Learning styles

Key words: learning style, intelligence, personality

We each learn in different ways. The way we prefer to learn is called our learning style. Our learning style is nothing to do with intelligence—it’s about how our brain works most efficiently to learn new information. Understanding your learning style can help you study more effectively.

Discover your preferred learning style

There are many different models for describing learning styles. This unit will introduce you to two different models: the VAK model and the Index of learning styles.

The VAK model

This model categorises three different types of learners:

  • Visual learners learn through what they see.
    (Do you remember faces rather than names?)
  • Auditory learners learn from what they hear.
    (Can you concentrate in lectures that have no acccompanying visuals?)
  • Kinaesthetic learners learn from doing something.
    (Do you need to write notes or doodle or do something with your hands when you concentrate?)
Exercise 1: VAK learning style quiz

Everyone has a learning style preference. While we have a particular style that may identify our approach to learning, we do tend to use all three styles to some extent. Take the VAK learning style quiz, and see if you can find some information about your preferred learning style

Index of learning styles

This popular learning styles inventory provides insights and strategies for academic learning. It offers learning styles on four dimensions:

  • Active/reflective
    Do you learn best by doing something or by thinking about it?
  • Sensing/intuitive
    Do you like to learn facts or do you prefer to deal with concepts and relationships?
  • Visual/verbal
    Do you remember best what you see or what you read/hear?
  • Sequential/global
    In your learning, do you prefer to master the details then hope to see the ‘big picture’ or do you need to understand the ‘big picture’ before you can master the details?
Exercise 2: Index of learning styles questionnaire

Discover your personality type

The Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) gives insights on your personality type. MBTI has four personality types:

  • Introvert or extrovert (how you relate to the real world)
  • Sensing or intuitive (how you process information)
  • Thinking or feeling (how you make decisions)
  • Perceiver or judger (how you focus your attention and plan)

Understanding your personality type can be particularly helpful when working in groups. MBTI can also help you understand how other personality types can work effectively together in groups or teams.

Exercise 3: Personality quiz

Complete this personality quiz based on MBTI. Print a copy of the results sheet showing your personality type.

Apply learning styles to your study

Understanding your learning style can help you to study more effectively.

Exercise 4: About my learning styles

Click each question to see an answer

Are there 'good' or 'bad' learning styles?

There are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ learning styles or personalities. However, there can be a good or bad match between how you learn best and how a subject is being taught. For example, if you are a visual learner with an extrovert personality, sitting in a lecture room with no visuals and no opportunity for discussion is unlikely to capture your attention or hold your interest. There is a clear mismatch between your preferred learning style and the learning environment.

How can I apply what I've learned about my learning style?

When you find there is a mismatch between how you learn best and how a subject is being taught, you can find ways to supplement your learning to suit your style. For example, if you are a visual learner with an extrovert personality, you might draw diagrams to illustrate the ideas being presented in the lecture then discuss these ideas with peers/ friends/ family after the lecture. In this way, you are developing learning strategies that suit you; and so your learning is enhanced.