The way we learn and process information differs for all of us. Some of us can absorb a page of text quickly, understanding its content without trouble. Others find that the spoken word, a video, or something more tactile helps them remember things better.
At university, knowing your preferred learning style will ensure you can get the most out of lectures as well as improve personal study and revision. When it comes to your education, understanding your preferred learning style maximises your experience, alleviates revision anxiety, and accelerates your progress.Identifying the best way you process information can also aid in future collaboration and decision-making too. Aware of your own strengths, you can take this self-understanding with you as you progress with your career.
To explain further, here then are the benefits of learning styles and some tips on identifying your own preferred form of information processing.
The Importance of Learning Styles
Why is it important to know your learning style? It’s simply really. When you’re taught using a method that aligns with your own learning style, you’ll tend to understand the material better and retain the information for a longer period of time. This leads to better performance, increased motivation, better employee engagement, and even higher confidence levels.
Understanding your learning style is not intended to restrict you, but to empower you in becoming a more efficient learner.
Your Learning Style
Intro and Visual
While psychologists and education experts agree that we are all mixed learners, we all have a preferred learning style to some degree.
Despite theories and terminology changes over the years, four broad categories of learning styles can be identified:
Visual learners find looking at things helps them process information better. This includes through images, videos, diagrams, graphics, and charts.
If you find drawing diagrams or mind maps helps you revise, for example, you may be a visual learner. You may also prefer using aids such as videos that feature charts and graphics to help you remember information.
If you absorb information best when listening, you are probably an aural learner.
This includes spoken word, music, conversation, lectures.
Auditory learners will prefer to listen back to lectures, use podcasts and find discussions more conducive to learning than other methods.
Reading / Writing
For some, the written word is the most effective way to understand and remember information.
This includes lists, reading text and making notes.
Learners who lean towards a reading and writing style find that studying blocks of text from books, newspapers, articles, and presentations aids their learning. They may also find writing out what they read improves their understanding and helps them retain what they’ve read.
Kinesthetic learners are more hands-on and enjoy practical education more so than other styles.
Kinesthetic includes movement, hands-on experiments and activities.
If you’re a kinesthetic learner, you will find that you enjoy tutorials, practical demonstrations, and learning activities associated with physicality or movement.
This particular learning model is called VARK (https://vark-learn.com/) and has been around since the late 1980s. It was developed to help students identify their own learning preferences and is still widely used the world over to improve educational experiences.
While other learning models exist, these four categories of information processing are the most widely used in education systems. Together, they allow students and teachers to facilitate learning and are generally recognised as the most useful interpretation.
The Benefits of Understanding Your Learning Style
Knowing how you learn best is one of the best ways to give your education a boost.
At university, students can expect to find themselves presented with new and complex information that they may have otherwise not encountered. Often this can take a bit of adjustment, and, at first, the increased workload can feel overwhelming.
The benefits of learning styles are that you feel more self-assured, leading to more productive learning and improved working relationships, now and in the future. This is because understanding your learning style means you know what works best for you and can adapt your education experience accordingly.
For example, some students who prefer a reading and writing style of learning may find lectures more difficult than auditory or visual learners. If this student knew they learn best when reading and writing, they would benefit from recording their lecture and writing detailed notes when listening back to it. They can then read through their notes to reinforce their learning.
There are many benefits of adapting information to our own learning style. These are some of the most significant:
More effective learning
For students, the biggest advantage an understanding gives is it will lead to more effective learning. Personalising your study will mean you can absorb information quicker and easier, accelerating your education, leading to improved grades and a more enriching university experience.
When presented with a challenge, you will be able to break it down into smaller tasks that can be tailored to your own style of learning. For example, an essay can be broken down into research, understanding, and writing. These three stages can be adapted to your own learning style to perform your best.
As well as improving our study, discovering our preferred learning style can lead to a better self-understanding. While attending university is instrumental to a successful career, it is also a formative time where we get to know ourselves better. Understanding how we process information best can often help us understand some of our previous shortcomings such as failed exams or underachievement. This can help us overcome feelings of inadequacy and allow us to move forward with our education, life, and career, much better prepared.
As well as understanding how you learn best, knowing your learning weaknesses is a strength in itself. You will gain confidence despite setbacks as you adapt challenges in life to suit your own manner of learning. Keeping your learning style in mind as you approach a new assignment or task will mean you will not feel overwhelmed or out of your depth but, instead, capable and confident that you will be able to deliver.
Better career decisions
If you understand your preferred learning style, you also understand your ideal work environment too. Becoming aware of your strengths and weaknesses in this way enables you to look forward with clarity. If you realise you are a kinesthetic learner, for example, you will most likely want to pursue career opportunities that are more hands-on.
Knowing your preferred learning style will help you identify your ideal career path and avoid pursuing choices that may prove unsuitable for you.
At university, in your career, and in life in general, we all need to co-operate and work with other people. With each of us learning in different ways, understanding clearly your own learning style means you will know what contribution you can make. You will know beforehand exactly what sort of contribution you can deliver best and be able to predict areas of weakness you may want to flag.
This is especially useful for group projects where you can become a more valuable contributor, or as a more effective team member later in your career.
While none of us fits neatly into a single category of learning, discovering our preferred style enables us to pursue opportunities with confidence and self-understanding that enables us to perform our best.