When we struggle to engage with a topic, we tend to fall back on excuses like, “I just wasn’t interested in it” or “I’m never going to need to know what a trust is anyway.” A more likely reason for not understanding something is simply that you’re not learning it the right way.
Understanding the different learning styles and figuring out which one best suits you will allow you to tailor the material to your needs and likely reduce the time and effort you spend studying.
So, which type of learner are you?
There are four primary learning styles: visual, auditory, read-write and kinaesthetic. People learn using a variety of these methods, but one is usually predominant.
Visual learners learn by seeing: writing notes, looking at diagrams, illustrations, flowcharts and handouts and by painting mental pictures of issues. Visual learners tend to speak quickly and have a tendency to interrupt.
- Writing notes in lectures and from textbooks
- Drawing flowcharts and diagrams connecting issues
- Drawing characters in problem scenarios and writing out corresponding issues in dot points
Auditory learners learn by listening: having things explained to them, discussions, talking things through and listening to what other people have to say. Auditory learners interpret the underlying meanings of speech through listening to tone of voice, pitch, speed and other nuances.
- Reading notes out loud or into a tape recorder
- Discussing and debating topics with others
- Listening to lectures over writing notes from textbooks
Read-write learners prefer information to be displayed in writing and learn by traditional classroom methods of (you guessed it) reading and writing. Read-write learners often work independently and quietly and take exhaustive notes in class.
- Writing out key ideas in list form
- Writing out ideas in your own words
- Organising diagrams, graphs and other visuals into statements (eg “the trend is…”) or putting actions and flowcharts into words
Kinaesthetic learners learn through moving, doing and touching. Kinaesthetic learners use all senses to engage in learning and learn by doing and solving real-life problems.
- Studying for short periods of time to prevent distraction
- Learning by solving real-life problems as opposed to studying abstract theories
- Trial and error
WHICH LEARNING TYPE ARE YOU?
If you want a more comprehensive analysis of your learning style, look at the skills you use while learning: what helps you absorb the most amount of information? What keeps you going with a topic for longer? Talking to a lecturer may help you identify the best learning strategies for you. There are also free tests available online.
Don’t worry if you don’t fall neatly into one particular learning style: most people use a combination of methods and the key is to find out what works best for you and when, rather than desperately trying to force yourself into one box.