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Last Updated on August 18, 2020

7 Characteristics of an Aural Learner

7 Characteristics of an Aural Learner

No matter how many times someone tells me how to spell a word, I can’t seem to process it. They might as well be the teacher on Charlie Brown, saying, “Wah wah wah wah wah.” If I’m ever going to have a chance of understanding what they’re saying, I need them to write it out. I need to see how it’s spelled and how it looks on the page. Only then will I be able to process the information. In other words, I’m definitely not what you’d call an auditory or aural learner (a person who prefers to hear things to be able to process information better).

Only a Preference

It’s important to keep in mind that learning styles are nothing but preferences.

The idea that some people are visual, aural, kinesthetic, or read/write learners began in the 1990s in New Zealand when Neil Fleming developed a questionnaire to measure how people preferred to process information. Known as VARK, this questionnaire is still used up to this day to categorize people’s learning style preferences.[1]

Though Fleming’s learning style gained popularity, Polly Hussman and Valerie Dean O’Loughlin found no link between people’s preferred learning style and actual learning outcomes.[2] Meanwhile, Abby R. Knoll, Hajime Otani, Reid L. Skeel, and K. Roger Van Horn confirmed these findings in another study.

Preferred learning styles had no impact on how well participants could recall information.[3] It may be true that people like to gain information in various ways, but it’s not true that using a chosen learning style improves learning outcomes.

Nevertheless, it’s still clear that people (myself included) have preferred ways to receive new information. I definitely like to see things in writing. So, it’s still a worthwhile pursuit to unpack what the characteristics of an aural learner are and how someone who prefers aural input can take advantage of that preference.

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7 Characteristics of an Aural Learner

Let’s look at the 7 characteristics of an aural learner:

1. Aural Learners Prefer to Hear Information

This might seem obvious, but aural learners prefer to hear things aloud. If you find yourself asking for auditory information, you just might be one.

If this sounds like you, download audiobooks and listen to podcasts. Try these 16 Best Podcasts on Motivation to Help You Reach Your Goals. You might also enjoy attending lectures and reading things out loud to better understand the content.

2. Aural Learners Gravitate Towards Audiobooks

Aural learners might also gravitate towards audiobooks, which are sources of auditory information at their finest. There are no words to read or pictures to look at, after all. If you enjoy audiobooks and podcasts and easily follow along, you could be an aural learner.

Don’t feel ashamed if people say that listening to an audiobook isn’t “real reading.” Learning is learning, whether you’re listening or reading.

3. Aural Learners Close Their Eyes to Focus on Auditory Information

When someone closes their eyes to better understand something, they might be an aural learner. They do it mostly to block out other learning methods and focus on auditory inputs.

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If you think that’s you, try it out. Close your eyes to get rid of visual stimuli and see how it affects your learning.

4. Aural Learners Talk and Move Lips to Process Information

You might also be able to spot an aural learner when they talk to themselves or mouthing the words as they read since aural learners prefer hearing new information.

If you think you’re an aural learner, crack a book and read along. That way, you’ll turn reading and studying into an auditory experience.

5. Aural Learners Remember People’s Names

Unlike me, aural learners tend to be good at learning people’s names. We usually hear instead of seeing them, so aural learners are at an advantage when it comes to learning new names.

You may boost your name-learning skills by repeating people’s names five times to make sure that you remember them well.

6. Aural Learners Do Not Like Noisy Learning Environments

It might seem counterintuitive, but being an aural learner doesn’t mean that they like a noisy environment. If someone prefers to hear information, they don’t appreciate listening to competing noises.

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It’s the same for a visual learner. Just because I appreciate a chart or graph, it’s false to think that I like to be bombarded by visuals.

If people prefer aural learning, they might be attracted to clear, audible sounds and struggle with auditory distractions.

Aim to reduce distractions in your environment, regardless of your preferred learning style. Find a quiet place to study without the sound of traffic, phones, and televisions disturbing you.

7. Aural Learners Might Ignore Visual Representations of Information

Lastly, an aural learner might not even notice or pay attention to visual information. If charts and graphs don’t make things clearer for you, it is highly possible that audible information serves you better.

And that’s okay! Go ahead and listen to as much information as you can. Still, don’t completely ignore the visuals. After that, go back and use the other learning styles to reinforce what you’re learning. Know your blind spot and make sure to access all methods since people do learn better and retain more data when they use multiple learning styles, regardless of their preference.

How Does an Aural Learner Learn?

Because learning styles are only a matter of choice and not actually a way to improve learning outcomes, aural learners learn like everyone else. Once you realize that, it’s okay to start with that preference, whether it’s aural, visual, kinesthetic, or read/write. I know I still always ask people to write things down for me, and I prefer reading over anything else. It’s not a problem — it feels more natural for me to do so.

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If you’re an aural learner, you may try listening to audiobooks and podcasts first. You can even turn on an audiobook while reading the same book, considering combining learning styles helps people retain new information.

People should try to match the learning task with the learning style. Read: context matters. In case you learn by listening, but you need to analyze graphs, auditory information is probably not the best way to go. If you prefer visuals to learn your lines in a play, though, aural inputs might actually be more helpful for you. And if you favor a read/write learning style but are practicing a new TikTok dance, you can read all the books in the world and still not be able to learn the moves. Hence, always think of what you’re learning about before you decide on your learning method.

Furthermore, it’s important to limit distractions, regardless of your preferred learning style. Whether you’re an aural, visual, kinesthetic, or read/write learner, you need to turn off your gadgets and study in a quiet environment. I’d even suggest getting noise-canceling headphones to block external noises. The more conducive to learning your environment is, the better your chances of learning will be.

Final Thoughts

Self-reflection is an essential part of the learning process. After trying out a learning style, reflect on what worked and what didn’t. What are the results? Is there room for improvement? Did the learning style fit what you’re trying to learn?

It’s a lifelong process to figure out how your brain processes new information best, so make sure to reflect on yourself. Don’t just keep doing the same thing repeatedly because you’re an aural learner. Try new learning styles or combinations of styles to see what works in different scenarios.

Self-reflection builds self-awareness, which is crucial for improving learning outcomes over time. Unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet for that.

But if you prefer aural learning, start with auditory information, mix things up with other learning styles, consider which ones are suitable for what you’re trying to learn, reduce distractions, and become as reflective about your learning as possible. This way, you’ll be starting with your preferences and creating a learning system that will continue to improve over time.

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Featured photo credit: Mimi Thian via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Clay Drinko

Clay Drinko is an educator and the author of PLAY YOUR WAY SANE (January 2021 Simon & Schuster)

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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

How to Take Notes: 3 Effective Note-Taking Techniques

How to Take Notes: 3 Effective Note-Taking Techniques

Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes effectively.

I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

And if you focus on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

What to Write Down

Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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1. Dates of Events

Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

2. Names of People

Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

3. Theories or Frameworks

Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

4. Definitions

Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

5. Arguments and Debates

Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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6. Images

Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

7. Other Stuff

Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

8. Your Own Questions

Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

1. Outlining

Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

2. Mind-Mapping

For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

Here’s the idea:

In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

3. The Cornell System

The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.[1]

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About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

The Bottom Line

I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

More Note-Taking Tips

Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Cornell University: The Cornell Note Taking System

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