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Published on February 25, 2020

Effective Learning Theories (and How to Benefit from Them)

Effective Learning Theories (and How to Benefit from Them)

Not all humans absorb information in the same way and at the same rate. Different methods work for different people. These varying methods and how they work are exactly what learning theories are. With a great deal of research, educationists have proven how each learning theory is unique and effective.

Once you grasp the concept of how your brain works, you can effectively begin learning in an improved manner. This isn’t just true for academic learning as it works the same for learning skills and general information as well.

In order to understand which learning theory affects your learning style, keep reading!

Effective Learning Theories

Educationists and psychologists have developed various theories based on the varying perceptions of individuals. However, there are four in particular that can be closely related to everyday learning.

Behaviorism

The behaviorist learning theory was introduced by John Watson [1]. His school of thought believes that people learn from interactions. Every event or piece of information leads to a certain reaction.

This behavior helps the brain retain details. Eventually, how the individual behaves is affected by what was learned. It is a continuous cycle.

So:

If you were to read about something, it won’t stick in your mind unless the information you read stimulated a reaction. Similarly, even if you were a part of a real-life scenario, unless the brain gave out reactionary signals, nothing is learned from that situation.

The environment plays a huge role in this learning theory. When a person is born, their brain is completely blank. Gradually, the environmental factors fill up the brain with knowledge. Learning is coherent with the environment, and so, the same knowledge may not be learned in the same way in a different environment.

In simpler words, different environments lead to different learning outcomes and abilities.

All behaviors are justified as a result of what the brain already knows. Whether the interaction is subconscious or not, it is directly connected to what the individual has learned. Hence, all that is learned has a direct effect on behavior.

All in all, the behavior of any person alters according to the knowledge they have. So, if you were learning to control your anger, this theory can be used to help control your outrage by altering your thought processes.

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Cognitivist Theory

The education psychologists Piaget and Tolman originally derived the cognitivist learning theory. Their theory is based on the concept of memory. You can understand this theory by comparing the human brain to a computer. A computer’s memory will retain and utilize as much information as you enter into it. Similarly, the human brain learns based on what is remembered by the brain.

Basically:

The cognitivist theory states that the brain first receives the information, comprehends it, and then reacts to it. Therefore, the learning process is done before the reaction takes place. Just like a computer, the final output is based on memory.

Moreover, even if there is no reaction involved, the person still learns and gains something from the information.

Let’s say you were learning a new language. You will have to memorize certain words and their meaning. Your memory will play the main role in this process.

This theory also puts the individual learner in charge. Without dependence on a learning source, the learner is an active participant who understands and receives knowledge. If you want, then, you can start learning a new language any day without a teacher if you have the source material.

Constructivism

The learning theory of constructivism was created by Vygotsky. It focuses on perceptual learning.

Here’s what this means:

Each individual has a unique perception based on the learning that was done prior to a certain event. Everything that you’ve seen, felt, or heard in your life contributes to your point of view.

This perception is then used to learn from theundon that the brain receives. Basically, Vygotsky believed that every experience contributes to some sort of learning twice: once when the event actually takes place and then on an individual level.

The concept of constructivism is for the learner to build information based on previous knowledge. Altogether, this creates a meaningful context in the mind of the learner. These connections between the old knowledge and the new information lead to a fool-proof method of learning.

As per this school of thought, learning means understanding an experience. If there is no understanding of the event, there is no learning. If you don’t figure out the meaning of the chords, you can never learn to play the guitar.

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This theory uses this phenomenon to improve the learning abilities of individuals. It suggests that the learner should be more engaged in order to make the learning process more successful.

Constructivism encourages collaborative work. This learning theory emphasizes problem-solving, as well. All of this leads to improved thinking skills, which in turn boosts the learning process.

If you are learning to paint, for instance, everything you draw will be your unique reflection. This is why no two artists can ever produce the same work, even if they use the same equipment.

Experiential Learning

As the name suggests, this learning theory elaborates on learning from experiences. This is a concept quite similar to behaviorism. However, David Kolb, the person who developed the experiential learning theory, suggested a different take on it [2].

This theory actually includes part of all the aforementioned theories. It is a mix of behavior, cognition, perception, and experience. This theory explains that the learning process begins with an experience. This could be anything like an occurring event, a drawing, something that the person wrote, etc.

The next step is for the brain to reflect on this. This reflection may or may not result in an external reaction. Eventually, it becomes part of the memory. This is where perception and cognition come in.

Now:

The way that experiential learning is different from behaviorism is very simple. Behaviorism talks about the effect of external behavior on learning and vice versa. Experiential learning, on the other hand, focuses on what goes on in the mind that results in external behavior.

As per this theory, if you’re a computing guy who wants to learn new codes, you can do that in the best way if you use a visual. Write down the coding pattern or, perhaps, see a video to have a picture in your mind that you can learn from.

The Relationship between Learning Styles and Learning Theories

This is what each learning theory states. But, how does this relate to your everyday learning?

Every human has a specific learning style. This learning style is directly coherent with all or some of the aforementioned theories. These theories have actually been derived from the various learning styles.

There are 7 basic learning styles:

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  1. Visual: These learners can understand better with the help of images.
  2. Aural: Such individuals learn from auditory sources.
  3. Verbal: The use of words in speech and writing is the preferred method of learning.
  4. Physical: These people need to use their sense of touch to grasp information.
  5. Logical: Such learners use reasoning and have a systematic learning method.
  6. Social: Learning is most effective in groups for these people.
  7. Solitary: These individuals like to work alone.

Each one of these learning styles is directly related to one of the four learning theories. For example, a logical learner is a live example of the cognitivist learning theories. If you are brilliant at budgeting, there is a high chance that you have good thinking skills that help you to organize information in your mind.

A social learner uses the constructivism theory. Collaborative work and their own personal perception help them learn better. The social butterfly who is the perfect PR representative uses this theory and style.

Physical learners react to the information they learn. This is the implementation of the behaviorist theory. Without moving their hands or using their sense of touch in one way or the other, it is difficult for these people to retain information in their brains. A karate trainee will have to physically perform to learn the skill. It cannot be memorized.

As for experiential learning, it is a prominent style in the visual and aural learning styles. There isn’t always a reaction, but the visual or audio information that is received is enough to get the brain cells running.

Using Learning Methods That Work For You

If you are not using learning methods that go in line with your learning style, you’ll find it hard to digest information. Instead, you will experience unwanted stress, which ends up affecting your productivity and intellect.

You may be wondering:

With so many learning theories and styles, is there a right or wrong one? Well, that’s not how it works. The brain is a very complex organ that works differently for everyone. This is why the absorption of information is also different for everyone.

There are numerous parts of the brain that are performing completely different tasks. The right lobe, for example, is responsible for music and audio. The frontal lobe deals with words. Similarly, the temporal lobe deals with social activities.

Not all of these parts of the brain work at the same pace in every human. For some people, the frontal lobe is far faster than the rest. In other cases, another part is more dominant.

Everyone’s brain is better at different things. If one human can understand music very well, another is more competent in terms of logic. Therefore, this affects the learning process, which is why everyone ends up with a different learning style.

For this reason, educational psychologists have put forth so many different learning styles and theories as the learning ability of individuals tends to vary. This is also why all the theories are different, despite having a few similarities.

As for your exact case, only you can figure out which learning theory applies. Similarly, you have to figure out your learning style on your own, too. You can do so with a quick style evaluation test. Once you are aware of which method your brain prefers, you can use that knowledge to improve your day-to-day learning capability.

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Learning Styles Can Change

Here’s the thing:

You might have been acing tasks throughout your life with the help of visual learning. Or, you may have had an excellent memory. That does not, however, guarantee that your learning style is the same when you’ve entered your professional life.

Learning styles can change, and that comes with the requirement of a necessary change in your methods. If you were once a social learner, teamwork would have boosted your motivation to a whole new level. Instead of singing solo, your performance would be better in a band.

However, if over the years your style changed to solitary, and you didn’t change your methods, you would only slow yourself down. Band performances will no longer be good enough because your brain will be unable to allow you to practice well during group sessions.

Basically, the brain adapts with time.

It may become weaker, but it may also get stronger. The parts of the brain that were once dominant may be taken over by another lobe. That’s how learning styles change. It isn’t a quality that will stay fixed forever.

With the right learning method and a few other tips, you can boost your learning power immensely. The monumental difference in your day to day productivity will be clearly noticeable.

As an adult, you are the only person who can guide yourself to the right learning track. If you want to learn a new skill quickly, you should figure out your learning style and implement it accordingly. Then, look into the corresponding learning theory to resolve what the method of knowledge absorption for your brain is.

By using the concept of the theory to aid your learning style, you can become a fast learner in days.

More Tips on Learning

 

Featured photo credit: NordWood Themes via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Behaviorism
[2] Signature Experience: Experiential Learning Theory

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Published on June 22, 2020

7 Characteristics of a Smart Auditory Learner

7 Characteristics of a Smart Auditory Learner

I spent five years as a middle and high school teacher, and I would often hear people talking about learning styles. “Betty is a visual learner. Sam is kinesthetic. Emma is an auditory learner.”

I hadn’t read any research about learning styles at the time, but on the face of it, it makes sense. Some people seem to learn better when they see things, others when they’re active, and some when they hear things. I know that I really struggle when someone spells a word aloud. I have no idea what word they’re spelling. I’ve always just made the excuse that I’m a visual learner and will need them to write it down for me. But is there any truth to learning styles?

Before we delve into the characteristics of a smart auditory learner, let’s take a step back and explore what research says about learning styles more generally.

Debunking Learning Styles

In the 1990s, a New Zealand school inspector named Neil Fleming[1] came up with a questionnaire to measure people’s preferred learning style. Now called the VARK questionnaire, it’s still used today to discern whether people are Visual, Auditory, Read/Write, or Kinesthetic learners.

Fleming’s learning styles theory gained popularity over the decades, but no studies have confirmed its legitimacy. In a study by Polly Husmann and Valerie Dean O’Loughlin[2], they found that people who used their preferred learning style did not see any improvements in learning outcomes. In short, there was no correlation between learning style and actual learning.

Another study by Abby R. Knoll, Hajime Otani, Reid L. Skeel, and K. Roger Van Horn[3] also found that learning style had no relationship with recall. Participants who preferred visual learning did not recall images they saw any better than words they heard.

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There’s no evidence that learning styles help people learn or recall. Instead, they should be thought of as a learning preference. I prefer when people write things down for me, but there’s no evidence that this improves my recall.

7 Characteristics of a Smart Auditory Learner

Having a preference for auditory learning means you gravitate toward verbal communication. Audiobooks and lectures might be your cup of tea instead of the charts and graphs of a visual learner.

So what if you think you’re an auditory learner? Let’s say you have a knack for processing audio communication and can close your eyes and pick up all the important details of a lecture or audiobook. The following list is for you. Here are 7 characteristics of smart auditory learners—people who use their auditory preference to their advantage.

1. They Take Learning Styles With a Grain of Salt

This bears repeating. There is no evidence that people’s learning styles impact their learning, so a smart auditory learner definitely takes learning styles with a grain of salt.

Think of it as a preference. Smart auditory learners know they prefer audiobooks and hearing things out loud, so there’s no harm leaning into that preference.

Just don’t assume it’s going to improve your test scores.

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2. They Get Rid of Distractions

Just because you’re an auditory learner doesn’t mean you can sift through lots of auditory inputs at once. No matter your learning preference, make sure you put effort into limiting distractions.

An auditory learner might struggle to study while listening to music or have difficulty working with the TV on because they’re so receptive to auditory information. Therefore, you should find a quiet place to learn, so you can focus all your energy on whatever it is you’re trying to retain.

3. They Match Learning Task With Learning Style

The real secret to improving your retention and recall is to match the learning task with the learning style. A smart auditory learner knows the best time to rely on auditory learning. They don’t always fall back on listening. Instead, they strategize the best approach for each individual learning challenge.

For example, I might know that I favor visual learning, but if I need to memorize my lines in a play, I might be better served recording the other characters’ lines, so I can practice saying my lines when I hear my cues.

Maybe I’m more kinesthetic. That doesn’t mean that I have to move to learn. Instead, I have to be strategic about when and how I add movement to my learning process. It might make sense for me to memorize countries or states by drawing a giant map and running to the right spot when someone yells out that geographic location. However, it doesn’t make much sense to dance around while I’m reading Foucault. The learning style should be in service of whatever it is that’s being learned.

Instead of catering to people’s learning preferences, we should be matching the learning style with the task at hand. Ask yourself, “What’s the best style (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, reading/writing) for this particular learning task?”

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4. They Use Their Voice

Auditory learners might need to read things aloud or listen to audiobooks instead of silently reading. Adding your voice can help turn reading/writing into an auditory exercise.

Get creative with it. If you consider yourself to be an auditory learner, think of different ways to add an audio element to your learning. Sing it. Yell it. Turn it into a poem. Just don’t get stuck in the reading/writing learning style when you prefer to be hearing and listening.

5. They Practice Listening

Smart auditory learners don’t take listening for granted. Just because you prefer auditory learning doesn’t mean you’re great at it. Instead, smart auditory learners take their preference and improve it over time.

Practice your listening skills. Give people your undivided attention, clarify what you’ve just heard, and challenge yourself to be as active and present a listener as possible.

Asking clarifying questions and repeating back what you’ve just heard can help you assess how accurate your listening is[4]. You should also transfer what you’ve heard to other learning styles. Write it down or draw it as pictures, charts, and graphs. That brings us to the next characteristic of smart auditory learners.

6. They Use All Learning Styles

Smart auditory learners use all the learning styles. They may have a preference for listening, but using all types of inputs helps improve retention and recall.

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If you’re studying for an exam, don’t just record your notes as audio or listen to online lectures. Use flashcards, read your notes out loud, quiz yourself, create an active game that requires you to move around, and teach the concepts to your roommate. This gets as many parts of your brain and body involved in the learning as possible, which increases your odds of retaining the information and acing the exam.

7. They Reflect on What Works and What Doesn’t

Smart auditory learners are also reflective and self-aware learners. After you try a learning strategy, assess and reflect on how it went. Did you retain as much information as you’d hoped? Build off your successes and change strategies when a learning style isn’t working for you.

Smart auditory learning is really just smart learning. Create a game plan that uses multiple, appropriate learning styles. Then, follow through by removing distractions and studying your heart out. After assessing how much you’ve retained, reflect on what worked and what didn’t. Then, refine your game plan for more success next time.

Final Thoughts

It would be magical if learning styles were a silver bullet for learning. I’d love to be able to say I’m a visual learner and then be able to recall every single piece of information just by seeing it represented visually. Unfortunately, that’s not at all how learning styles work.

Learning is complex and messy. Just because we prefer one learning style doesn’t mean it helps us learn better. What we really need to do is experiment with all the learning styles and try to match the right learning styles with each specific task.

Knowing your learning style is important. It’s good to know how you prefer to receive information. Just don’t stop there. Use your preference for auditory learning strategically and when it makes sense to do so.

More Tips for When You’re an Auditory Learner

Featured photo credit: Blaz Erzetic via unsplash.com

Reference

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