A child is learning.

An Overview Of Learning Styles

Learning styles are categorized as per the preferred ways of learning. But just like the human growth and development process, learning preferences are also quite complex to understand. Eminent educational psychologists and scholars have researched the reasons how people learn, assimilate and process information. However, the concept of individual differences continues to dominate. And there is no single approach that can work for all individuals in terms of learning and retaining information.

We all know that a teacher deals with a heterogeneous mix of students with different types of learning preferences in a classroom. But when it comes to handling all these preferences simultaneously, it is not as easy as it sounds. To create the right mix of approaches, a teacher must possess sound knowledge of these learning styles. And it is equally important to know the right use of the pedagogies as per the dominant traits of the student’s personality types.

Let’s delve deeper and figure out more about these styles and the ways of accommodating these in a traditional/online class.

Categorizing Learning Styles

All students across all age groups have an array of individual learning preferences. One of the most popular models to understand common learning styles is the VARK model. Let’s understand more about this model before we move on with other related information.

The abbreviation explains the broad categories of learners as:

V- Visual

A – Auditory

R- Read/Write

K- Kinesthetic

The knowledge of these learning styles is helpful for stakeholders and especially teachers to plan their instructional delivery as per the unique preferences of students. Let’s dig deeper and understand more about the traits of these learning preferences;

  1. Visual- Visual learners are the best at processing information through visual presentation. This includes pictures, graphics, charts, diagrams, animations, etc.
  2. Auditory – This style is more about understanding better after hearing and thinking through the information that they have listened to.
  3. Read/Write – These learners are the best at jotting down points during classroom teaching. And they are also great at utilizing information that is made available to them through printouts/handouts, written assignments, etc.   
  4. Kinesthetic- Also known as ‘tactile’ learners,these individuals need a multisensory experience, wherein they can stay actively involved and engage their senses in a number of ways.

How to Identify Learning Styles?

The simplest method of identifying learning styles is to observe learning preferences. However, multiple students in a classroom lean towards different preferences almost at the same time. For many teachers, it is not easy to spot all these preferences instantly in a classroom. However, this process can be simplified with tools like questionnaires, surveys or tests, etc. These tools are readily available and can help in highlighting an individual’s preferences. These tools include personality analysis through varied life scenarios and the preferences to respond while handling these situations. Teachers can find the strong and weak areas of the students. And it gets easy to know about their learning preferences.

Accommodating Learning Preferences in a Classroom

Research has proved that it is possible to accommodate all learning styles in a classroom by identifying the student’s personalities and integrating the right strategies through activities and lesson planning. A teacher must create the right mix of all pedagogies/approaches, strategies, etc. to reach out to students across all styles.

One interesting dimension highlighted in the same research also pinpoints the minute difference between a teacher’s perception of his/her own learning style and the actual learning preference of the students. It is noteworthy a teacher might be inclined to make use of his/her individual learning (consciously or unconsciously) in a classroom. However, this is not a foolproof way to engage students. And even a well-prepared session can fall flat with the group.

The core idea of student-centricity revolves around the unique needs of students. Hence, all teachers must focus on delinking their own thought processes and preferences to serve the student community in the true sense.

Technology has been a great blessing within the education sector. And with more and more digitalization in education (with online schools), it is now possible to cater to these preferences much better. Let’s understand more about it!

Addressing all Learning Styles through Technology

As the world moves to a new paradigm of online classes and new educational alternatives, challenges like accommodating learning styles are now easier to tackle. In fact, by integrating technology within the classroom, we can empower students to find their own learning styles, and help them to shortlist the right resource/content that can quench their thirst for knowledge.

With students above the primary levels, these strategies can work perfectly. In fact, the use of technology is also a boon for inclusion. Because it helps our differently-abled students to thrive easily in a secure and personalized learning environment (such as with the use of assistive technologies).

Do you know that globally, over 150 million children live with a disability? And around 80% of these are from developing countries. 

Final Thoughts

Learning styles can be accommodated in a classroom successfully. But a teacher needs to invest his/her time and energy to know the students well. Learners often have dominant learning styles, and even mixed styles are a common feature of most heterogeneous classrooms. Instructional delivery in an online class/traditional classroom also depends on several factors over and above these much-talked-about learning preferences. Individual differences also range from abilities to work in different environments like within a group or individually. But the ways of addressing these unique learning needs is through the sound knowledge and application of appropriate strategies in a positive learning environment.

In this series on ‘Learning Styles’, we will help the stakeholder community to learn the right ways of engaging all types of students effectively for the best outcomes. Keep reading the upcoming parts of this series to brush up your skills in student handling as per their mixed preferences. After all, we all wish to feel the joy of teaching highly engaged students in our happy and productive classrooms!

Thanks for Reading!

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