If you are about to embark on a learning program, you want to make the most out of it, learn as much as you can, and get a good qualification at the end of it. You may not have realized this, but your ability to learn is greatly influenced by what type of learner you are. For example, you may be great at practical exercises, but you don’t learn well when you have to read long passages from a book because you get bored and your mind wanders.
Working out what type of learner you are means that you can play to your strengths rather than trying to overcome your weaknesses. This will make your learning journey a more positive experience and you are likely to learn more too. There are 4 main types of learners according to the VARK model created by Neil Fleming.
Visual learners learn by seeing. You may not pick up a lot of information if you read it in a book but display it as a flowchart, diagram, or video and suddenly it all makes sense and it is easy to remember. A visual learner needs to incorporate graphics into their learning.
If the information isn’t readily available to you in this form, then don’t worry. The chances are you will be making your own notes as you go along anyway. You can create your own flowcharts and diagrams to help you remember the information and learn from these. When it comes to revision, you will find your own drawings very helpful, and you will remember more than trying to digest large chunks of text.
Most people find that they use one of their five senses more than the others to learn most effectively. Auditory learners like to listen. They may look as if they are not paying attention but in reality, they are hanging on to every word. An auditory learner will learn a lot of information through listening to lectures or podcasts, as it is absorbed through the ears.
If this is your learning style, then learn from audiobooks and podcasts as much as possible. If these are not available for the subject you are studying, then record yourself reading the information out loud. You may not pick up a lot of information while you are reading it but once you play it back (and have got over the squeamishness we all feel at listening to our own voices), you will find that this is a great way of retaining information.
Reading and Writing Learners
Reading and writing learners absorb information best through a combination of text and graphics. This is the most basic type of learning, and it is a method that almost everyone has tried at some point. Most textbooks contain a variety of text and graphs, as does the online learning material that is widely used today, such as the accelerated BSN programs from Baylor University.
Reading and writing learners will often bury themselves in the text and make copious notes about what they have read. This method works well but can be time-consuming. If you want to cut down the time it takes to learn then it is a good idea to make shortened notes rather than trying to copy down everything you read, as you will find that some pieces of information are more important than others. You may find that you prefer practical work rather than written work, as you will enjoy doing the things you have learned about.
If this is your learning style, then don’t waste your time trying to learn flow charts or graphics as you won’t retain information as well this way.
These learners like to be hands-on with the subject they are learning. They will not enjoy reading or listening and prefer to get actively involved. Kinesthetic learners are often drawn to practical science subjects and sports.
If you are a Kinesthetic learner getting stuck in and learning from your successes and mistakes is important to you. However, you may not have time to do everything for yourself, and this is going to waste a lot of time. Instead, learn from the mistakes of others. Whatever you are attempting to do, the chances are that someone else has tried to do it first. They may have written a book or made a video about their journey, and it will save you a lot of time to learn from their successes and failures rather than your own.
Make the most of examples and practical exercises when they are offered to you and volunteer yourself for new experiences. You will learn a lot by being practical.
Fleming’s VARK model did not incorporate multimodal learners. However, it is estimated that over half of learners fit best into this category. These are people who need a variety of tools to help them learn most effectively. Combining visuals with text, audio, and practical experiments works well for them and they achieve a lot of learning using this method.
If this method works best for you then use it. You may find that it depends on what mood you are in as to how you learn best. If you are tired, for example, you might find it easier to take in information in a practical way rather than trying not to fall asleep over a long text. You may find that you veer towards one method but can also find other methods helpful.
It doesn’t matter what type of learner you are as everyone is different. However, if you recognize your learning style yourself you can make sure you get the most out of your learning journey by concentrating on the methods that work best for you. You are more likely to enjoy learning if you have found a way to do well and play to your strengths. You will see that your hard work has paid off when you get your qualification.