It is a matter of common knowledge that all people have different experiences as well as natural inclinations which determine their preferences. This means that different individuals cannot like the same thing. The same can be applied to the styles of learning one prefers, because each person perceives the world through different channels of information perception. This paper discusses how the learning styles differ and why it is important to pay attention to this fact.
Learning style is the totality of the affective, cognitive and physiological characteristic features which indicate how a learner perceives and responds to the learning environment and interacts with it. Every person acquires the new information in an individual way (Baykan et al., 2007).
The VARK test is the questionnaire designed to facilitate the cooperation between teachers and students. It helps to find out which of the learning styles is best for a student since it provides the information on the preferred modes of learning.
According to the VARK questionnaire, there are the following learning styles: visual (V), aural (A), reading/writing (R), kinesthetic (K). Visual learners better perceive new information with diagrams, charts and models. Auditory learners prefer to hear information. Read-write learners like to get the new knowledge with the help of the printed words. Kinesthetic learners use the combination of sensory functions to learn.
It is also worth mentioning that there are learners who are multimodal. This means that they apply different learning modes depending on the situation. There are two types of the mixed modes of learning. According to the first one, students apply different modes to different contexts. Those who prefer the second type of the mode apply different strategies in one and the same situation. Thus, they have the deepest and broadest understanding of the subject (VARK, 2016).
Those who take the test choose one or several variants of modalities out of the ones provided (Leite et al., 2009). According to the study by Leite et al. (2009), the test is reliable enough to be used by the teachers while working on various teaching strategies.
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On the basis of the test results, teachers can combine the strategies which will help their students learn as much material as possible and work efficiently during classes. Taking into account preferred learning styles also makes classes more enjoyable and motivating (Fleming et al., 2006).
According to the test results (The VARK Questionnaire, n.d.), my learning style is the mixed one combining reading/writing and kinesthetic modalities. (The VARK Questionnaire, n.d.). However, the learning strategies applied by me in the studying process are usually connected with kinesthetic and aural styles. Thus, making flashcards or collages, listening someone’s explanation is preferred to reading the same information in most cases. It is worth mentioning that aural style of learning may be preferred because it is closer connected with the kinesthetic one, as acquiring new knowledge through being involved in different activities does require listening to the others one has to interact with.
It is important to note that reading/writing style differs a lot from the two above mentioned ones. It involves no live communication. The learner only has to work with the written or typed text. People who prefer this learning style like using dictionaries, lists, texts, the Internet or anything else connected with the words which can be read (The VARK Questionnaire, n.d.). In its own way, reading/writing style develops imagination and thinking.
With the kinesthetic and aural styles learners may get the information interpreted or processed in another specific way (films, videos, additional explanations, activities that involve doing something rather than watching or listening). While learning via reading, on the other hand, students need to think the information over in order to understand it better. So this learning mode includes more independent academic work.
The awareness of the individual’s preferred learning style has great significance both for teachers and students. As for the teachers, the familiarity with the students’ preferred type of learning can help organize classes in the most effective way: active discussions and reenactments for kinesthetic modalities, presentations and charts for visual ones, lectures or films for aural group and reading texts and writing reviews for reading/writing group. Thus, the lecturer, for instance, will know whether it is better to organize a lecture where s/he just tells the facts or shows videos, or draws diagrams on a blackboard, or provides examples. It has to be admitted, that combining all of the mentioned techniques will provide though the best results, as it is hardly possible for a class of students to belong to one particular modality.
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It is also important to be aware of one’s own preferred learning styles for learners. Studying involves a lot of independent work, so knowing whether one can better learn from books or videos is also helpful. There are also people who learn best when they apply their knowledge in practice. In such a case, the best way to have the broader understanding of the new material is looking for the training programs.
To conclude with, there are five learning styles: visual, aural, reading/writing, kinesthetic, and the mixed one. Every individual prefers different modes of learning, because each person has his/her own set of cognitive abilities. There are also people who combine several studying modes to the same extent. Such individuals either choose single style in different contexts or apply several styles at once for the broader understanding. It is essential to know which learning mode one prefers because such awareness makes both classes at educational establishments and independent academic work very efficient.