What are Learning Styles?
Each individual person has their own set of ways with which they learn best. Some students find they learn best from a lecture when the professor presents key points in a visual manner-either on the board, on an overhead, or with a handout. Others find they have a much easier time hearing someone talk about a subject rather than reading the same ideas on paper. These two examples present the two key learning styles: Visual and Auditory. But learning styles are not limited to the senses of hearing and sight; there are as many different ways of learning as there are learners.
While learning styles are varied, there are some specific categories which people fall into, and there are some specific hints for each category on how to learn more effectively.
The Barsch Learning Style Inventory
To gain a better understanding of yourself as a learner, it is useful to identify the way you prefer to learn. Learning is easier when study skills match your preferred learning style. The Barsch Learning Style Inventory is a short diagnostic test to assess your learning style. You will discover if you learn best through seeing things (visual), hearing them (auditory), or through the sense of touch or body movement (tactile/kinesthetic).
What do the scores mean?
When you have identified your style, what do you do with that information? You need to build on your strengths and address your weaknesses. Most students have one dominant learning style. If you have scores that are close or tied, you can use either learning style equally well. Those who learn to adapt study skills to incorporate all 3 learning styles learn faster and remember longer.
The Visual or Auditory style, whichever scores the highest, is considered the primary preferred learning style. The Tactile/Kinesthetic is considered secondary, even if the score is higher than the other two. This is because we do most of our learning through our eyes and ears, and use the senses of touch, feeling and motion to enhance our primary learning.
What should I do now?
To be flexible to meet any academic situation, you need to use your strengths but also try to build up your weaknesses. Capitalize on your learning strengths because it's like money in the bank you can draw from. Try to convert study materials to the sensory format of your preference. But why should you focus on things you're not good at?
- Not every learning situation gives you a choice.
- Teachers with a learning style different from yours give assignments they find naturally appealing.
- Flexibility = Freedom. The more ways you can learn, the more options and power you will have over your life.
- It's not clear whether learning styles are inborn or the result of experience. Constant deliberate effort can often change your style. But it will take repeated practice and may even be a little painful at first (like working out at a gym.)
Learners taking written tests are expected to retrieve the information in the VISUAL learning style. All students must learn how to strengthen their visual skills if they are to succeed in college because nearly all college testing is conducted in the visual or written mode. If you do not naturally learn in the visual style, you can get the most help by developing some of the visual learners' techniques.