How to study for your learning style

Best learning style for adult learning

We all work and communicate differently, so it makes sense we all have distinct ways in which we prefer to learn. There’s a well-known methodology called the VAK learning styles, which classifies learners based on the primary sense they rely on – visual, auditory, or kinesthetic. (You can also check out its newer cousin VARK, which separates visual learning into visual or read/write.) The idea is that once you identify and understand your preferred style, you can implement meaningful study techniques and start to reap the rewards.

Let’s explore strategies you can use to make studying easier and more effective for your learning style.

Tips for visual learners

If you’re a visual learner, you learn best through your sense of sight and pay attention to how things look or are visually represented. Your preferred learning mediums are videos, charts, diagrams, imagery, demonstrations, and reading/writing. You like to picture things, get perspective and sense whether something ‘looks’ right – or doesn’t. 

If you’re a visual learner, these tips may help you better absorb your course content:

  • If a video doesn’t make sense after the first watch, view it again with subtitles enabled or download a transcript so you can read the content through. 
  • Take notes as you go and use colour-coding to make the information more digestible. 
  • Visualise key concepts you need to learn into doodles or diagrams. Print them out, colour them in, and stick them around your house so you can learn passively.
  • When you’re working through a case study, close your eyes and imagine how the scenario plays through like a movie in your mind. 
  • If you’re feeling stuck, get out a notepad or a whiteboard. Sketch out your problems, write it all out, or use mind mapping.

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Helpful hints for auditory learners

If you’re an auditory learner, you learn best through your sense of hearing. You may be sensitive to the sound of voices, get easily distracted by noise, repeat things to yourself or move your lips while you read. Your preferred learning mediums are verbal explanations, podcasts, audiobooks, videos with the volume raised, and music. You can hear if something doesn’t ‘sound’ right.

These tips can help you make the most of your preferred learning style:

  • Record your notes or key concepts on the recorder app on your phone or computer. Listen back to them on your daily walk or commute.
  • After a reading session, debrief with a colleague or family member. Even if that means explaining what you’ve just learned to your fur baby, using your own words can help challenging or new information to stick.
  • Participate in online discussion groups where you can ask and answer questions and compare notes with other students. 
  • Start a study group where you can have brainstorming sessions with others. 
  • If you’re a current student, join a unit group session with a learning coach over Zoom (you can book a session through Spark Learning Hub). It’s a great way to get insights from other people and hear what they’re going through and what wisdom they have to share.
  • If a video is too distracting, close your eyes and just listen to what the people in the video are saying.
  • Highlight large sections of text you have to read and use text-to-speech technology so that a screen reader reads to you. 
  • Try a little music in the background when you study. You may want to adjust the volume or listen to instrumental music if you find yourself getting too distracted by the lyrics. 

Methods to try for kinesthetic learners

If you’re a kinesthetic learner, you learn best when you’re moving or using your hands. You may find it hard to sit still and enjoy taking things apart and putting them back together. Your preferred learning medium is to learn by doing and you like getting a ‘feel’ for things.

You may find learning easier if you:

  • Take frequent short breaks.
  • Walk while you listen to a video or audio file and read while you’re on the exercise bike.
  • Use a fidget spinner, tap a pencil, or do something with your hands while you’re learning. 
  • Put things you learn into practice as soon as you can. Apply the principle to your current workplace or home.
  • After an hour of sitting at your desk, take a movement break. 
  • Get cracking on the assessments sooner rather than later. They’re designed to be practical and apply to a real-world work environment. If you need a hand getting started, just book a coaching call in Spark Learning Hub.

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Which VAK learning style are you?

In all likelihood, you’ll learn best through a combination of all three styles with one being more dominant than the others. Multi-sense learning is particularly helpful for retention. Research suggests that if more than one sense is stimulated during training, learners will retain the learning longer and more effectively. You’ll also enjoy your study sessions more and who doesn’t want to get joy from what they’re learning?

Whatever your learning style, we recommend reviewing the glossary of terms for each unit to ensure you understand the terms unique to your study topics. It’s also fantastic to break study sessions into easily digestible chunks. One of our learning coaches recommends three 45-minute sessions and one two-hour session every week to keep on top of your coursework.

Finally, always look for ways to apply your learning straight away. If you’re learning about work health and safety, do a risk analysis around your home. If you’re learning about communication, use these methods when chatting with your kids or partner. You can also engage in student discussion groups, make models, write case studies, or participate in coaching sessions to help translate your learning from the theoretical to the tangible.

As with all new ideas, take one learning style study method and try it out for yourself. When you’re comfortable with that, you can experiment with adding another and then another. You’ll soon find you’re studying faster, more efficiently, and remembering more too.