Learning Styles – an introduction

Introduction to learning and teaching styles and methods

The underpinning concepts:

  • Learners are intrinsically different and have different preferred learning styles.
  • Teaching is a purposeful intervention with the aims of promoting learning and causing learning to happen.

Aims of the session

  • to examine different models of learning styles
  • to discuss different teaching strategies and methods

Model 1: 4 Styles

  • Visual/Verbal Learning Style
  • Visual/Nonverbal Learning Style
  • Tactile/Kinaesthetic Learning Style
  • The Auditory/Verbal Learning Style

Visual/Verbal Learning Style

The learner learns best when information is presented visually and in a written language format. In a classroom setting, the learner benefits from instructors who use the blackboard (or overhead projector) to list the essential points of a lecture, or who provide them with an outline to follow along with during lecture. They benefit from information obtained from textbooks and class notes. They tend to like to study on their own in a quiet room. They often see information “in their mind’s eye” when they are trying to remember something.

Visual/Nonverbal Learning Style

The learner learns best when information is presented visually and in a picture or design format. In a classroom setting, they benefit from instructors who use visual aids such as film, video, maps and charts. They benefit from information obtained from the pictures and diagrams in textbooks. They tend to like to work in a quiet room and may not like to work in study groups. When trying to remember something, they can often visualize a picture of it in their mind. They may have an artistic side that enjoys activities having to do with visual art and design.

Tactile/Kinesthetic Learning Style

The learner learns best when physically engaged in a “hands on” activity. In the classroom, they benefit from a lab setting where they can manipulate materials to learn new information. They learn best when they can be physically active in the learning environment. They benefit from instructors who encourage in-class demonstrations, “hands on” student learning experiences, and field work outside the classroom.

The Auditory/Verbal Learning Style

The learner learns best when information is presented auditory in an oral language format. In a classroom setting, they benefit from listening to lecture and participating in group discussions. They also benefit from obtaining information from audio tape. When trying to remember something, they can often “hear” the way someone told them the information, or the way they previously repeated it out loud. They learn best when interacting with others in a listening/speaking exchange .

Visual/Verbal Learning Style – Suggested approaches

  • To aid recall, make use of “colour coding” when presenting new information in notes. Encourage the use of highlighter pens, highlighting different kinds of information in contrasting colours.
  • Encourage this type of learner to write out sentences and phrases that summarize key information obtained from their textbook and lesson.
  • Make flashcards of vocabulary words and concepts that need to be memorized. Use highlighter pens to emphasize key points on the cards. Limit the amount of information per card so their mind can take a mental “picture” of the information.
  • When learning information presented in diagrams or illustrations, write out explanations for the information.
  • When a problem involves a sequence of steps, write out in detail how to do each step.
  • Make use of computer word processing. Copy key information from their notes and textbook into a computer. Use the print-outs for visual review.
  • Before an exam, encourage the learner to make visual reminders of information that must be memorized. Eg. Make “stick it” notes containing key words and concepts and place them in highly visible places –on their mirror, notebook, etc..

Visual/Nonverbal Learning Style – Suggested approaches

  • Make flashcards of key information that needs to be memorized. Draw symbols and pictures on the cards to facilitate recall. Use highlighter pens to highlight key words and pictures on the flashcards. Limit the amount of information per card, so their mind can take a mental “picture’ of the information.
  • When learning mathematical or technical information, make charts to organize the information. When a mathematical problem involves a sequence of steps, draw a series of boxes, each containing the appropriate bit of information in sequence.
  • Use large square graph paper to assist in creating charts and diagrams that illustrate key concepts.
  • Use the computer to assist in organizing material that needs to be memorized. Using word processing, create tables and charts with graphics that help them to understand and retain course material. Use spreadsheet and database software to further organize material that needs to be learned.
  • As much as possible, translate words and ideas into symbols, pictures, and diagrams.

Tactile/Kinaesthetic Learning Style – Suggested approaches

  • Encourage the learner to sit near the front of the room and take notes throughout the class period. Don’t worry about correct spelling or writing in complete sentences. Let them jot down key words and draw pictures or make charts to help them remember the information they are hearing.
  • Think of ways to make their learning tangible, i.e. something they can put their hands on. For example, make a model that illustrates a key concept. Spend extra time in a lab setting to learn an important procedure. Spend time in the field (e.g. a museum, historical site, or job site) to gain first-hand experience of the subject matter.
  • To learn a sequence of steps, make 3’x 5′ flashcards for each step. Arrange the cards on a table top to represent the correct sequence. Put words, symbols, or pictures on the flashcards — anything that helps them remember the information. Use highlighter pens in contrasting colours to emphasize important points. Limit the amount of information per card to aid recall. Practice putting the cards in order until the sequence becomes automatic.
  • Make use of the computer to reinforce learning through the sense of touch. Using word processing software, let them copy essential information from their notes and textbook. Use graphics, tables, and spreadsheets to further organize material that must be learned.
  • Listen to audio tapes on a Walkman tape player while exercising. Make their own tapes containing important course information.

The Auditory/Verbal Learning Style – Suggested approaches

  • Encourage the learner to study in a group to assist them in learning course material. Or, working with a “study buddy” on an ongoing basis to review key information and prepare for exams.
  • When studying by themselves, encourage them to talk out loud to aid recall.
  • Tape record their lessons. Use the ‘pause’ button to avoid taping irrelevant information. Use a tape recorder equipped with a 3-digit counter. At the beginning of each lecture, set their counter to ‘000.’ If a concept discussed during a lesson seems particularly confusing, get them to glance at the counter number and jot it down in their notes. Later, they can fast forward to that number to review the material that confused them during lecture. Making use of a counter and pause button while tape recording allows them to a void the tedious task of having to listen to hours and hours of lecture tape.
  • Use audio tapes such as commercial books on tape to aid recall. Or, create audio tapes by reading notes and textbook information into a tape recorder. When preparing for an exam, get them to review the tapes whenever they can.
  • When learning mathematical or technical information, get them to “talk their way” through the new information. State the problem in their own words. Reason through solutions to problems by talking out loud to them or with a study partner. To learn a sequence of steps, get them to write them out in sentence form and read them out loud.

Model 2: Honey and Mumford’s learning cycle and learning styles

Model 3: Kolb’s learning cycle

Model 4: McCarthy’s 4MAT system

The four learning styles identified by McCarthy are:

  1. Type 1: Innovative Learners are primarily interested in personal meaning. They need to have reasons for learning–ideally, reasons that connect new information with personal experience and establish that information’s usefulness in daily life. Some of the many instructional modes effective with this learner type are cooperative learning, brainstorming, and integration of content areas (e.g., science with social studies, writing with the arts, etc.).
  2. Type 2: Analytic Learners are primarily interested in acquiring facts in order to deepen their understanding of concepts and processes. They are capable of learning effectively from lectures, and enjoy independent research, analysis of data, and hearing what “the experts” have to say.
  3. Type 3: Common Sense Learners are primarily interested in how things work; they want to “get in and try it.” Concrete, experiential learning activities work best for them–using manipulatives, hands-on tasks, kinesthetic experience, etc.
  4. Type 4: Dynamic Learners are primarily interested in self-directed discovery. They rely heavily on their own intuition, and seek to teach both themselves and others. Any type of independent study is effective for these learners. They also enjoy simulations, role play, and games.

Model 5: Gardner [1993] – Multiple Intelligences

Multiple intelligences

Gardner [1993] suggests that each individual has several distinct areas of intelligence:

  • Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence — well-developed verbal skills and sensitivity to the sounds, meanings and rhythms of words
  • Mathematical-Logical Intelligence — ability to think conceptually and abstractly, and capacity to discern logical or numerical patterns
  • Musical Intelligence — ability to produce and appreciate rhythm, pitch and timbre
  • Visual-Spatial Intelligence — capacity to think in images and pictures, to visualize accurately and abstractly
  • Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence — ability to control one’s body movements and to handle objects skillfully
  • Interpersonal Intelligence — capacity to detect and respond appropriately to the moods, motivations and desires of others.
  • Intrapersonal Intelligence — capacity to be self-aware and in tune with inner feelings, values, beliefs and thinking processes
  • ***Naturalist Intelligence — ability to recognize and categorize plants, animals and other objects in nature
  • ***Existential Intelligence — sensitivity and capacity to tackle deep questions about human existence, such as the meaning of life, why do we die, and how did we get here.

Gardner believes that an individual’s abilities will differ in each area as will their learning style.


Try the following diagnostic test at…



The Learner’s and Teacher’s contribution to the learning process

What do learners contribute to the learning process?

  • Past experience
  • Individual perception
  • New ways of thinking
  • New concepts
  • Energy and enthusiasm

How can teachers/lecturers help the learner?

  • Build on learners’ past experience
  • Make the learning relevant to the individual
  • Identify learner’s preferred learning style
  • Highlight new ways of learning/studying
  • Motivate the learner

Expanding the t & l repertoire through unconvergence……..


teaching is:

  • a joint activity
  • guiding the conversation
  • helping joint constructions to form
  • enacting community values
learning is:

  • social
  • assisted performance
  • interactive and co-constructive
  • self regulation amongst the group
  • evaluating shared values


teaching is:

  • setting challenging tasks
  • observing and interviewing
  • supporting learners’ activities
  • creating dissonance
  • helping learners to reconsider
learning is:

  • personal understanding
  • interpreting and selecting
  •  active
  • constructive
  • reviewing and integrating


teaching is:

  • giving accurate information
  • sequential
  • direct
  • structuring the environment
  • rewarding performance
learning is:

  • correct performance
  • tasks
  • cumulative
  • receptive
  • from the outside in
  • practising and performing


teaching is:

  • explicating expertise
  • modelling strategies
  • supporting and assisting reflection
  • application across concepts
  • providing criteria for evaluation
learning is:

  • mindful engagement
  • strategic management of learning tasks
  • reflection and self monitoring
  • adapting, applying and transferring knowledge
  • self evaluating
en English