What Are Learning Styles?
Simply put, learning styles influence the way you learn. Learning styles are determined by the skills and tools you rely on to accurately absorb, understand, retain, and repeat information. Your learning style develops at a young age and can affect how well you progress through school. If you try to learn in a way that doesn't suit this style, you may find it challenging to succeed in school. As a result, your grades may suffer, and meeting your career goals may be difficult.
Learning styles are determined by the skills and tools you rely on to accurately absorb, understand, retain, and repeat information.
Determining your learning style can be critical to your success as a student and in your career. In addition, it can help you choose a major you enjoy and excel in, ultimately affecting your future.
The Four Types of Learning Styles
There are four main types of learning styles or modalities in the VARK model — visual, aural/auditory, read/write, and kinesthetic. You may fall neatly into one of these styles or find yourself straddling a couple. Regardless, this model will help you see how you may learn best and why.
Visual learners appreciate data and information represented graphically. If you are a visual learner, you probably need to see more than words on a page — you may need to see information represented numerically and broken out into a pie chart, bar graph, or flow chart. You may also appreciate when an instructor uses a whiteboard to its fullest potential and fills it with symbols, signs, and shapes to represent the relationship between information.
Aural/auditory learners prefer to learn information through lectures, group discussions, and asking questions in class. They may often read out loud to themselves to make sense of and understand concepts and ideas. If you are an auditory learner, you may generally be more verbal and inclined to "talk things through" to sort out your thoughts. Slow reading is also a common characteristic of auditory learners, as well as repeating what has already been said to ensure understanding.
Reading/writing learners learn through words, which often overlaps with visual learning because of its nature. Readers/writers may read as much as they can to learn information, and they generally enjoy researching and looking up information in reference materials and on the internet. For example, Wikipedia can be a reader's/writer's first go-to for information because it's not cluttered with video and audio files. As a reader/writer, you may also enjoy journaling and keeping a diary. Interestingly, readers/writers are often drawn to teaching as a career.
You may be a kinesthetic learner if you learn best through a hands-on approach. Kinesthetic learners are tactile learners who learn by doing. They also enjoy live demonstrations, videos, movies of real things and events, and learning from case studies. If you are a kinesthetic learner, you may prefer handling and touching things to gain understanding and practical application. You may also enjoy researching and writing about the "who, what, where, and why" of something or building a case study.
How To Determine My Learning Style
You may find determining your learning style a straightforward process after you've read each description. Additionally, a teacher or instructor may be able to help you identify your style. If you're still undecided, there are several free online resources you can access to determine which style best describes how you learn:
- The VARK questionnaire
- The Education Planner quiz
- The How To Study assessment
- The Learning Style quiz
College Majors for Different Learning Styles
There are college majors suited for each learning style. You may find yourself drawn to one that seems like a natural fit because of how you like to learn and what you see yourself enjoying as a career. However, just because a major isn't in your learning style doesn't mean it's unattainable — it means you'll have to figure out how to study in a way that supports your success the best.
Careers for Different Learning Styles
There are also careers that may be more appealing than others based on each different learning style. Chances are that you'll still have to learn on-the-job and especially for career advancement, so determining your learning style now can help you find a career that's fulfilling and pays well with opportunities for job growth. Our career guides, the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) can help you further explore these careers and others.