Learning is a lifelong process, one of thirsting for knowledge and gathering and processing information to expand your horizons. Whether you’re looking to grasp a challenging subject in the classroom, are in pursuit of professional development as an adult or simply attempting to remember information better, understanding HOW you learn can be just as important as WHAT you’re trying to learn.
Your own unique learning style defines the way that you, as a learner, absorb, comprehend, process and retain important information. For example, some people prefer to follow verbal directions, while others like to physically observe something being done. Learning styles are shaped by prior experience, as well as cognitive, emotional and environmental factors.
The concept of individualised learning is well recognised in education and classroom management strategy. Two popular models of study style are shown by the work of Honey and Mumford and the concept of VARK.
Peter Honey and Alan Mumford suggest that learners can be categorised into four distinct types: activist, pragmatist, theorist and reflector. Their four learning styles derive from 80 questions designed to determine preferred methods.
Activists learn by rolling up their sleeves and doing ‘the doing’. Pragmatists need to be able to see how they can put their learning into practice in the real world. Theorists like to understand the theory underpinning the action, and respond positively to concepts, facts and models. Reflectors like to learn by observing and thinking about what happened.
The acronym VARK stands for four different ways you learn: Visual, Aural, Read/write and Kinaesthetic.
The higher your score for each of these four learning method areas, the higher your predominance for that preference. You may, however, find you don’t have just one. This means you could be multi-modal, meaning you have a mixture of two or more styles, which helps learn faster. If you are a learner who is predominantly visual, reading a handout with some images in it might help. Or, if you’re kinaesthetic, carrying out a physical activity might be useful.
If you’re a teacher, gaining a good understanding of the learning preferences of your students can help you to adapt your lessons and ensure different learning styles are accommodated.
To maximise your potential and information retention, consider combining a mixture of your VARK preference activities with your Honey and Mumford learning style preference. For example, if you are aural in the VARK and theorist in Honey and Mumford, listening to a video or podcast explaining the theory behind the study will help you absorb information.
Understanding your own unique learning styles can help create individualised approach.They can also provide strategies that help you retain information more easily and more importantly, fully appreciate and enjoy the process of learning.
Vicky Chilton is