When it comes to learning styles, "one size fits all" is an approach that simply doesn't work.
For instance, when learning a language, some people prefer to predominantly hear and speak it, while others prefer to study the grammar, vocabulary and construction of the language. The first person is likely to look for opportunities to converse in the language, while the latter is most likely to have their head stuck in a book.
Now, neither of these learning approaches is wrong — they're just different. One works for one person; the other works for another.
The trick of course, is to find the learning styles that suit you the most. These are different learning styles that will allow you to learn quicker and easier. These styles will feel natural to you. And they'll encourage you to live a life of constantly learning new things.
That's what this article is about. I'm going to help you discover the best learning styles for you, while encouraging you to be always learning in your life.
- What Are Learning Styles?
- When Learning Styles Are Not Useful
- Take an Individual Approach with an Open Mind
- 5 Tips for Faster and Easier Learning
What Are Learning Styles?
Essentially, learning styles are the method, technique or system that are designed to help people learn.
There are actually several traditional different types of learning styles (and many more schools of thought on the subject of learning).
According to Vanderbilt University((Vanderbilt University: Learning Styles)), there are well over 70 different learning styles, but by far the most popular are the four styles captured in the VARK Model:((Education Corner: Discover Your Learning Style))
- Visual (spacial) — learners learn best by seeing.
- Auditory (aural) — learners learn best by hearing.
- Reading/writing — learners learn best by reading and writing.
- Kinesthetic (physical) — learners learn best by moving and doing.
Do you recognize yourself in one of the above styles?
You probably do, although it's not unusual for people to learn best with a blend of these styles.
Let's look a little deeper into these four styles:
Visual Learning Style
The visual learning style is best suited to individuals who like to watch videos and like to see presentations that are embedded with pictures, charts and graphs. Education Corner states that:((Education Corner: Discover Your Learning Style))
"the human brain processes visual information much faster than plain text. As a visual learner, you can take in and retain a lot of information really quickly because you prefer this processing method that humans are already very good at."
Auditory Learning Style
The auditory learning style is best suited to individuals who like to listen to lectures and audio books. These learners find it easy to learn what they hear.
So much so, that if they watch a movie, they'll most likely remember what was said in the movie – rather than the actions that took place.
Reading/Writing Learning Style
The reading/writing learning style is best suited to — as you'd expect — people who enjoy reading and writing. That's because the words they read and write become easily imprinted on their minds.
Ideas, paragraphs and even whole chapters are retained with little effort by people who have this as their predominant learning style.
Kinesthetic Learning Style
The kinesthetic learning style is best suited to people who like to get "hands on."
For instance, at college, they might be drawn to science subjects that allow them to participate in experiments, or things like mechanical engineering, which again is a subject that has lots of physical interactions.
When Learning Styles Are Not Useful
Although each of us learns differently, there should always be flexibility in our learning approach. For instance, if you enjoy learning through reading books, you shouldn't restrict yourself to just this medium. If you do, you could be missing out on some great content via videos and live presentations, etc.
My advice is that while it's definitely helpful to find your predominant learning style, don't let this hold you hostage. Be free and flexible with your learning. This will keep your mind fresh, and your thirst for learning at its peak.
It's also worth remembering that there is no scientific consensus for the accuracy of learning styles. In fact, Scientific American recently dedicated a whole article to this topic. Titled "The Problem With Learning Styles", the article delves into the scientific literature around learning styles, and finds out something interesting: There's scant evidence to support the idea that learning outcomes are best when teaching techniques align with individuals’ learning styles.((Scientific American: The Problem With Learning Styles))
So, as you can see from the above, the science is definitely not settled on this matter.
Which is why I recommend that you…
Take an Individual Approach with an Open Mind
In my experience, what type of person you are undoubtedly has an effect on how quickly and easily you learn. But individual learning styles are only part of the picture.
Most people actually learn best through a variety of different learning styles.
I recommend that you experiment with various learning styles, rather than obsessively focusing on a single one. This is almost always the most effective way to boost your learning abilities.
An article on this topic from the International Journal of Applied and Basic Medical Research concluded:((International Journal of Applied and Basic Medical Research: Students awareness of learning styles and their perceptions to a mixed method approach for learning))
"Awareness of individual learning styles among 1st year medical students and the use of an externally regulated strategy for enhancing learning helped students adapt to other learning styles. This enhanced the use of better learning practices and, therefore, better learning outcomes. Thus, knowledge of VARK learning style preferences of the student should not be considered as a restriction to use that particular style only. Rather, teachers should make a conscious effort to let the students explore other learning styles as well."
5 Tips for Faster and Easier Learning
Ready to make your learning faster and easier? Then put into action these five tips:
1. Match Your Own Dominant Learning Style and See Where You Can Apply This in Your Life
For example, if you're learning how to build cabinets for your home, would you learn best through several how-to videos, or having someone directly show you how it's done?
And how about when you're learning someone's name — maybe you find it easiest to write their name down (such as adding them as a contact in your smartphone) to retain the information?
Once you understand what type of learning style best suits you, then you can assess which areas you should apply it to, and where you could adopt other learning styles in certain situations.
2. Mix up Your Techniques
Just as your muscles can grow and strengthen as you exercise, so can your brain — especially if you break out of your normal learning routines. A recent research study by Johns Hopkins School of Medicine backs this up:((Johns Hopkins Medicine: Want to Learn a New Skill? Faster? Change Up Your Practice Sessions))
“What we found is, if you practice a slightly modified version of a task you want to master, you actually learn more and faster than if you just keep practicing the exact same thing multiple times in a row.”
3. Improve Your Weaker Areas
Perhaps you've discovered that you are NOT an auditory learner. Well, rather than just dismissing auditory learning, instead, look at it as an exciting challenge to improve in this area. One way you could do this is by making a determined and persistent effort to listen to podcasts and audiobooks.
Learning is simply a matter of honing and improving on areas you're deficient at, so it's smart to focus on learning itself to get fast results. And the good news is, as you strengthen your cognitive skills overall, learning will become easier for you.
4. Read Whatever You Are Trying to Learn out Loud for Better Retention
Have you ever tried to do this when reading an article or book? Sure, it slows you down a little. But it genuinely helps to sink the information you're reading (and speaking) into your mind and memory. And you don't need to take my word for this, as a University of Waterloo study found that "speaking text aloud helps to get words into long-term memory."((ScienceDaily: Reading information aloud to yourself improves memory of materials))
5. Regularly Test Yourself
One of the best ways to boost your retention of information is to test yourself on it.((Psychology Today: Test Yourself to Learn Better)) For example, if you're watching a video on how to start your own business, don't just watch it and forget it. Instead, test yourself the day after on the key messages of the video. This will definitely help you to remember and understand the content.
I sincerely hope these tips will help you to learn faster and smarter. But of course — as I always like to say — you need to put the tips into action in your life for them to have any real effect.
It's one thing to read about something, and another to do something about it.
However, as you've come to the Lifehack website and made it almost to the end of this article, then I'm sure that you have the necessary motivation to apply and benefit from these tips. And once you do, I guarantee that you'll start to learn better than ever before, and as a consequence, you'll develop a new love for learning that will last you a lifetime.
"Learning should be a joy and full of excitement. It is life's greatest adventure; it is an illustrated excursion into the minds of the noble and the learned." — Taylor Caldwell