Discovering Your Personal Learning Style: What’s Your Route to Successful Studying?
You might have heard about learning or studying styles from your teachers, parents, TAs or online sources. But what are they? Are they real or just a myth? And can discovering your own learning style actually help you improve your academic success?
Learning styles are a popular concept that’s been around for several decades in psychology and education. It’s a concept that tries to identify how people learn best. One of the more popular learning style models out there is the VARK model. VARK stands for:
The idea behind this model is that students learn better when the teaching methods and school activities match their learning styles. Visual learners learn best from images, demonstrations, and pictures. Teachers may say things, but visual learners can’t really take those things in unless they see teachers act them out or write/illustrate something. Auditory learners learn best from listening to an explanation. Reading/Writing learners learn best from reading and writing things, so they can get pretty much all the knowledge they need just by reading a textbook and taking notes. Lastly, Kinesthetic learners learn best by doing something physically or interacting with the world, so they’re hands-on; they have to touch things or play with things to learn about them.
The idea in education is that since everyone has their own preferred way of learning and studying, according to their so-called learning style, that if information is presented in accordance with the learning style, then they’ll learn better.
However – and this may surprise you – there’s actually not a lot of hard evidence that learning styles actually exist. In an educational review the researchers note, “The contrast between the enormous popularity of the learning styles approach within education, and the lack of credible evidence for its utility is in our opinion striking and disturbing. If classification of students learning styles has practical utility, it remains to be demonstrated. The evidence suggests that students don’t learn best by focusing on their learning style but we should teach them using a wide variety of methods.”
One of the reasons many people find learning styles so convincing is because they already believe this model to be true. For example, they might already think that they’re a visual learner and then, when a teacher shows them a diagram, the concept suddenly clicks for them. They’ve interpreted this as evidence for their visual learning style, when that diagram might just be a great diagram that would have helped anyone learn.
So, what does this mean for you? You should be aware of your own personal learning preferences and try out models like the VARK model, but you should still understand and find ways to actively be involved in your learning by trying new techniques and studying methods.
Ultimately, the most important thing for your own learning is not the way the information is presented, but what is happening inside your head while you’re learning. People learn best when they’re actively thinking about the material, solving problems, or imagining what happens if different variables change.
Our Rivers to Success Learning Preferences is a great place to start! Check it out, see what speaks to you, and then do some more exploring. We’ve got lots of great resources that will help you study your way to success.