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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

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

How to Stop Bad Habits: 9 Scientifically Proven Methods How To Be Successful In Life: 13 Life-Changing Tips How To Be A Successful Person (And What Makes One Unsuccessful) The Ultimate Guide to Prioritizing Your Work And Life How To Work From Home Without Getting Distracted

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Last Updated on March 31, 2020

How to Know Which Types of Learning Styles Work for You?

How to Know Which Types of Learning Styles Work for You?

One of the biggest realizations I had as a kid is that teaching in school could be hit or miss for students. We all have our own different types of learning styles. Even when I was in study groups, we all had our own ways of uncovering solutions to questions.

It wasn’t only until later in my life did I realize how important it is to know your own learning style. As soon as you know how you learn and the best way to learn, you can better retain information. This information could be crucial to your job, future promotions, and overall excelling in life.

Best of all about this information is that, it’s not hard to figure out what works best for you. There are broad categories of learning styles, so it’s a matter of finding which one we gravitate towards most.

What Are the Types of Learning Styles?

Before we get into the types of learning styles, there’s one thing to know:

We all learn through repetition.

No matter how old you are, studies show that repetition allows us to retain and learn new information.[1] The big question now is what kind of repetition is needed. After all, we all learn and process information differently.

This is where the types of learning styles come in. There are eight in total and there is one or two that we prefer over others. This is important because when reading these learning styles, you’ll feel like you’d prefer a mixture of these styles.

That’s because we do prefer a combination. Though there will be one style that will be more predominate over the others. The key is finding which one it is.

Visual Learning

A visual learner (also known as the spatial learner) excels at deciphering anything visual – typically maps and graphs.

If you are this type of learner, you likely excelled at geometry in math class but struggled with arithmetic and numbers. To this day, you might also struggle with reading and writing to a degree.

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While visual learners are described as “late bloomers,” they are highly imaginative. They also process what they see much faster than what they hear.

Verbal Learning

Verbal learning, on the other hand, is learning through what’s spoken. Verbal learners excel in reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Because of that, they are likely the ones to find thrills in tongue twists, word games, and puns.

They also thoroughly enjoy drama, writing, and speech classes. But give them maps, or challenge them to think outside of the box and they’ll struggle a bit.

Logical Learning

Not to be confused with visual learners, these learners are good at math and logic puzzles. Anything involving numbers or other abstract visual information is where they excel.

They can also analyze cause and effect relationships quite well. Part of that is due to their thinking process being linear.

Another big difference is their need to quantify everything. These people love grouping information, creating specific lists, agendas or itineraries.

They also have a love for strategy games and making calculations in their heads.

Auditory Learning

Similar to verbal learning, this type of learning style focuses on sounds on a deeper level. These people think chronologically and excel more in the step-by-step methods. These are likely the people who will watch Youtube videos to learn or do something the most.

These learners also have a great memory of conversations and love debates and discussions. Chances are likely these people excel at anything oral.

Also as the name suggests, these individuals have great musical talents. They can decern notes, instruments, rhythms and tones. That being said, they will have a tough time interpreting body language, expressions and gestures. This also applies to charts, maps and graphs.

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Social Learning

Otherwise known as the interpersonal learner, their skills are really unique. They don’t particularly excel in classrooms but rather through talking to other people.

These are the people who are excited for group conversations or group projects. Mainly because they are gifted with coming up with ideas and discussing them.

They also have a good understanding of people’s emotions, facial expressions, and relationship dynamics. They are also likely the first people to point out the root causes of communication issues.

Intrapersonal Learning

The reverse of interpersonal learning, these people prefer learning alone. These are the people who love self-study and working alone. Typically, intrapersonal learners are deeply in tune with themselves meaning they know who they are, their feelings, and their own capabilities.

This type of learning style means you love learning something on your own and typically every day. You also have innate skills in managing yourself and indulging in self-reflection.

Physical Learning

Also known as kinesthetic learning, these people love doing things with their hands. These are people who loved pottery or shop class. If you’re a physical learner, you’ll find you have a huge preference in using your body in order to learn.

This means not just pottery or shop class you enjoyed. You may also have loved sports or any other art medium like painting or woodwork. Anything that involved you learning through physical manipulation you enjoyed and excelled at.

Though this doesn’t just apply to direct physical activities. A physical learner may also find that they learn well when both reading on any subject and pacing or bouncing your leg at the same time.

Naturalistic Learning

The final learning style is naturalistic. These are people who process information through patterns in nature. They also apply scientific reasoning in order to understand living creatures.

Not many people may be connected to this one out of the types of learning styles primarily because of those facts. Furthermore, those who excel in this learning end up being farmers, naturalists or scientists.

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These are the people who love everything with nature. They appreciate plants, animals, and rural settings deeply compared to others.

How to Know Which One(s) Suit You Better?

So now that you have an idea of all the types of learning styles we have another question:

Which one(s) are best for you?

As a reminder, all of us learn through a combination of these learning styles. This makes pinpointing these styles difficult since our learning is likely a fusion of two or more of those styles.

Fortunately, there are all kinds of methods to narrow down which learner you are. Let’s explore the most popular one: the VARK model.

VARK Model

Developed by Neil Fleming and David Baume, the VARK model is basically a conversation starter for teachers and learners.[2] It takes the eight types of learning styles above and condenses them into four categories:

  • Visual – those who learn from sight.
  • Auditory – those who learn from hearing.
  • Reading/writing – those who learn from reading and writing.
  • Kinesthetic – those who learn from doing and moving.

As you can probably tell, VARK comes from the first letter of each style.

But why use this particular model?

This model was created not only for discussion purposes but for learners to know a few key things — namely understanding how they learn.

Because our school system is focusing on a one-size-fits-all model, there are many of us who struggle learning in school. While we may no longer go to school, these behaviors persisted into our adult lives regardless. While we aren’t learning about algebra or science, we may be learning new things about our job or industry. Knowing how to best retain that information for the future helps in so many ways.

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As such, it can be frustrating when we’re in a classroom setting and aren’t understanding anything. That or maybe we’re listening to a speech or reading a book and have no clue what’s going on.

This is where VARK comes back in. To quote Fleming and Baume:

“VARK above all is designed to be a starting place for a conversation among teachers and learners about learning. It can also be a catalyst for staff development- thinking about strategies for teaching different groups can lead to more, and appropriate, variety of learning and teaching.”

Getting into the specifics, this is what’s known as metacognition.[3] It helps you to understand how you learn and who you are. Think of it as a higher order of thinking that takes control over how you learn. It’s impossible to not use this while learning.

But because of that metacognition, we can pinpoint the different types of learning styles that we use. More importantly, what style we prefer over others.

Ask These Questions

One other method that I’ll mention is the research that’s done at the University of Waterloo.[4] If you don’t want to be using a lot of brainpower to pinpoint, consider this method.

The idea with this method is to answer a few questions. Since our learning is a combination of styles, you’ll find yourself leaning to one side over the other with these questions:

  • The active/reflective scale: How do you prefer to process information?
  • The sensing/intuitive scale: How do you prefer to take in information?
  • The visual/verbal scale: How do you prefer information to be presented?
  • The sequential/global scale: How do you prefer to organize information?

This can narrow down how you learn and provide some other practical tips for enhancing your learning experience.

Final Thoughts

Even though we have a preferred style of learning and knowing what that is is beneficial, learning isn’t about restriction. Our learning style shouldn’t be the sole learning style we rely on all the time.

Our brain is made of various parts and whatever style we learn activates certain parts of the brain. Because of this fact, it would be wise to consider other methods of learning and to give them a try.

Each method I mentioned has its merits and there’s not one dominate or superior method. What method we like is entirely up to our preferences. So be flexible with those preferences and uncover what style works best for you.

More About Learning

Featured photo credit: Anna Earl via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] BrainScape: Repetition is the mother of all learning
[2] Neil Fleming and David Baume: VARKing Up the Right Tree
[3] ERIC: Metacognition: An Overview
[4] University of Waterloo: Understanding Your Learning Style

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