What is Your Learning Style?
Understanding how you learn is as important as knowing how the process of learning occurs. Not everyone learns by picking up a book and reading through it. Some people learn better by listening and others learn better by interacting with the information they are receiving. By understanding your preferred method or learning style, you will be able to find ways to make your educational experience more meaningful and become a better online student.
Every person has a unique approach to or preferred method of learning, which can include one particular learning style or a combination of more than one. Perhaps you have said, "I don’t enjoy listening to a lecture" without understanding why you aren’t able to learn from that type of information delivery. Learning styles, or descriptions of the way that we learn, provide an explanation of how we interact with information and process it. We rely upon our preferred learning style when we consciously decide to acquire new knowledge, regardless of the environment that the learning occurs in.
Once you understand your preference, you will know what circumstances provide you with the best opportunity to learn. In addition, if you choose an environment that is not developed for your particular learning style, you can find methods of adapting your preferred style. For example, some students may find that an online classroom environment is not a perfect match with their preferred learning style, such as those who prefer a hands-on approach to interacting with new information; however, it is still possible to work in that environment if you can learn other ways of processing information.
Learning Style Assessments
Learning occurs every day because of our interactions with people and information that is read or heard. However, most people do not have a clear understanding of their learning preferences, which means you may not know how to maximize your potential. There are four assessments that are commonly used to help students understand their preferred learning style, but anyone can utilize these assessments to increase their self-awareness of how they take in information.
- The Myers Briggs Type Indicator. This is a personality- based assessment and there are two components to this assessment. The first will help you understand your preference for interacting with others. You may enjoy social interactions (extraversion) or you may prefer solitude (introversion). As a student, this will help you understand how you are likely to interact with other students and your instructor. The second component of this assessment helps you identify your ideal method of receiving and processing information. For example, as you read a textbook or listen to a lecture, you may begin by searching for facts, utilize logic and reasoning skills, or rely upon your feelings and perceptions to process the information being received. An Adapted Briggs Myers Indicator will allow you to find out more about your preferences.
- VARK. Another similar learning style measurement, VARK involves the use of our senses. This is one of the least known assessments; however, as a student, it will help you learn about your ability to process information, which is an important aspect of studying. The VARK Inventory is comprised of Visual, Aural, Read/Write, and Kinesthetic categories. Using it, you’ll discover if you learn best by seeing, hearing, reading and writing out words, or using a hands-on approach. The purpose of this inventory is not to assess specific strengths or weaknesses, but to learn about your preferred approach for processing the information that you read or hear.
- Multiple Intelligences Inventory. Developed by Dr. Howard Gardner, who believed that one singular definition of intelligence did not adequately explain the process of learning, the Multiple Intelligences Inventory provides eight intelligence types. Many of these intelligences are similar to the other assessments (verbal, logical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and visual qualities). The primary distinction for Gardner’s assessment is that two unique categories have been added – musical and naturalistic intelligences. Students who have these intelligences will discover that the addition of music and nature (even if it’s just going outside for a breath of fresh air) promotes a more effective method of learning.
- Kolb Learning Style Inventory. David Kolb created four learning styles and labeled them converger, diverger, assimilator, and accommodator. These styles are anchored by a theory called experiential learning, which means that we learn when we reflect on our experiences. When you take the Kolb Learning Style Inventory, you can determine your preference for learning. The list of possible preferences will include one of the following: using a logical approach to processing information, doing something to be actively involved, utilizing your feelings, or using observation and reflection skills. As a student, this can help you understand your strengths. You may work best with theories, effectively take ideas and translate them, utilize a strong creative ability, or have a need for doing something practical with the information you’ve received.
However, it’s possible that even after taking one or more of these assessments, you may believe that it does not accurately describe your learning skills and preferences. The results of these assessments depend upon the answers you provide or the choices you make, so your outcome may vary at times. But even if your results vary, over time there will still be a consistent theme that will allow you to identify your approach to learning. For example, if a visual learning style appears frequently for most of the assessments, you can conclude that it is your preferred method of interacting with information.
Learning Styles and Online Classes
For online students, a visual learning style is the best match because of the visual nature of the online classroom. That being said, institutions recognize the need to address other learning styles, so many are adding supplemental features. For example, auditory learners are being offered options that include materials provided as audio files, in addition to the traditional textbook. Students with a hands-on preference for learning have the greatest initial challenge for working in an online environment; however, they can adapt to the situation by being actively involved and participating in class discussions and group projects. If you have identified a preferred learning style and find that you are not provided with techniques or resources to help you process information effectively, talk to your instructor. Use their guidance and suggestions to help you become a better learner.
As you read through these descriptions, you have likely identified methods of learning that you are using now. This will help you understand how you can be successful as a student because you can develop learning strategies based upon your preferences. For example, if you are primarily a visual learner, you will likely enjoy reading the textbook. For students who are auditory learners, you will find that videos or audio clips can enhance the process of learning. For students that prefer a hands-on approach to learning, you will discover that interactive activities, such as presentations and demonstrations, offer the most meaning for you. Everyone has a unique way of interacting with information and processing it. This is part of the knowledge acquisition process, which is an ongoing component of lifelong learning, whether you are learning through everyday experiences or participating in an online class.
- Dr. J
About the Author
An education writer for CollegeDegrees.com, Dr. Bruce Johnson has had a life-long love of learning. Throughout his entire career, he has been involved in many forms of adult education, including teaching, training, human resource development, coaching, and mentoring. Dr. J has completed a MBA and a Ph.D. in the field of adult education, with an emphasis in adult learning within an online classroom environment. Dr. J’s background includes work as an instructor (online and on-ground, undergraduate and graduate level), faculty developmental workshop facilitator, and faculty mentor. He has published articles related to adult education and the focus of his doctoral studies and dissertation involved adult learning within an online classroom environment.