The 4 types of learners and how to know who you are


The 4 types of learners and how to know who you are

Rear view of students listening in a lecture hall

Have you ever wondered why some people seem to learn things faster than others? It might not be about being smarter, it might just mean they process and learn information differently. Determined to help demystify the process of learning, Neil Fleming and Colleen Mills, scholars from New Zealand’s Lincoln University in Canterbury, took a deep dive into the different ways people approach learning. They developed the VARK model based on their assertion that “learners of all ages have different but consistent ways of reacting in learning situations”.

The VARK model is an acronym for visual, auditory, reading and writing, and kinesthetic learning styles. Neurolinguistic programming, or NLP, was key to Fleming and Mill’s research. Sometimes described as the “user’s manual for your mind”, NLP has also been characterized by the Association for Neuro Linguistic Programming as a combination of theories, models, and techniques that can be used strategically to improve learning outcomes.

It is important to note that not all educators embrace the idea of ​​learning styles, whether VARK or other forms, as a proven teaching technique. Many educators also believe that people can develop and reinforce different types of learning styles, even if they don’t come naturally at first.

From Fleming and Mill’s perspective, using the VARK model to understand learning styles would help individuals adjust their behavior to different learning environments. A recent example of such an environment occurred during the height of the coronavirus pandemic: distance learning. This form of distance learning – which usually involves listening to lessons through video calls – can cater to certain styles such as auditory or visual learners. But for others, it may require additional hardware to keep the information true. Keeping online learning varied, relevant, and engaging can keep students tuned into the classroom.

What is your VARK style? Citing the VARK model, Tovuti LMS describes the four main types of learning styles in the learning model.



A man’s eye looking straight into the camera

The majority of learners are visual or spatial learners. Visual learners connect well with models, shapes, charts, maps, and tables. Creating a visual image of what you are trying to learn is one way to retain that information. Think of this type of learning as exchanging words for visuals. For example, explaining the difference between a pint and a gallon with pictures of different jugs of water can more clearly illustrate how much can fit in each container.

However, not all visuals are created equal for this type of learner. Videos or movies, PowerPoint presentations and photos are not enough for some. Using tools like a flowchart can also help visual learners grasp more abstract concepts, according to insight from Bay Atlantic University in Washington DC

How do you spot a visual learner in the workplace? In an article for Inc.Molly St. Louis says it’s the people in meetings who are often seen doodling or taking notes, or enjoying whiteboard discussions.



A woman who listens with her eyes closed

According to the VARK model, auditory learners constitute a smaller population than visual learners. These learners retain details through auditory modes, including listening to live or recorded lectures, participating in group discussions, and listening to information via radio, audiobooks, and podcasts. Auditory learners often read aloud or create songs as ways to memorize material when studying for tests. auditory learners typically find strengths in storytelling and public speaking.

How do you know if your colleague is an auditory learner? As a rule, they are the ones who ask questions and reflect during meetings.


Read and write

A woman’s hand writing in a notebook

The “R” in VARK refers to reading and writing, specifically textual input and output. Textbooks, manuals, handouts, lists, PowerPoint presentations, as well as note taking are the favorite ways for learners who can read and write.

These learners typically gravitate towards information while reading, in much the same way that auditory learners retain information while listening. Written assignments are where these learners excel, effectively communicating their thoughts via email or direct messaging. Bay Atlantic University suggests “text is more powerful than any type of visual or auditory representation of an idea” for these learners.



Hands on the handlebars of a bicycle

Not familiar with the term kinesthetic? VARK-Learn describes this modality as the “perceptual preference related to the use of experience and practice (simulated or real)”. Think hands-on learning. Only a small part of the population are kinesthetic or experiential learners.

Kinesthetic learners take in information by performing the task they are learning about. Movement and muscle memory are also essential for kinesthetic learners. For example, when learning to ride a bicycle, physical movements become innate after a lot of practice. When conveying information to a kinesthetic learner, consider using examples, simulations, and recreating experiences.

Contrary to popular belief, kinesthetic learners are not just restless people who have trouble sitting still. Usually high-energy workers – learners willing to dive into challenges that require “doing” and getting out there – like having coffee meetings with clients and co-workers to work out the smallest details.

This story originally appeared on Tovuti LMS and was produced and
distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.

Norma A. Roth