in the snow. And every time a new sled goes down, it will be drawn into preexisting trails, almost like a magnet. In time it becomes more and more difficulty to glide down the hill on any other path or in a different direction.”

The intent of Kaelen’s discussion is to think of new ways to temporarily flatten the snow. Kaelen remarked,

“The deeply worn trails disappear, and suddenly the sled can go in other directions, exploring new landscapes and, literally, creating new pathways.”

The idea here is to temporarily rewire your brain, or as Michael Pollan remarked in How to Change Your Mind,

“The power to shake the snow globe, disrupting unhealthy patterns of thought and creating a space of flexibility-entropy-in which more salubrious patterns and narratives have an opportunity to coalesce as the snow slowly settles.”

So, how can we rewire our brain allowing deeply worn connections to disappear and new connections to form? The answer is quite simple. We must change the way we store information in our mind.

    Let’s examine 5 specific memorization techniques that will change the way you think and remember information.

    1. Build a Memory Palace

      What is it?

      The method of loci[1] (aka memory palace) is a method of memory enhancement using visualizations with the use of spatial memory. It uses familiar information about your environment to quickly recall information. It is a method that was discussed by Cicero in an ancient dialogue called De Oratore.

      How to use it?

      Ron White discusses in How to Memorize Fast and Easily: Build a Memory Palace, that it’s essentially a room or building that you have memorized and you use locations in the room to store data. Ron informs us,

      “You memorize locations in a room and then you later go back to those locations to retrieve the data that you want to remember.”

      Example

      An easy 5-step example, in the form of a Wiki, can be found at Artofmemory.com. Let’s examine the the steps:

      • Step 1. Choose a place that you know well. For example, your house or office.
      • Step 2. Plan the route and pick specific locations in your route. For example, your front door, bathroom kitchen, etc.
      • Step 3. Decide what you want to memorize. For example, geography, list of items, answers for a test, etc.
      • Step 4. Place one or two items, with a mental image, and place them in your memory palace. Exaggerate your images. For example, use nudity or crazy images forcing it to stick in your mind.
      • Step 5. Make the image into a mnemonic.

      You can learn more about this technique here: How to Build a Memory Palace to Remember More of Everything

      2. Mnemonic

        What is it?

        A mnemonic is a memory device that aids in retention and/or retrieval of information. Mnemonic systems are techniques consciously used to improve memory by helping us use information already stored in long-term memory to make memorization easier.[2]

        How to use it?

        Mnemonics make use of retrieval cues to encode information in our brain allowing for efficient storage and retrieval of the information. The trick is to learn how to easily create mnemonics. If you find that you struggle with creating your own, try the following website: Mnemonic Generator.

        Example

        I recently came across a video using mnemonics to memorize countries. Memorizing Countries using Mnemonics is a video created as an introduction to a class for using memory techniques to learn the names of countries on maps.

        I actively search for videos that provide enormous educational value, yet receive very little exposure. At the time of this writing, this video has received less than 4k views. Let’s examine the video.

        Goal: Create a mnemonic to memorize the countries in the Caribbean (just the countries you need to learn).

        Step 1. Looking at a map – write out each country (for which five were chosen).

        Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico.

        Step 2. Write the first letter of each country vertically.

        C

        J

        H

        D

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        P

        Step 3. Create a sentence or phrase.

        Cubs

        Just

        Hate

        Doing

        Push-ups

        Cubs just hate doing push-ups. (Cuba Jamaica Haiti Dominican Republic Puerto Rico)

        3. Mnemonic Peg System

          What is it?

          According to Artofmemory.com, a mnemonic peg system is a technique for memorizing lists and it works by memorizing a list of words that are easy to associate with the numbers they represent.[3] These objects are the pegs of the system.

          How to use it?

          The trick is to create a Number Rhyme System with each number having a rhyming mnemonic keyword.

          Example

          Let’s look at an example of a Number Rhyme System:[4]

          0 = hero

          1 = gun

          2 = shoe

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          3 = tree

          4 = door

          5 = hive

          6 = sticks

          7 = heaven

          8 = gate

          9 = line

          Another technique like the Peg system is the Number Shape System.[5] Here you are assigning mnemonic images based on the shape of the number. Watch the following video for an example of this system: Number Shape System for Memorizing Numbers.

          4. Chunking

            What is it?

            Chunking is a way to remember large bits of information by chunking them into smaller pieces of information. We are more likely to then remember the information when we put the small pieces back together to see the entire picture.

            How to use it?

            In the video Chunking – A Learning Technique, we can see that there are several ways to chunk information.

            Example

            Let’s examine a simple example using a nine-digit number.

            Step 1. What is the number you are trying to remember?

            081127882

            Step 2. Cut the number into smaller pieces through chunking.

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            081 – 127 – 882

            Let’s look at one more example from the same video.

            “Piano teachers will first demonstrate an entire song to students. They will then ask their students to practice one measure at a time. Once the part has been learned and the neural connections in the brain have been built, then students go on to the next measure. After all chunks have been played separately, they are combined until the entire piece is connected.”

            5. Transfer of Learning

              What is it?

              Transfer of learning is a way to learn something in one area and apply it in another. Authors of Thinking at Every Desk, Derek and Laura Cabrera inform us about the transfer of learning,

              “If a student has a high transfer skills, she can learn one thing and then teach herself 10, 50, or 100 additional things.”

              How to use it?

              There are two specific ways to use it:

              1. Vertical Transfer (aka Far Transfer). Think of learning something in grade school and applying it another grade or later in life.
              2. Horizontal Transfer (aka Near Transfer). Think of learning a concept in history and applying it in math.

              Example

              I provide a detailed step-by-step example for this technique in this article:

              Learn How to Learn: How to Understand and Connect Difficult Ideas Easily

              The Bottom Line

              The key to using the techniques discussed here is to remember that we must actively think about information.

              We cannot simply drill information into our brain through rote memorization. We must change the way we think about memorization. We must find a way to “shake the snow-globe” in our mind or flatten the snow so that we can create new learning paths.

              Or as Derek and Laura Cabrera point out, we must insert “Thinking” into the equation,

              “Information X Thinking = Knowledge”

              More About Enhancing Memories

              Featured photo credit: Nong Vang via unsplash.com

              Reference

              [1] Remember Everything: Memory Palaces and the Method of Loci
              [2] The Learning Center Exchange: 9 Types of Mnemonics for Better Memory
              [3] Art of Memory: Mnemonic Peg System
              [4] Art of Memory: Number Rhyme System
              [5] Art of Memory: Number Shape System

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