Learning styles is a well-known methodology now advocated in schools and tertiary institutions. If you’re returning to study after an extended time, it can seem like a challenging decision. What’s great compared to previous study, is that so many learning resources have become available to you now.
It is true, adults do learn differently from children, mostly because you need to have a ‘why’ for your learning choice. You might also have negative feelings about your previous learning experiences at school. These issues don’t have to stand in the way of you becoming a successful and fulfilled adult learner.
Let’s explore basic strategies that you can use to make study easier and effective for your learning style.
Three Learning Styles – which one fits you?
Research has discovered that learners fall into one of three learning styles. Once you understand these styles and can identify yours, you can easily implement meaningful study techniques and start to reap the rewards.
The three styles are described as Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic – or VAK – and are a reliable measure of learning strengths.
The Visual Learner – you need to see things
If you are a Visual Learner, you like to learn through written language such as reading and writing. You remember what has been written down and rarely need to read it more than once. Additionally, some visual learners tend to do best with charts, demonstrations and other visual materials. You respond well to colour and taking notes, so to maximise this strength while studying try colour coding the information into keywords, ideas and instructions.
Visual learners find doodling as they listen or drawing diagrams to illustrate what they’re learning very useful. You’ll like extra notes and handouts. Knowing that you need to see things is the crucial element of this learning style, so closing your eyes and visualising what you are learning is incredibly helpful.
The Auditory Learner – you need to hear things
If you are an Auditory Learner, you might tend to talk to yourself out loud or move your lips while you read. You might have difficulty with reading or writing but do well if you can debrief with a colleague or record the information and play it back to yourself later.
You’ll find asking questions or answering them very powerful. Discussions, brainstorming and buzz groups are beneficial to your learning. Read out loud or record yourself and then play it back. Try a little music in the background when you study, the volume is up to you. Hearing sounds and information can be the trick to stimulating your memory.
The Kinesthetic Learner – you need to do things
Kinesthetic Learners do best when using their hands and moving. They find it hard to sit still and understand best when taking things apart and putting them back together.
Taking frequent short breaks and walking during reading or studying can help you concentrate. Walking, standing, chewing, tapping a pencil, moving around in your seat are also good. Remember you learn by doing, not just by reading and hearing.
More Hints to Strengthen your Study Skills
You are likely to find that you are a combination of all three styles with one more dominant than the others. Even if this is not the case, you’ll find a combination of tools from all three styles useful.
If you enjoy your study time, you’ll be more inclined to want to study. Notice when using your computer that you can use all styles – CPU (Visual), playing music (Auditory), keyboard (Kinesthetic). Take small breaks every hour or so and watch your ability to concentrate grow.
Other tips include:
- Review the Glossary of Terms to ensure you understand the words that are unique to your study topics. You’ll find your understanding of a new subject will accelerate when you do this
- Break your study into easily digested chunks, say 20, 40 or 50-minute bites
- To make your study meaningful, find examples of how it can be applied. Write case studies, engage in student chat forums, make models – whatever feels natural to you
As with all new ideas, take one learning style study method and try it out for yourself. Add another when you’re comfortable, and then another. You’ll soon find you’ll be studying faster, more efficiently, and remember more too.
If you’re curious to find out your style try this assessment tool.