What Is VARK? I Oxford Open Learning

What Is VARK?

Learning Styles

I grew up believing that there was one dominant learning style, which was what I experienced throughout school, university, and the early years of my career—auditory learning. In traditional educational settings, this typically involved teacher or tutor-led lectures, discussion groups, and corporate seminars or workshops in the workplace. However, as I delved into corporate training during my time as an HR professional, I learned about the theory of four distinct learning styles: Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing, and Kinesthetic (VARK).

1. Visual (V): Visual learners prefer to process information through visual aids such as diagrams, charts, graphs, videos, and other visual representations.

2. Auditory (A): Auditory learners prefer to process information through listening and speaking.

3. Reading/Writing (R): Reading/Writing learners prefer to process information through written text.

4. Kinesthetic (K): Kinesthetic learners prefer to process information through hands-on experiences and physical activities.

I have to admit, I haven’t questioned this theory, and research suggests that educators haven’t either, with 9 out of 10 of them believing that students learn better in their preferred style.

I was surprised to read that many neuroscientists consider the VARK theory to be a myth.

The Value Of VARK

There is no proof of the value of learning styles as educational tools, and psychologists and neuroscientists are puzzled as to why this preoccupation with learning styles exists. This can probably be explained by the fact that even though scientists have failed to find evidence for VARK, they haven’t conclusively proved it invalid. The Null Hypothesis approach of rigorous scientific process, e.g. every theory is invalid until proven correct, doesn’t carry quite as much traction in the real world, evidently.

In the absence of scientific confirmation that VARK is failing students, it is understandable that educators continue to provide students with the choice of learning style they feel most comfortable with. While not evidence-based, the VARK model enables us to understand our learning preferences better and shape our lessons accordingly, making learning more enjoyable and subsequently more effective. However, it’s crucial to remain flexible in our approach and be willing to adapt to less ideal learning situations in pursuit of our educational goals.

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I am a practising HR consultant working with several start-ups on an ongoing and ad-hoc basis in the London and M4 area, and am a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development or CIPD. I am the Director of thecareercafe.co.uk; thecareercafe.co.uk is a resource for start-ups and small business. It includes a blog containing career advice, small business advice articles, HR software reviews, and contains great resources such as HR Productivity Apps.

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