How to Find Your Learning Style and Study More Effectively
If you’re trying to learn a new skill around a busy schedule, like by taking an online course, knowing how to make the most of your limited study time can be beneficial. Remember that effective learning is more than just memorization and speed reading; understanding how you learn best can help you process and retain the information you need.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the VARK system, which suggests that there are four key learning styles: visual, auditory, reading and writing, and kinesthetic. Even though not everyone fits neatly into one category, it can be helpful to try different ways to study your course material to see which style (or combination of learning styles) works best for you. Read on for some tips on how to figure out how you learn best and how to study better.
What Are the Different Learning Styles?
What Is Visual Learning?
Visual learners learn best by seeing. When trying to understand and retain information, they prefer information presented in a visual (rather than a written) format. This could include:
- Graphs and diagrams
- Handouts with images
They can often picture what they are learning in their heads, and sometimes close their eyes to help them visualize. They often use flashcards, mind maps, and color-coded notes to help them learn.
What Is Auditory Learning?
Auditory (or aural) learners learn by hearing information. They learn best from:
- Lectures (or recordings of lectures)
- Reading information out loud
- One-on-one tutoring (where information is discussed)
Auditory learners usually need to hear someone present information, or read information out loud themselves, to be able to retain it.
What Is Reading/Writing Learning?
Reading and writing learners learn best when information is presented as words and text. They like to learn by:
- Making lists
- Reading and taking notes
- Highlighting important details in their notes or handouts
- Creating presentations
They often benefit from repetition in their learning, such as rewriting notes or rereading summaries. They like to take information and summarize it in a way that makes sense to them.
What Is Kinesthetic Learning?
Also sometimes known as tactile learning, kinesthetic learners learn by touching and doing. They learn through:
- Hands-on experience
- Conducting experiments
- Making models
- Manipulating or touching objects or materials
- Practicing something to learn it (e.g., building, drawing, or movement)
Kinesthetic learners typically prefer shorter bursts of studying and might find it difficult to sit still for extended periods of time. They prefer to be an active participant, rather than listening or watching a demonstration.
How to Find Your Learning Style
If you want to get a better sense of your learning style, think about how you generally approach learning new material. For example, imagine you want to learn how to make bread. There are multiple ways to learn how to do this:
- If you look at step-by-step pictures of the bread-making process, that’s visual learning.
- If you listen to a podcast on how to bake bread, that’s auditory learning.
- If you read a recipe in a cookbook, that’s learning through reading/writing.
- If you watch a demonstration of a baker making bread and then try it yourself, that’s kinesthetic learning.
You may find that several of these styles appeal to you, and it’s fine to mix and match study methods to develop the approach that suits you best.
How Can I Study Effectively?
Now that you have a broad overview of the different learning styles, you can use them to focus on making a study plan that works for you. Here are a few ways to efficiently use these different learning methods to help you better absorb new material.
- Vary Your Study Methods
One strategy to study more effectively is to approach the topic or skill in various ways. For example, if you’re learning a new computer skill, instead of just reading about it (reading or writing learning style), you can watch a related video demonstration, listen to a step-by-step audio recording, and try it out for yourself. Approaching new material in multiple ways helps you become more confident in your skills and further reinforces what you’ve learned.
- Teach Someone What You Know
Once you’ve absorbed a new topic, it can be helpful to teach someone else what you’ve learned (using whatever method you feel most comfortable with). Explaining or demonstrating what you’ve learned to someone else allows you to work through the material at your own pace and ensures you’re not missing any crucial steps or information. You can even use their questions to pinpoint the areas you need to focus on for yourself.
- Dedicate Time to Study
If you’re trying to learn a new skill or concept in your free time, it can be easy to get distracted by life, like kids, pets, a job, or household tasks. But you’ll get the most out of studying if you set aside some distraction-free time to review the material, even if it’s just for a few minutes a day. Studying while doing something else, like cooking or cleaning, can have a negative impact on how well you retain the information. In other words, don’t try to multitask!
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