Learning Styles

Learning Styles

Learning Styles are essentially the ways an individual learner is affected by and responds to the conditions and methods of instruction involved in an educational context.  As a student it can be helpful to understand more about our own tendencies in learning and reflect on personal strengths, weaknesses and preferences we may have.  By taking time to become familiar with the ideas and theories about how we learn, we can undertake a reflective exercise in self-knowledge about an aspect of ourselves which we might not consider or consciously observe in ourselves.  Being aware of how we function in an educational environment can help us apply time management and study strategies to better accomplish our educational goals. But learning style theories and the survey/inventory instruments are not without their critics.  Psychologists and neuroscientists point to the lack of scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of most learning style models.  Learning style inventories and surveys are considered highly variable and unreliable due to the personal biases and possibly wishful self-view of the survey user.  The results and how they are interpreted can also lead to labeling or pigeonholing of learners not only by an instructor but by the learner themselves.  This can limit useful exploration of different study and learning approaches. How you should approach learning styles: You should investigate several different models and inventories/surveys and compare the results.  You might try and retake them at different times to see if your mood or energy levels impact your responses.   You should be flexible in how you apply different theories and inventory results.  Be aware that there are no always-correct rules about your own learning.  You should take advantage of your learning preferences and strengths, but also try and apply strategies and approaches which are not your strengths.  You can expand your ‘learning toolbox’ to be more versatile in your future career and refine your critical thinking skills.

 Basic 3 styles

The simplest approach to learning styles utilizes our basic sense faculties, minus smell and taste:

  • Auditory learner
  • Visual learner
  • Tactile learner

Read more about this approach

Take Learning Style Self-Inventory based on this approach (24 questions)

A slight variation on this categorization from University of S. Dakota includes ‘Auditory‘ and ‘Visual‘, but the third category ‘Tactile’ is
replaced with:

  • Kinesthetic: Develop a strong feeling towards an experience.

A third variation reconciles the Tactile and Kinesthetic in one modality (this site replaces ‘style’ with the word ‘modality’) while still
keeping ‘Auditory’ and Visual’:

Take Learning Style Self-Inventory based on this approach (30 questions)

Felder-Silverman model – 4 Styles

The model was originally formulated by Dr. Richard Felder in collaboration with Dr. Linda K. Silverman, an educational psychologist, for use by college instructors and students in engineering and the sciences, although it has subsequently been applied in a broad range of disciplines. (North Carolina State Uni.)

The four styles are:

  • active/reflective
  • sensing/intuitive
  • visual/verbal
  • sequential/global

This model is intended to overcome problems of mismatches between learning styles of most
students in a class and the teaching style of the professor by striving for a balance of instructional methods.  If the balance is achieved, all students will be taught partly in a manner they prefer, which leads to an increased comfort level and willingness to learn, and partly in a less preferred manner, which provides practice and feedback in ways of thinking and solving problems which they may not initially be comfortable with but which they will have to use to be fully effective professionals.

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Take Learning Style Self-Inventory based on this approach (44 questions)

Multiple intelligences – 7 styles

Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences states not only do human beings have several different ways of learning and processing information, but these methods are relatively independent of one another: leading to multiple “intelligences” as opposed to a general intelligence factor among correlated abilities.  The foundation of multiple intelligences is made up of seven styles:

  • Visual (spatial):You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
  • Aural (auditory-musical): You prefer using sound and music.
  • Verbal (linguistic): You prefer using words, both in speech and writing.
  • Physical (kinesthetic): You prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch.
  • Logical (mathematical): You prefer using logic, reasoning and systems.
  • Social (interpersonal): You prefer to learn in groups or with other people.
  • Solitary (intrapersonal): You prefer to work alone and use self-study.

Since 1999, Gardner has identified eight intelligences by adding one more:

Naturalistic.  He also considers that existential and moral intelligence may also be worthy of inclusion

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Page last updated: August 2, 2014