7 Learning Styles And How To Use Them To Your Advantage

By Bryce Buchmann on March 11, 2014

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Identifying your natural learning style and experimenting with others may very well improve your GPA and make you a more intelligent person overall.

The idea of different learning styles emerged in the 1970s and has had a great influence on strategies employed by educators. But more importantly for most college students, by recognizing our own learning styles as well as the ones we’re not as prone to we can make ourselves better students.

Learning styles are analyzed using a number of different methods, with the most commonly discussed model consisting of visual, auditory, and tactile learners. These learning styles can be expanded on and sometimes combined, however, into seven categories.

Photo Source: classtech.cites.uiuc.edu

As we examine these learning styles and try to decide which category (or categories) we fall into, it’s important to remember that being good at one type of learning does not mean you are bad at others. These learning styles simply describe a type of mental processing which may work better for some than others. These learning styles can be combined with each other at times and do not represent concrete definitions of how we learn.

1. Visual

A visual learner is someone who develops their most thorough understanding of a topic by, not surprisingly, seeing it. These are people with a heightened ability for spatial reasoning which makes their visual perception of objects, shapes, and distances closely connected to how they understand and remember information. This type of learning is easy to dismiss because reading a novel is more intellectual than flipping through a picture book, but to dismiss the value of a visual learner in that way is a mistake and oversimplifies the differences between learning styles.

2. Verbal

A verbal (or linguistic) learner is someone who learns best by having ideas described in words. Being a verbal learner can mean a combination of auditory and visual learning because the word “verbal” does not indicate which sense someone uses to perceive words. Verbal learning characterizes a style that uses parts of the brain most connected to language. By developing and using language skills, a person will become more adept at processing and remembering verbal material.

3. Aural

An aural learner would prefer to learn by hearing and may have musical talent as well. This type of learning can include verbal learning, but indicates a preference for the spoken word rather than text. Someone who uses aural learning most effectively may have advantages over a simple verbal learner and will also be able to learn in a variety of different ways by using their hearing.

4. Tactile

A tactile learner understands a concept best by actively engaging with subject material. A tactile learner may get more out of conducting experiments instead of reading about the results of someone else’s experiment or constructing a model of a building instead of watching a documentary about how it would be built.

5. Logical

A logical learner can also be described as a mathematical learner and this type of person learns best by being shown the logical reasoning it takes to arrive at a conclusion. This learning style clearly applies to subjects like math and physics but can also be employed in any area of education dealing with models and concepts derived from logical reasoning, including but not limited to economics, psychology, political science, and even philosophy.

6. Social

Social learners gather information most effectively by interacting with other people. This is usually an application of verbal learning but includes the ability to both hear what others have to say as well as contribute to the conversation. The Socratic method, where teachers engage students by asking questions rather than by providing answers, would be an excellent learning technique for social learners.

7. Solitary

Opposite of social learners, solitary learners develop understanding of material best by gathering information on their own. This style can only be done using one or more of the other learning techniques (aside from social) because it describes the independent approach rather than how the information is perceived.

In order to take advantage of these learning techniques, consider which learning style works best for you. Edutopia provides a quiz intended to determine your learning style, as do many other websites. But because concepts of learning styles differ depending on the source of information, this is not a guaranteed way of determining which is your learning style. Instead, use your own best judgment to decide which learning style fits you. Better yet, try taking the different approaches to learning in your spare time and see which one fits you the best. In that process, you may develop learning skills you didn’t have before.

Once you’ve chosen a learning style (or more than one) that works best for you, apply it to your school assignments when you can. Obviously some professors will have ways of teaching and required study readings that don’t allow much freedom, but sometimes you will come across options you have for how to approach course material and you can make the best of your abilities by applying your own style.

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