10 Types of Learning and How to Teach Them: A Complete Guide to Learning Styles
May 31, 2021
6 min read
If you have been a part of the education sector, you probably already know how different each child is. Every student has their own set of strengths and weaknesses which make them unique. Similarly, every student has a preferred way of learning and retaining the material. These preferences are called “learning styles”.
Each learning style describes how a learner best receives information, interprets it, organizes it, and stores it. A majority of the learners today even have multiple or overlapping learning styles, also called multimodal learning. As an educator, it is extremely important to know the different types of learning – since this will help your students build on their strengths and retain information better. The original model of VARK only describes four of these - visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic. However, in this article we explore 10 types of learning and how to teach them.
Another factor that contributes to learning and retaining information is the subject of the information. It is a well known fact that some people excel better in creative fields like design, fine arts, photography, while others might excel in practical or calculative fields like mathematics, engineering, science, and so on.
Thus, different people have different interests and these interests contribute to different learning areas or subjects as well.
Physical or kinesthetic learners prefer a hands-on experience rather than listening to lectures or sitting in a class. They like interacting physically with things that are tangible in nature. These learners could see the idea of studying for hours as a daunting experience but are better with actually doing things themselves. They possess qualities like being restless, preferring to get their hands “dirty”, outgoing and energetic.
Visual or spatial learners learn best with the help of visual cues like charts, images, diagrams, graphs, etc. These learners respond best to colours and mind maps. They use their visual memory to retain information for longer periods of time. Many visual learners possess characteristics like frequent planning and doodling, they have a good attention span and are extremely observant, and they prefer visual directions.
People who tend to understand and retain information by hearing it or saying it out loud (oral) are called auditory learners. These types of learners can quickly notice the change in someone’s pitch, tone, and other voice qualities. They usually prefer discussing topics, participating in debates, and conversing about things to remember them. Most auditory learners are easy to distract and might even hum, sing, or talk to self frequently.
These types of learners prefer traditional methods like using multiple written resources for learning. Verbal learners learn best through written material or by writing the material themselves. They usually possess a broad vocabulary and might even like using tools like acronyms, rhymes, tongue twisters, among others. Verbal learners are known to be bookworms.
Logical or mathematical learners tend to categorize information into groups to learn them better. They have a knack for quickly recognizing patterns and sequences; and understand equations, numbers, and relationships easily. These learners love structure and logic to things. Naturally, mathematics comes easy to them.
Where music or background noise is a distraction to most of us, musical learners prefer them. They tend to learn better with music, beats, and rhythm. Like logical learners, they too find patterns and relationships, but between different sounds. Some sources say they even think in sounds and rhythms instead of words and pictures.
Clearly, these learners often grow up to be musicians or instrumentalists. More often than never, some people are a combination of auditory and musical learners. This is why strategies to engage these two kinds aren’t too different.
Naturalist learners learn best through experimentation and practical experiences. They like making observations of the world around them. Just like the name suggests, naturalistic learners are also said to be one with nature. They retain information best when they are outdoors, around plants, animals, among others.
These types can also be somewhat related to kinesthetic learners since they appreciate tactile sensations. All-in-all, they apply scientific reasoning to the world around them and are highly interested in nature, as well as the things created by man.
Linguistic learners are the combination of auditory and verbal learners. They absorb knowledge best by writing, reading, and sounding the material out. These learners can use the traditional methods of learning just like verbal learners and also prefer listening to the information. Linguistic learners also make their own notes while studying.
Social or interpersonal learners learn best while working in groups or with other people. They often make good leaders and others even come for advice to them. Social learners learn by relating their ideas and thoughts to the lives of other people. These learners are usually empaths and possess qualities like sensitivity to others, excellent communication, leadership skills, and problem-solving skills. This type of learning can fall adjacent to one or more types mentioned above.
In a complete contrast to interpersonal or social learners, intrapersonal or solitary learners prefer solitude while studying. They are more independent and introspective by nature and prefer to be with their own thoughts and ideas without too much external interference. Usually, you can find these types sitting at the back of the class or you might refer to them as the “quiet kid” but they may end up acing the exam. Solitary learning too can fall adjacent with other learning styles.
To summarize, remember to not put your students in a box. It is not necessary and probably unlikely that a student is only one type of learner. There can exist multiple variations and combinations between their learning styles. This is also called a multimodal approach. According to statistics, more than 60% of people are multimodal learners.
Acknowledge that each child is different and you might have the need to find varying ways to approach their education. Again, these differences can also exist with regards to the subject area. Certain people are simply better suited and more interested in some, while others might have completely opposing interests. These learning styles only provide you with a framework to follow.