Exploring Learning Styles
This week's lecture was developed in collaboration with Naomi Kinoshita.
If you have any questions for Ms. Kinoshita, please post them in the Student Questions or in the Discussion Forum.
"I hear and I forget,
I see and I remember,
I do and I understand."
c. 450 BC
Learning is a lifelong process. From the moment you are born, your brain is constantly receiving and reacting to information through sights, sounds, and experiences. In an academic setting, learning requires processing and applying information in order to gain knowledge of various subjects. However, most of us have spent little time trying to understand exactly how we learn best. Yet in order to be successful in college, it is essential that you become the most effective learner possible.
People differ in how they prefer to learn. These individual preferences are called learning styles. When you study or think in ways that match your preferences, you learn more effectively. When you engage in activities contrary to your style, learning takes longer and requires more effort.
Your learning style also reveals your temperament--the mix of characteristics that defines you. Thus, when you meet people or take courses you enjoy, you feel more confident and successful. When you do activities contrary to your temperament, you can feel uncomfortable or dissatisfied.
This lecture is designed to help you determine your personal learning style and how to best apply it to your studies in order to become an effective learner. After completing this week's activities, you will have gained an understanding of the role learning style plays in the learning process.
What is the Best Way to Learn?
Do you ever feel frustrated with a class when you are having difficulty while others in the class seem to be sailing through it? If that's the case, you might feel that you are a failure. However, the truth is that each of us has some strengths as well as some weaknesses. What may be viewed as poor performance or an inability to be an effective student may reflect differences in learning styles. Each of us differs in how we learn and in the techniques we use to learn. There is no single best way to learn. Instead, each person has a unique style and specific preferences which may not be compatible with all learning situations.
Analyzing Learning Styles
As you know, the term learning styles refers to learning preferences. Your personal preferences reflect your strengths, your temperament, and your interests. There are a number of approaches to defining and assessing learning styles. The most obvious preferences people have are in learning modalities: visual learners, auditory learners, and kinesthetic learners. Other popular theories are based on the work of Howard Gardner, Katharine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers, and David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates. Howard Gardner, developer of a theory called Multiple Intelligences, believes that, instead of just the traditional verbal and mathematical IQ, all people have at least seven intelligences. The Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI) is one of the first tools used to measure personality types. It is important to know your personality type because your preferred approaches to learning new material are related to your type. Keirsey and Bates combined the sixteen Myers-Briggs types into four temperaments. So what is your preferred learning style?
Discovering Your Learning Style
In order to discover your learning style, you will be completing the following three assessments: (1) A Learning Style Survey for College, (2) Index of Learning Styles Questionnaire, and (3) The Multiple Intelligence Inventory.
A Learning Style Survey for College
Identifying preferred learning modality is the most commonly used approach to learning styles. You are probably familiar with terms such as visual, auditory and kinesthetic learner. Each one of us has developed a preference to use one of these modalities, but typically we are able to work in all three. Depending on a learning situation you will find yourself in, your study strategies may vary to compensate for the necessity to work in a modality that is not your preferred one. Take the following inventory to assess your sensory preferences (modality).
A Learning Style Survey for College
Diablo Valley College
It is important to try to integrate all of the modalities into your learning process because a multisensory approach increases your involvement with the material you study and strengthens your memory. By learning new study strategies and practicing their use, you can strengthen your use of the weaker modalities.
For information about the four learning modalities in the survey and learning tips for each one see:
The Four Learning Styles
In the discussion forum this week, you may want to share with the class what your preferred modality is and what learning strategies you would like to incorporate in your learning.
Index of Learning Styles Questionnaire
This inventory, developed by Barbara Solomon of North Carolina State University, is designed to determine your learning styles profile. It will help you identify your preference in one of the four dimensions:
Index of Learning Styles Questionnaire
To interpret your scores and for suggestions on how you can help yourself, read this handout:
Learning Styles and Strategies
Multiple Intelligence Inventory
This assessment tool is based on Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences. It will help you determine if you have a dominant intelligence. Your scores will reflect which of your intelligences are more developed and which have the potential to be further developed. Most people are a blend of various intelligences, with strengths and weaknesses in all of them.
Multiple Intelligence Inventory
University of Toronto
After you have completed the inventory, read the handout on the characteristics of learners with highly developed intelligences:
Seven Styles of Learning
Making the Best of Your Learning Style
As you have discovered from taking the various inventories, you are a blend of styles and preferences, with one or two being dominant. By determining your particular learning style, you will better understand how you learn best and maximize your study habits and strategies.
The following section of the lecture presents study suggestions for various learning styles. There may be some tips that apply to you even though they do not apply to your dominant preferences; however, this is not a problem. Using what best works for you should be your focus. (The suggestions were made by students in Professor Soloman's program.)
Active Learners include Bodily-Kinesthetic, Interpersonal
Like to apply information to the real world, experience it through their own actions, and discuss or explain to others what they have learned.
Reflective Learners include Intrapersonal, Logical/Mathematical
Retain and understand information better after they have taken time to think about it.
Prefer concrete and specific facts, data, and detailed experimentation, are good at memorizing facts, like to solve problems using standard methods, and are patient with details, but don't respond well to surprises and complications that upset normal procedure.
Prefer innovation and theories, are good at understanding concepts and ideas, and are comfortable with symbols and abstractions, but dislike repetition and fact-based learning.
Remember best what they see and tend to forget what they hear. Even though we see words on a page or screen, visual learning refers to learning from visual cues that don't involve words.
Verbal/Linguistic Learners are also Interpersonal
Remember much of what they hear, benefit from discussion, prefer verbal explanation to visual demonstration, learn by explaining things to others, and learn well through reading. The majority of classes are geared to verbal learners because material is presented through the written word, lecture, or discussion.
Prefer that material is presented in a logical, ordered progression, can solve problems in a step-by-step approach, can work sections of material without yet fully understanding the whole picture, tend to be stronger when looking at the parts of a whole rather than understanding the whole and dividing it up into parts, and learn best when moving from easiest to more complex to most difficult. Many classes are taught in a linear manner.
May feel lost for days or weeks until they suddenly "get it" or may feel discouraged when struggling with material which other students seem to learn easily. Once they understand, they tend to see the big picture to an extent that others may not often achieve. They are often highly creative.
Remember rhymes, can be energized by music, often have a song running through their minds, and find themselves tapping a foot or their fingers when they hear music.
Adapting Learning Styles
Instructors differ in how they conduct their classes, and students tend to do better in certain types of classroom than others. Understanding your learning preferences will help you succeed in any classroom, whether or not the teacher's style appeals to your learning style. Knowing that students differ in their learning styles, some instructors include a variety of classroom activities and suggest helpful study strategies; many instructors, however, are content-centered and use primarily lectures as a method of presenting course material. It's always a good idea to find out more about a class and instructor's teaching style before enrolling in the course. If the classroom environment is a good match for your learning style, it will be easier to thrive in that class. What happens if your learning style does not match your instructor's teaching style? Don't drop the class before giving it a try. Use strategies that are more consistent with your learning style to make the class work for you.
Find out more about learning styles, teaching styles, and how to bridge the two from the Counseling Center at Pace University.
Learning Styles and How to Maximize Your Success in School
Benefits of Knowing Your Learning Style
Being aware of your learning style and adjusting your study habits to fit your needs will enable you to become a better student. You should use techniques that make use of your strengths and strategies that compensate in your areas of weaknesses in order to minimize your frustration and save you time and energy. Knowing your learning preferences will help you understand what is best for you not only as a student but also in your career and in your personal development. You will benefit by (1) being able to make better choices and avoid situations that may cause problems, (2) finding an environment that you are most compatible with and where you will be able to be the most effective and successful, and (3) knowing your areas of weaknesses that need improvement. Overall, knowing your learning style is one step towards helping you define yourself as a person.
Carter, Carol, Joyce Bishop, and Sarah Lyman Kravits. Keys to Effective Learning. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1998.
Longman, Debbie Guice and Rhonda Holt Atkinson. College Learning and Study Skills. Belmont, California. Wadsworth Publishing Company. 1999. 5th ed.
McWhorter, Kathleen T. College Reading and Study Skills. New York. Addison Wesley Longman, Inc. 1998. 7th ed.
Wong, Linda. Essential Study Skills. New York. Houghton Mifflin Company. 1997. 2nd ed.
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