According to the educational theorist Neil Fleming, everyone of us has a preference for a specific learning style.
Learning to use learning techniques related to our specific learning style would allow us to learn faster and better.
Fleming created the VARK model. The VARK model divides learners into four groups, according to their “preferred” learning style.
The four learning styles are: visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic.
Visual learners have a preference for learning by observing. They can learn from images, diagrams, schemes.
Auditory learners learn better when listening to new information. For example, they prefer listening to a lesson instead of reading a book.
Reading and writing learners prefer to read or write information to learn them.
Finally, kinesthetic learners learn easier when they experience or do things, for example to learn these Italian words: urlare – to scream – or saltare – to jump – they prefer to actually scream and jump instead of just reading them on a list.
Does the VARK model work?
Is knowing your learning style really effective to absorb, process, comprehend and retain new information easier?
According to some studies – Rogousky and Calhoun, Husmann and Dean O’Loughlin – it’s not.
Indeed, research has found out that even if a person falls into a specific category, let’s say auditory, he usually learns using several different strategies, many of them not related to his “preferred” learning style at all.
Moreover, people who actually tried to change their learning habits according to their learning style didn’t show any improvement in their test results.
So, it seems that knowing your learning style doesn’t help you reaching better results.
What should we do?
Trying new approaches is right but after some time you should always check if they really work on you or not.
So, knowing ourselves is key.
When you want to learn something new, in my opinion, you should always use a grain of salt and do what you feel it works best for you.
In my experience, I’ve never known anyone who learns everything only listening to it – or reading, or watching it.
When learning, I think we tend to use different strategies naturally, meaning we cannot be labelled as kinesthetic learners or visual learners only, but we are a combination of all of them.
For example, in my case, I like to read instructions carefully before starting using a new feature of a computer program.
However, even if I’ve read all the steps to use that feature, it doesn’t mean I really know how to use it. Not until, I’ve tried it. Not until I’ve physically opened the computer program and followed the whole procedure – maybe more than once. So, this makes me both a reading and a kinesthetic learner, I guess.
By contrast, when it comes to learning new vocabulary in a foreign language, I usually have to use a different method. You know, living with my husband I’ve noticed that if he reads 20 new words on a list and their meaning for three times – or even less – he can remember at least 18 words without any problem. I can’t!
He makes me feel like an old lady affected by dementia because I can remember one or two words maximum with that method – and not even for long! It’s almost embarrassing!
Instead, I noticed I learn new words better and faster while I watch movies or tv series, and while I listen to podcasts. So, this makes me also an auditory learner.
See? No one is one type of learner only. The trick is knowing ourselves so to be able to switch to the right strategies according to what we want to learn.
What about you? What type of strategies do you use to learn a new language, for example? Do some strategies work better than others?
Original image by rinfoto0