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Management Research News
ISSN : 0140-9174
Article publication date: 1 July 2004
It has become evident that students have diverse preferred learning styles and effective instructors must design and deliver courses to meet the needs of those students. This study investigates the four physiological learning styles of visual, aural, read‐write and kinesthetic as they apply to online education. Findings suggest that online students are more likely to have stronger visual and read‐write learning styles. Further, read‐write learners and students that were strong across all four learning styles were likely to evaluate course effectiveness lower than other students while aural/readwrite learners and students that were not strong on any learning style were more likely to evaluate course effectiveness higher than other students.
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Drago, W.A. and Wagner, R.J. (2004), "Vark preferred learning styles and online education", Management Research News , Vol. 27 No. 7, pp. 1-13. https://doi.org/10.1108/01409170410784211
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Using VARK Approach for Assessing Preferred Learning Styles of First Year Medical Sciences Students: A Survey from Iran
1 Student, Research Center for Prevention of Psychosocial Injuries and Student Research Committee, Ilam University of Medical Sciences, Ilam-Iran.
2 Phd Fellow in Microbiology, School of Management and Medical Information, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran.
3 Assistant Professor, Department of Anaesthesiology, Ilam University of Medical Sciences, Ilam, Iran.
4 General Practitioner (Phsycian), Medical Educational Development Center, Ilam University of Medical Sciences, Ilam, Iran.
5 Medical Student, Medical Educational Development Center, Ilam University of Medical Sciences, Ilam, Iran.
Yasemi Monireh Yaghoubi
6 General Practitioner (Phsycian), Medical Educational Development Center, Ilam University of Medical Sciences, Ilam, Iran.
Monireh Mohammad Hassan Nahal
7 Student, Medical Educational Development Center, Ilam University of Medical Sciences, Ilam, Iran.
8 Assistant Professor, Department of Anaesthesiology, Ilam University of Medical Sciences, Ilam, Iran.
Background: Preferred learning styles of learners are different, which depend on tastes, mentality preparedness, as well as physical condition, in terms of sensory modalities. Identifying and employing appropriate learning styles could play an important role in selecting teaching styles, which can improve education ultimately.
Aim: The present study aimed to assess the diversity of learning styles amongst medical students of a medical sciences university which was located west of Iran, in 2010.
Methods: A cross-sectional study which employed VARK learning style’s questionnaire was done on 141 first year medical sciences students at Ilam University of Medical Sciences in 2010. Data was collected with use of VARK questionnaire. The validity of the questionnaire was assessed on basis of experts’ views and its reliability was calculated by using Cronbach’s alpha coefficients (α=0.86). Data were analysed by using SPSS software and Chi-square test.
Results: Overall, 41.6% of the samples preferred to use a single learning style (Uni-modal). Of these, 17.7% preferred the Aural style, 17% preferred Reading and Writing, 6.4% preferred Kinesthetic style and 0.7% preferred Visual styles. Among the rest of the 82 students who preferred more than one style (multimodal), 17% chose two modes (bimodal), 13.5% chose three modes (tri-modal), and 27.6% chose four modes (quad-modal). There was a significant difference between educational levels and majors on one hand and choice of quad modal of VARK styles on the other hand (p=0.008). A significant association was also found between participants’ genders and selection of visual and reading/writing styles (p=0.03).
Conclusion: The preferred learning styles of medical students in the present study were aural and reading/writing. It is suggested that all medical students must be tested to determine their desired learning styles by using VARK questionnaire, also to choose appropriate teaching methods and to improve educational goals.
The characteristics of university learners are very varied in terms of age, culture, level of mentality preparedness, intelligence and psychological conditions, which lead to differences in individual learning styles in sensory modalities [ 1 ]. Medical students basically use different approaches to obtain required information, as their learning is affected by learning atmosphere and curricular issues, as well as teaching methods [ 2 ]. Therefore, it seems that teaching methods have to be organized individually, according to their individual characteristics [ 3 ]. Learning style is a complicated approach in which the learner should save, recall and process the concepts efficiently and effectively [ 4 ].
Visual, aural, reading and writing and kinesthetic (VARK) is one of the instruments which can be used to determine the learning styles. The VARK questionnaire was primarily developed by Lincoln University of New Zealand in 1998. It is based on three principles, which are as follows: 1. everyone can learn academic issues; otherwise everyone has their own styles 2. The learner’s motivation is increased when different learning styles of learners are taken into account and 3. Educational concepts are learned through utilization of senses and different perceptions [ 4 ]. From this perspective, people acquire environmental knowledge through four sensory modalities: visual, auditory, reading/writing and kinesthetic [ 5 ]. In other words, students learn the education force process by experience, projection, contemplation and accomplishment [ 6 ].
VARK instrument, which is based on interaction and response to learning environment of the students, divides students into four categories, including; Visual (a group of learners who learn best by observation and visual presentation, such as diagrams, pictures and figures, which are associated with clarification), Aural or auditory (a group of learners who learn best through listening and verbal instructions), Reading/writing (a group of learners who learn best by taking notes during lectures or reading written or printed texts) and Kinesthetic or practical (a group of learners who learn best by doing practicals, through gaining of experience and by manipulation of objects during a physical process) [ 7 ].
Many studies have been conducted on learning styles of medical students, that have highlighted the importance of this issue. For example, studies done by Alkhasawneh et al, on nursing students [ 8 ], Salimi et al., on medical students [ 9 ], Peyman et al., on nursing and midwifery students [ 10 ] Lujan et al., on medical students [ 11 ] have demonstrated more preference of students in using multidimensional learning styles. Only few studies have been performed by using VARK questionnaire in Iran. So, the current study was undertaken to determine preferred learning styles of first year medical sciences students at Ilam University of Medical Sciences, by using VARK questionnaire.
This research was performed as a descriptive-cross sectional study in 2010. The target population was the students of a university of Medical Sciences which was located in the west of Iran (Ilam University of Medical Sciences). To guarantee greater representation of the data, all the first year students of medicine, health, nursing and midwifery (n= 231), who had been enrolled in this university through clearance of the 2010 entrance exam, as a sample, were selected by using census method. From the target sample of 231 questionnaires, 141 questionnaires were completed. Hence, the response rate was 61%. The final sample consisted of 93 females (66%) and 48 males (34%); overall, more than half of them (53.8%) were studying at Bachelor of Sciences (BSc) level, 40 students (28.4%) were doing associated degrees and 24 students (17%) were studying at the general practitioner (GP) level.
Data were collected by using a questionnaire which was composed of two parts. The first part included questions on age, gender, educational major and Grade Point Average (GPA) for per university (Diploma). The second part was use of VARK standard questionnaire which was developed by Fleming, which could determine learning styles of students [ Table/Fig-1 ]. The VARK questionnaire, as a learning preference assessment tool, consists of 16 multiple choice questions, each having four choices. All choices correspond to the four sensory modalities which are measured by VARK (visual, aural/auditory, read/write, and kinesthetic). The students can select one or more choices, based on the sensory modalities which are preferred by them, to take in new information. The English version of VARK questionnaire was translated and its validity was approved by experts. Its Cronbach’s alpha coefficient was calculated (α = 0.86).
Selected questions from Flemming’s online VARK assessment
The participants were visited by the researchers in their classes, who handed to them the questionnaires, and then these questionnaires were collected at the same time. Before the questionnaire filling, the explanation which was needed was given to the students.
Data were reported as percentages of students in each category of learning style preference. The number of students who preferred each mode of learning was divided by the total number of responses to determine the percentage. Data were entered and processed by using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) software, version 16 and χ2 test.
Due to the type of this study, no formal ethical approval was obtained from the University’s Research Ethics Committee. The questionnaires which had participant information sheets which had questions on the nature of the study were distributed to participants. Written consent forms were obtained from participants for their participation in the study. The questionnaire data were kept confidential and respondents were assured of their right to withdraw from the study at any time. The names of the respondents were not recorded on the questionnaire, which rendered the data as anonymous.
A total of 141 students completed the questionnaires and so the response rate of this survey was 61%. Of them, 93 individuals (66%) were females. More than half of them (53.8%) were studying at Bachelor of Sciences (BSc) level, 40 students (28.4%) were doing associated degrees and 24 students (17%) were studying at general practitioner (GP) level.
In total, 59 students (41.6%) preferred only one learning style (single modal) and 82 students preferred to use multiple learning styles (multimodal). Of those who preferred only one style, 25 students (42.4%) were interested in auditory style and 24 students (40.7%) chose reading/writing style. Those who preferred to use more than one learning style (multi-modal) were as follows: 29.3% (n=24) preferred bi-modal styles, 23.2 % (n=19) preferred tri-modal styles and 47.5% (n=39) preferred quad-modal styles [ Table/Fig-2 ].
Frequency of students who preferred bi-modal, tri-modal and quad-modal learning styles V : Visual A : Auditory R : Read & Write K : Kinesthetic
[ Table/Fig-3 ] shows students’ preferences in using two, three or four modes of information processing styles. Twenty four students chose two modes of presentations, 9.9% (n=14) preferred auditory and reading/writing styles (AR), 2.8% (n=4) preferred auditory and kinesthetic styles (AK), 2.1% (n=3) preferred visual and auditory styles (VA), 1.4 % (n=2) preferred reading/writing and visual styles (RV) and 1.4 % (n=2) preferred visual and kinesthetic styles (VK).
Frequency of desired learning styles amongst medical students
Nineteen students preferred three modes of presentations, 6.4% (n=9) preferred aural, reading/writing and kinesthetic (ARK) style, 3.5% (n=5) preferred visual, auditory and kinesthetic (VAK) style, 2.1% (n=3) preferred visual, reading/writing and kinesthetic (VRK) style and 1.4% (n=2) preferred visual, auditory and reading/writing (VAR) style.
There was a significant difference between educational levels and majors and choosing quad modal of VARK styles (p=0.008). Also, a significant association was found between participants’ genders and their selections of visual and reading/writing styles (p=0.03).
Using VARK questionnaire to recognize preferred learning styles of students is a key approach which can be used to increase the quality of teaching and learning process. Self-awareness of distinctions and own learning styles lead each learner to individually choose appropriate study techniques. The VARK philosophy developed from the idea that everyone can learn if his/her distinction is verified. Recognizing learners’ interests will help teachers in moving onto the students’ learning styles from her/his learning style, in overcoming the situation in which all students tend to prefer specific styles and in improving teaching structures with consideration of the learners’ points of views [ 12 ].
In our study, 41.8% participants preferred only one learning style and 58.2% of them preferred to use multiple learning styles. Seventeen percent, 13.4% and 27.6% preferred bi-modal, tri-modal and quad modal styles respectively. In an Australian study which was done amongst nursing students, 16% students chose quad modal and 47% preferred single modal learning styles [ 13 ]. In a recent study done in the United States (Michigan) amongst first-year medical students, it was found that 43.45% preferred quad-modal and that 36.1% selected single modal learning styles [ 11 ]. However, in the present study, these rates were found to be 27% for quad-modal and 41.8% for single modal styles.
A recent report made by Liu and Ginther on American students showed that between 20-30% preferred aural style, that 40% percent preferred visual style and that between 30-40% preferred either reading/writing and kinesthetic or their combination [ 14 ]. Lujan and Dicarlo reported that 36.1% of first year medical students preferred single modal styles and that 63.8% preferred multi modal learning styles [ 11 ].
Baykan and Nacar, in their study which was done to investigate the preferred learning styles of first year medical student by using VARK questionnaire, found that 36.1% preferred single modal styles and that 63.9% preferred multi modal styles. No significant difference was found between gender and mean score obtained in first semester with respect to students’ learning styles. This result was not consistent with that of the present study [ 15 ].
Multi modal learners prefer to receive information by using different methods. This group of learners will not learn by using only a single method, for example, attending lectures [ 16 ]. This group of learners should read and write more about their preferences and their previous experiences and use them in everyday life accordingly [ 16 , 17 ]. It has been estimated that only one in five learners (20%) can remember what he/she had read. The corresponding rates for remembering after listening, watching, speaking and performing have been reported to be, 30 %, 40%, 50% and 60% respectively. These percentages for those who speak, listen, observe and perform simultaneously can be increased up to 90% [ 18 ].
Active learning strategies are more reasonable, as they consider different characteristics of learners through ratiocination and making problem solving improvements, as well as through development of decision- making skills. Discussions in class, collaborating learning skills, playing roles, simulating, models, struggles and games are active strategies that can be utilized in large classrooms [ 11 , 17 ].
It can be recommended that the learning preferences of medical students should be verified prior to the start of their academic tasks by using VARK questionnaire, to find appropriate teaching methods and to achieve educational goals. According to results of present study, regarding different types of learning styles, students need to try different methods to educate themselves and it is better for both lecturers and students to try different methods of educating.
This study had some potential limitations that may have affected the results. It was limited to a single university and it had a limited sample size. It was unlikely that the results of statistical analysis were attributed to chance, but this did not necessarily imply that they were valid outside this university or that they could be generalized to other settings.
Another limitation of this study, and use of the VARK questionnaire as designed, was that it did not account for confounding factors such as socioeconomic status, race, culture, etc. The relatively homogenous population which was surveyed in this study may have tended to have less variety in these factors [ 19 ].
The preferred learning styles of medical students in the present study were aural and reading/writing styles. According to results of this study, regarding different types of learning styles, students need different methods to educate themselves and it is better for both lecturers and students to try different methods of educating.
I would like to extend my gratitude to the students who participated in this study and completed the questionnaires. All authors have thanked Dr Ali Delpisheh, Dr Monireh Yaghoubi and Monireh Mohammad Hassan Nahal for helping in reviewing manuscript and in translation of questionnaire.
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Overview of VARK Learning Styles
Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."
Aron Janssen, MD is board certified in child, adolescent, and adult psychiatry and is the vice chair of child and adolescent psychiatry Northwestern University.
Sam Edwards / Getty Images
VARK Learning Styles
- Find Your Style
Why It Matters
Frequently asked questions.
Learning styles are a popular concept in psychology and education and are intended to identify how people learn best. VARK learning styles suggest that there are four main types of learners: visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic.
The idea that students learn best when teaching methods and school activities match their learning styles, strengths, and preferences grew in popularity in the 1970s and 1980s. However, most evidence suggests that personal learning preferences have little to no actual influence on learning outcomes.
While the existing research has found that matching teaching methods to learning styles has no influence on educational outcomes, the concept of learning styles remains extremely popular.
There are many different ways of categorizing learning styles , but Neil Fleming's VARK model is one of the most popular. Fleming introduced an inventory in 1987 that was designed to help students and others learn more about their individual learning preferences.
According to the VARK model, learners are identified by whether they have a preference for:
- Visual learning (pictures, movies, diagrams)
- Auditory learning (music, discussion, lectures)
- Reading and writing (making lists, reading textbooks, taking notes)
- Kinesthetic learning (movement, experiments, hands-on activities)
The VARK model refers to the four sensory modalities that describe different learning preferences. The model suggests that these modalities reflect how students learn best.
What Type of Learner Are You?
In order to identify which type of learner people are, Fleming developed a self-report inventory that posed a series of situations. Respondents select the answers that best match their preferred approach to learning.
Imagine that you are learning how to perform a new physical skill such as riding a bike or dancing a certain style of dance. In which way would you learn this skill the best?
- Look at pictures of people performing the skill. (Visual)
- Listen to an expert explain how to do the task. (Auditory)
- Read about how to perform the task in a book. (Reading/Writing)
- Watch someone else perform the skill and then trying it yourself. (Kinesthetic)
Visual learners learn best by seeing. Graphic displays such as charts, diagrams, illustrations, handouts, and videos are all helpful learning tools for visual learners.
Visual learners prefer this type of learning would rather see information presented in a visual rather than in written form.
Do you think you might be a visual learner? Then consider the following questions:
- Are art, beauty, and aesthetics important to you?
- Does visualizing information in your mind help you remember it better?
- Do you have to see information in order to remember it?
- Do you pay close attention to body language ?
If you can answer yes to most of these questions, chances are good that you have a visual learning style. You may find it helpful to incorporate things like pictures and graphs when you are learning new information.
Aural (or auditory) learners learn best by hearing information. They tend to get a great deal out of lectures and are good at remembering things they are told.
Are you an auditory learner? Consider the following questions:
- Do you create songs to help remember information?
- Does reading out loud help you remember information better?
- Do you prefer to listen to class lectures rather than reading from the textbook?
- Would you prefer to listen to a recording of your class lectures or a podcast rather than going over your class notes?
If you answered yes to most of these questions, then you are probably an auditory learner. You might find things like audiobooks and podcasts helpful for learning new things.
Reading and Writing Learners
Reading and writing learners prefer to take in information that is displayed as words and text. Could you be a reading and writing learner? Read through the following questions and think about whether they might apply to you.
- Do you enjoy making lists, reading definitions, and creating presentations?
- Do you find reading your textbook to be a great way to learn new information?
- Do you take a lot of notes during class and while reading textbooks?
- Do you prefer it when teachers make use of overheads and handouts?
If you answered yes to these questions, it is likely that you have a strong preference for the reading and writing style of learning. You might find it helpful to write down information in order to help you learn and remember it.
Kinesthetic (or tactile) learners learn best by touching and doing. Hands-on experience is important for kinesthetic learners.
Not sure if you're a kinesthetic learner? Answer these questions to find out:
- Are you good at applied activities such as painting, cooking, mechanics, sports, and woodworking?
- Do you enjoy performing tasks that involve directly manipulating objects and materials?
- Do you have to actually practice doing something in order to learn it?
- Is it difficult for you to sit still for long periods of time?
If you responded yes to these questions, then you are most likely a kinesthetic learner. Taking classes that give you practical, hands-on experience may be helpful when you want to acquire a new skill.
The validity of the VARK model as well as other learning style theories has been questioned and criticized extensively. Some critics have suggested that labeling students as having one specific learning style can actually be a hindrance to learning.
One large-scale look at learning style models suggested that the instruments designed to assess individual learning styles were questionable.
The VARK model remains fairly popular among both students and educators despite these criticisms. Students may feel drawn to a particular learning style. Others may find that their learning preferences lie somewhere in the middle, such as finding both visual and auditory learning equally appealing.
People might find that understanding their own learning preferences can be helpful. If you know that visual learning appeals to you most, using visual study strategies in conjunction with other learning methods might help you remember and enjoy your studies more.
If no single learning preference calls out to you or you change preferences based on the situation or the type of information you are learning, you probably have what is known as a multimodal style .
For example, you might rely on your reading and writing preferences when you are dealing with a class that requires a great deal of book reading and note-taking, such as a history of psychology course. During an art class, you might depend more on your visual and kinesthetic preferences as you take in pictorial information and learn new techniques.
The four VARK learning styles are visual learners, aural learners, reading and writing learners, and kinesthetic learners.
According to some data, the most common is a multimodal learning style referred to as VARK Type Two, which involves exhibiting a range of learning preferences. People with this learning style tend to collect information more slowly and take time to make decisions.
In terms of single preferences, kinesthetic is by far the most common, accounting for 22.8% of respondents.
Pashler H, Mcdaniel M, Rohrer D, Bjork R. Learning styles: concepts and evidence . Psychol Sci Public Interest . 2008;9(3):105-19. doi:10.1111/j.1539-6053.2009.01038.x
VARK Learn Limited. VARK research - what do we know about VARK ?
Fleming N. Introduction to Vark .
By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."
The VARK learning styles
Although educators have known for centuries that students have their own individual learning styles, it wasn’t until the 1970s and 1980s that these began to be systematically recognised and understood. In 1987, educational theorist Neil Fleming set out to help students and teachers adapt their practices to better help them retain new information. And so, he created the VARK learning styles .
The acronym “VARK” stands for V isual, A ural, R ead, and K inaesthetic - and refers to the different learning styles we as humans have when learning new information. Individuals are identified by the style they identify with the most when learning.
What are the 4 types of learning styles?
Fleming categorised learning into 4 different types of learning styles. These are: V isual, A ural, R ead/Write, and K inaesthetic. Let’s learn more about them in detail:
1. Visual Learners
Do you find yourself drawing pictures of chemical bonds as you study for an exam? Do you sometimes find yourself distracted in class, but are extra-attentive when watching videos or demonstrations? If so, then you may be a visual learner.
As the name suggests, visual learners understand and retain information best by seeing . They would prefer to see information presented in a visually appealing way, rather than in a written format. Individuals that learn in this way tend to pay close attention to detail and body language, and often imagine situations in their mind to help them process the information better.
In terms of learning, graphic displays are most effective for visual learners. Some of these include:
Charts, illustrations, graphs and diagrams
Animated videos, documentaries, and other learning shows
Paper hand-outs with lots of images
Colour-coded notes, incorporated with plenty of white space
2. Aural Learners
Do you have that one friend that remembers everyone’s names and birthdays? Or who can recite every snippet of conversation they’ve had with someone and relay it back to you?
Aural - or auditory - learners tend to learn information best by hearing it. Rather than getting actively involved in class or writing out notes, they prefer to listen to others present the information and then are usually able to recite that back to them.
This is usually through the format of conversation, but can also include recordings and music. Some learners also find that reading information out loud to themselves can help them recall it better.
Because of the need for auditory learners to listen intently to lectures or information, it’s vital that they are able to study in a quiet environment, away from distractions and any other noises which could distract or disrupt their learning.
However, once they’ve found the peace and quiet to study, some of the best ways to study which benefit aural learners include:
Lectures or large classroom environments, where tutors present information
Transcribing handwritten notes into recordings
Listening to podcasts, audio books or class recordings
Personal, one-on-one tutoring where new information can be talked through
Using mnemonics, listening to or creating songs about new content
3. Reading (and Writing) Learners
We’ve all had note-envy; those students who have beautifully hand-written, colour-coded notes that have been divided perfectly topic-by-topic. And it’s because they tend to benefit most from reading and writing about new information.
Those with a preference for reading and writing learning styles tend to take in new information best when it’s displayed as words and text. They’ll often produce lists, read definitions, and enjoy summarising information in ways that best make sense to them.
In this way, reading and writing learners tend to understand and memorise new information best by:
Reading textbooks and summarising with notes
Writing notes in class and highlighting important details
Studying alone, avoiding all distractions
Story-writing and getting creative with their notes
4. Kinaesthetic Learners
Finally, the fourth VARK learning style refers to kinaesthetic (or tactile) learners. That is, individuals who learn best by practically touching and doing things.
Hands-on experience is an important component for kinaesthetic learners, who have a “trial and error” approach to their learning. They enjoy having physical practice and directly manipulating objects and materials to better understand how things work. Usually, movement and short bursts of studying are important to keep them engaged, rather than sitting at a desk for sustained periods of time.
In this respect, kinaesthetic learners tend to enjoy and thrive at more practical-based subjects, such as Art, Sports, and Design and Technology. They are most engaged while moving, therefore it makes sense to try to incorporate an activity into studying, even if it’s for a subject that requires a more traditional note-taking approach.
Some study methods kinaesthetic learners can try include:
Conducting experiments and constructing projects
Doing a ‘physical’ activity whilst learning - e.g. walking and reading a textbook or bouncing a tennis ball while reciting information
Creating flash cards and being tested by a friend or classmate
Taking regular breaks during studying to stretch their legs
What type of learning style is right for me?
In order to identify and understand what type of learner people are, Fleming developed a self-report inventory that presents a series of scenarios. Individuals select from a multiple-choice selection of answers the one that best describes their preferred approach to learning.
At the end of the questionnaire, your scores for each learning style are added up. The learning style which you selected the most when answering is then considered to be your learning preference.
Example VARK Question
Imagine you are learning to assemble a piece of flat-pack furniture. In which way would you be able to assemble the furniture best?
Look at diagrams which show each stage of assembly. (Visual)
Listen to advice from someone who has done it before. (Auditory)
Read the full written instructions that come with the furniture. (Reading)
Watch a video of someone assembling the furniture and then trying it for yourself. (Kinaesthetic)
The disadvantages of VARK learning styles
Although the VARK learning styles have been widely regarded as helpful for students who have a better understanding of themselves and how to direct their studying, it has also faced some criticism - with the largest being the limitations of categorising learning in this way.
Despite one learning style making it easier for you to study, it can in some ways be a hindrance. What if you struggle to learn a particular subject using a specific learning style? It can often lead you to feel as though you’ll never be able to understand the information - rather than thinking another approach might work better.
Or perhaps, what if you don’t fit the conventional VARK model? How can you be an ‘effective’ learner if you don’t necessarily fit one specific style?
As you complete your own self-report inventory, you may discover that you tick more than one answer in the multiple choice questions. It’s not uncommon for learners to benefit from more than one learning style; e.g. watching a video of someone assembling furniture (kinaesthetic) and then following the diagram themselves (visual).
So, although the VARK learning styles may be a great way to better understand how best you learn, it’s important to play around with different study methods to see which works best for you. Especially when approaching different subjects. Kinaesthetic learning might be great for helping you understand how gravity works, but it might not be so helpful for poetry analysis.
Trying a combination won’t only help you improve your concentration and study motivation , but you’ll also become a more effective learner, spending time on the activities that are going to help you achieve the most impact.
When it comes to revising for your exams, especially when revising for those all-important A-Levels , you want to ensure that you’re studying in the most productive way possible. Revision time is scarce, and you want to make sure you’re making the most out of any study time you have.
Using VARK learning styles to benefit online learning
Over the past year, learning has faced unprecedented challenges, with students, teachers and tutors alike having to find new and adaptive ways to make learning effective remotely.
For students, having an understanding of the learning style which best suits them is one of the crucial building blocks to ensure they are still able to study effectively, while learning online.
Still studying at home? Now is the perfect opportunity to explore your learning style and find a new study method that works for you.
Online learning has many benefits , with one of them being the flexibility to study at a pace that suits you and your schedule. And with this, you have the opportunity to to try out some new study methods to see what learning style best suits you.
Think you may be more of an auditory learner? Ask your tutor if they would be willing to record your webinars and send them after class for you to listen again? Alternatively, if you think you’re more of a visual learner, you could take your notes from online class and then spend your independent study time condensing them into easily digestible diagrams and illustrations.
Then, as you return to the classroom (or even if you continue to study from home) you’ll be a far more effective learner, equipped with the tools and study methods needed to help you learn in the most rewarding way possible.
Here at Melio , we use a combination of learning approaches to benefit students of all different learning styles and abilities.
For example, in our Online Courses , students will learn in small online classes where they can join in on discussions and learn new material from their tutor (reading, writing, and auditory).
But, there are also quizzes, mini-tests, and independent study assignments issued to each student too (kinaesthetic), where they can work on a project of their own for the end of their online course to demonstrate what they have learned during the two weeks.
This can incorporate all different learning styles, depending on what suits you best - and your tutor will be happy to accommodate this as part of your course.
Meanwhile, our one-on-one Tutorials offer students and tutor the opportunity to discuss their subject in detail (auditory) through hour-long online tutoring sessions.
However, like our online courses, students will also be asked to complete independent assignments and projects during this tutoring to monitor how well they know and understand this new information. Your tutor can work with you and your learning style to set projects tailored around your specific learning style - making it work in a way that benefits you.
Over the past century, more and more psychologists have turned their attention to the education sector - looking at how to create learning environments that help students to learn information in the most effective way possible.
One of the biggest contributors is education theorist Neil Fleming, who introduced the VARK learning theory, which attributes students either as visual, auditory, reading/writing, or kinaesthetic learners.
With a quick and easy-to-complete questionnaire, students can better understand the way their mind processes information and retains it for the long-term. Over time, they can equip themselves with the tools and techniques best suited to their learning style to make classes, homework, and revision time more effective.
This is particularly important for today’s climate, where students have had to adapt to finding a new ‘normal’ to studying, with many finding themselves learning themselves from home. It’s never been more important for students to harness this independence and discover the most effective ways to continue their learning over the coming months.
Online learning with Melio Education
As mentioned above, here at Melio we use a combination of teaching methodologies - modelled on the renowned Oxford and Cambridge methodologies of learning. The result? One-on-one attention, comprehensive feedback, bespoke course content, and ultimately, an unrivalled online learning experience.
Working with our expert network of tutors who are trained to tailor content around your individual learning style and needs, modern tools and technology have made it possible for us to connect with more students than ever before - and we can’t wait to share it all with you.
Interested in learning more? Find out more about Melio and enquire about the online learning opportunities we have available by speaking with our admissions team.
Book a call with our admissions team and start your learning journey today!
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I’m a Multimodal Learner. Now What?
Posted by Carol Cadigan on February 27, 2024
According to our VARK® statistics, you are not alone! Of individuals who complete the questionnaire, our statistics show that:
- 20% are BIMODAL – two preferences e.g. AK: Aural and Kinesthetic
- 15% are TRIMODAL – three preferences e.g. VAK: Visual, Aural, and Kinesthetic
- 31% have all four preferences i.e. VARK: Visual, Aural, Read/write, and Kinesthetic
MULTIMODAL learners like to select from multiple VARK® modalities – VISUAL, AURAL, READ/WRITE, and KINESTHETIC – when learning and communicating. They might select one of their preferred modalities based on the context, or they may use strategies from a combination of modalities to get a better understanding.
To make the most of being a Multimodal learner, you need to understand:
- what each of your preferred modalities means.
- what your VARK® preferences are.
- how to best use your VARK® preferences in learning situations.
Understanding and improving your learning using your preferred modalities is an ongoing process.
Understanding the four VARK ® Modalities
The first thing to do, when you have found out that you are a MULTIMODAL learner, is to clarify what each of the VARK® modalities included in your preference means. The following table summarizes each of the modalities:
design, layout & graphics – the BIG PICTURE
listening, talking, discussing & questioning
lists, notes & text in all formats, both on paper & screen
practical experiences, real-life examples, case studies & trial and error
Take special note of the Visual and Kinesthetic modalities as they are often misunderstood:
- VISUAL is better thought of as “graphic” as it does not include everything that is seen. It encompasses drawings, diagrams, charts, and maps – but not photos and videos. Because photos show real life, they are categorized as Kinesthetic, and videos might be Kinesthetic if they are focused on showing real life, or Aural if they predominantly show someone talking.
- KINESTHETIC encompasses anything that is focused on the experience of the real world, particularly your own experience. In VARK® terms, “Kinesthetic” does not mean moving around while you learn.
Better understanding your preferences
VARK® founder, Neil Fleming often stated that “Life is MULTIMODAL”. Learning is not just limited to the classroom or education – in life, we are learning all the time. Be aware of your and others’ learning preferences when you are out and about in the community, learning something new, or interacting with other people.
Let’s look at ordering food at a restaurant for example. Can you discover the different VARK® modalities you may use when deciding what to order? You may be influenced by the:
- format, colour, layout of the menu (V)
- waiter’s comments (A)
- description of the food on the menu (R)
- food going past you to the next table, or what you had last time you dined there (K).
You can explore more examples of VARK® in everyday life below:
- What do you tend to do in each of these situations?
- What does that tell you about your learning preferences?
- Do your results from the VARK ® Questionnaire accurately reflect how you tend to learn in everyday situations?
As you explore the ways that you tend to use VARK® modalities in everyday situations, you will gain a better understanding of your modality preferences.
It is also helpful to be aware of your friends’, colleagues’, or staff members’ learning preferences and notice how their preferences influence your choice of communication mode!
Applying your MULTIMODAL preference in learning situations
Once you are clear about the modalities that you prefer, it is time to look for opportunities to better use your preferences in more formal learning situations – whether that be in education, training, or when researching a topic for work or recreation.
First, have a look at the VARK® Helpsheets for recommended strategies for each VARK® modality:
- VISUAL Helpsheet
- AURAL Helpsheet
- READ/WRITE Helpsheet
- KINESTHETIC Helpsheet
In more challenging learning situations, make the most of your MULTIMODAL preference by processing new information in more than one of your preferred modalities. This will take longer than focussing on just one modality but will give you a more comprehensive understanding.
These VARK® MULTIMODAL tables provide some suggestions of the ways that each modality might be used in specific contexts:
Multimodal Strategies in Sport
As an athlete with a multimodal preference, Kinesthetic strategies are probably going to be important for you, but you should incorporate strategies from your other preferred modalities too, particularly when learning challenging skills.
Multimodal Strategies in the Arts
Find out how to use Multimodal strategies in the Arts to enhance the overall learning experience and give you a more comprehensive understanding of artistic concepts.
Multimodal Strategies for Education
The Multimodal Strategies for Education table suggests some strategies you could select from each of your preferred modalities, when you are attending classes, taking notes, summarizing your notes, preparing for exams, and doing presentations.
Secondly, use our Current Strategies Questionnaire to find out which modalities you use when studying. You can then compare this with your VARK® preferences, to find out whether you might be wasting effort on strategies that you don’t prefer, and whether you are under-utilizing some modalities. You might find that, because of the ways you have been taught to study, your current efforts are focused on Read/write strategies, even though your preferences indicate Aural and Kinesthetic strategies might work better for you.
Lastly, keep in mind that VARK® isn’t just about how you take in information; how you process that information is more important.
- Make the most of your VISUAL preference by summarizing what you have learned in a diagram.
- To use your AURAL preference effectively, discuss what you are learning with others.
- Don’t just limit your use of your READ/WRITE preference to reading – to really learn the information, you will benefit from writing about what you have found out, in your own words.
- For a KINESTHETIC preference: you need to practice, practice, practice!
For a better understanding of how to actively use your preferences for better learning, see our article on Active Learning .
And remember that thinking about how you learn and improving your learning strategies is an ongoing process. ( More about that in a future article on Metacognition .)
Having an awareness of the different learning preferences is a great start! Now it is up to the learner to make the changes. There is always more to learn!
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