VARK Learning Styles & How to Recognize Student Learning Style

How to Recognize the Learning Styles of Students

Every child has different learning preferences. Some prefer to learn by hearing, some by seeing, some by writing and some by reading. However, what is common amongst all - they learn better when they can incorporate elements and topics that interest them in their studies, such as building blocks, music, fashion, aeroplane, etc.

There is no 'one size fits all' learning concept regarding how you comprehend information. Every learner is different and prefers different learning styles, but teachers have concentrated more on using a common learning approach for many years rather than understanding how their students learn, perhaps one of the most critical aspects of teaching a child.

However, the idea of different learning styles is not new; it has always been there. This concept began to gain popularity in the mid-1970s, and since then, the notion has influenced the way education and learning are perceived.

All learning styles reflect a personal strength that likely helps a person retain information more effectively. Each of them focuses on one of the five meanings or has a social aspect. This theory is popular because, by finding the style of an individual learner and tailoring the teaching to it, it was thought that their effectiveness could be improved.

In this article, we will cover all four primary learning styles. Have a look and ask yourself: do you find them all equally interesting? Do you prefer one (or more) of these to meet your student's requirements? Check and observe minutely which learning style best suits your students!

VARK Learning Styles

The acronym "VARK" describes four modalities of student learning described in a 1992 study by Neil D. Fleming and Coleen E. Mills. These different learning styles—

  • Visual Learners
  • Auditory Learners
  • Reading/Writing Learners
  • Kinesthetic Learners

These learning styles were identified after thousands of hours of classroom observation. The authors also created an accompanying questionnaire for educators to help them identify and understand their learning preferences.

As per Neil Fleming and David Baume proclamation, teachers need to understand how their students learn; what is more important is for students to understand how they, themselves, learn. By understanding their process of learning and thinking, they can be more efficient in studying and learning.

Unaware of your learning process can be extremely frustrating to sit in a classroom and not understand why you just do not get it. It can also be frustrating to learn perfectly well from one teacher but struggle to learn from another. Eventually, this may lead to a lack of confidence in the learning process. 

If you have experienced feelings like this or have a student struggling in the same, this article may help you best.

Understanding the VARK MODEL

Visual learners 

Visual learning is also called "spatial learning". In this learning style, learners with a preference for visual learning tend to view and observe things, including pictures, diagrams, written instructions and more. Students who learn through vision gain a better understanding of the information when presented visually. These are your doodling students, your list makers and your students who take notes.

As images, diagrams, and written texts are their preferences; you can use a whiteboard or a smartboard. Provide students with the opportunity to draw pictures and diagrams on the board or create examples based on their learning topic. It is also recommended that teachers distribute materials and present them regularly. Visual learners may also need more time to process the material as they look at the visual cues in front of them. Therefore, make sure you give students some time and space to absorb the information.

Auditory learners

As far as auditory learners are concerned, they tend to learn better when the subject is strengthened by sound. Such students would much rather listen to a lecture than reading written notes or write notes, and they are likely to use their voices, often, to reinforce new concepts and ideas. Such learners prefer to read aloud. They have no fear of speaking in class and are good at explaining things verbally. Furthermore, they may be slower to read and may often repeat things a teacher says to them.

Auditory learners find it difficult to stay quiet for long periods; it is preferable to have them involved in the lecture by asking them to read aloud in class, repeat new concepts back to you or ask questions and let them answer. Invoking group discussions is also a good option as their auditory and verbal processors can properly take in and understand and retain the information they are being presented with. Introducing them to videos, music, or audiotapes are also helpful.

Reading/writing learners

Developed by Fleming and Mills in 1992, VARK Modalities theory states that reading/writing learners prefer to learn through written words/texts. There is some overlap of this kind of learners with visual learning; they draw to expression through writing notes/dairies, reading books or articles, looking up words in the dictionary and searching the internet for just about everything.

This learning style is probably the easiest to satisfy because much of the traditional educational system focuses on writing essays, researching and reading books. The teacher needs to be mindful about allowing plenty of time for learners to absorb information through the written texts/word and give them opportunities to get their ideas out on paper.

Kinesthetic learners

Kinesthetic learners, or tactical learners, learn by experiencing or doing things. Learners of this kind engage in organizing events or using their hands to touch and manipulate to understand concepts. Kinesthetic learners may struggle to sit in one place for long periods. They may require multiple breaks throughout their studies.

To teach such students in the best way is by getting them 'learn by doing.' Instruct these learners to act out a specific scene from a book or a lesson you are teaching. Encourage them by incorporating movement into lessons: help them memorize, introduce games that involve moving around the classroom while learning or have students write on the whiteboard as part of an activity. Once kinesthetic learners can physically perceive what they are learning, abstract ideas and complex concepts become easier to understand.

To ensure that learners excel in their learning journey, it is essential to understand the different learning styles and preferences. By empowering students at a young age, teachers empower them to prepare for their future. Identifying how a child learns best can significantly affect their ability to connect with the topics you teach and how they engage with the rest of the class.

About the Author
Author: Saniya Khan
Saniya Khan I am Saniya Khan, Copy-Editor at EdTechReview - India’s leading edtech media. As a part of the group, my aim is to spread awareness on the growing edtech market by guiding all educational stakeholders on latest and quality news, information and resources. A voraciously curious writer with a dedication to excellence creates interesting yet informational pieces, playing with words since 2016.

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