What is Your Learning Style?
Your learning style is the way your brain interprets information the best. If you tell me something and I don’t write it down, you can pretty much figure I have forgotten it ten minutes later. Yet there are some people that can remember everything they hear very easily. That doesn’t make one of us better than the other, it just means we probably have different learning styles. Knowing your learning style allows you to tilt the scale to your side so you can best understand and absorb information each day.
Why is Knowing Your Learning Style Important?
Learning does not end when we leave school. We continue to learn throughout our lives and that learning comes in many different forms. Maybe there is a new technology you need to learn for work. Maybe you would like to learn how to live a happier life. Maybe your child is really into hockey and you would like to learn more about it to help them in their quest to be on a Stanley Cup team some day. You can learn any or all of these things, and knowing your learning style can help you develop strategies to make learning easier for you.
Each day we are learning. I am always trying to come up with better more efficient ways to keep my house clean while I am at work. I thought about selling the kids, but that might be a bit extreme. So instead I come up with ways that work for our family to keep each person (mostly) on task. That is learning. Habits are learned and they are hard to break, knowing your learning style can help you break your old habits and form new ones.
The point is, just because you don’t sit in a classroom, does not mean that you are not learning each and every day.
The Learning Styles
There are five basic learning styles; visual, logical, auditory, verbal and physical. Most people fall into more than one category dependent on the situation. You probably have a dominant style, and then a few supporting styles.
A visual learner is a lucky person because this is the style catered to by most schools and teaching methods. A visual learner, also known as a spatial learner, is the person at the office who loves charts and graphs. This person learns by pictures, they say things like “hmmm I can’t quite picture that” and to get them understand, sometimes you have to quite literally draw them a picture. They often have a good sense of direction because they can picture in their head where they are in the world.
Here are some learning tips for people with a visual learning style.
- Use colors to organize. Color tabs on files, color blocking for scheduling or different color post it notes as page markers in a book. All of these techniques will help the visual learner keep a large amount of information organized and easily accessible in their brains.
- Use mind mapping to brain storm ideas. Instead of just listing ideas like you would in a brain storm session use a mind map to organize your thoughts. Using different color pens to keep like ideas in order will also help someone with a visual learning style.
- Go to the head of the class. Seriously sit near the front of the class so you can clearly see the instructor’s facial expressions and body language. This will help you form a mental image in your mind of the information being presented.
If you love numbers you are probably a logical learner. People with a logical learning style approach things from a logical standpoint. They are very good at seeing patterns in things other people do not. A logical learner is often the procedure maker, the one looking for the most efficient way to do something and then writing it down. A logical thinker is not someone you want seated across from you at the chess board.
Here are some learning tips for people with a logical learning style.
- Use bullet point lists. Pull the key points out the material you are trying to learn and make a bullet pointed list. This gives you a way to see all of the relevant points together so that you can look for the pattern and group them in a way that will make sense to you. This is also a great way to get your household organized.
- Reason it out. Logical thinkers need a logical reason to make a behavior change, so if you have a habit that you really want to change, you are going to have to learn about it and give yourself a logical reason to make that change.
- Debate it using a T List. This is a great way for a logical learner to learn anything, a new habit, a new technology or a new economic theory. Draw a T at the top of a piece of paper and write the key characteristics and debate points for the old system on one side of the T and do the same for the new system on the other side. Present your points to yourself and really try and defend each system as you would if you were on the Harvard debate team.
If you can still recite the periodic table because The Animaniacs set it to song, you are probably an auditory learner. Auditory learners learn through hearing something and often associate information with a tune or a sound. These are also the people that get songs stuck in their head way to easily. People with this style of learning probably have the hardest time in a traditional school setting, but this does not make them dumb by any means. The mechanic that can tell what is wrong with your car by listening to it is an auditory learner. The person that wrote the Oscar Meyer Bologna song is an auditory learner. (Thank you kind sir for helping all of us be able to spell bologna, seriously I am singing it as I type)
Here are some learning tips for people with an auditory learning style.
- Set it to song. Just like the periodic table song makes it easier for you to remember all of those elements, a song can help you remember any type of information. Heck you can even make a song of your daily chores if it helps you keep your day organized.
- Read it aloud. You learn by hearing things, reading an important part of a text aloud can help solidify that information in your memory.
- Use music to help your emotional state. Remember the scene in Gone in 60 seconds where they play Low Rider to amp them up before the big heist? That is how you can use music to help your mood. Music can motivate you, make you smile and help you deal with loss in your life.
A verbal or linguistic learner is someone who learns from words and language. They want to read the book, not see the movie. A verbal learner also learns from writing things down. They are language lovers that often can deduce the meaning of an English word by taking it down to it’s Latin roots. They are the book worms, the writers and the translators of the world.
Here are a few tips for people with a verbal learning style
- Write it down. When someone gives you directions, write them down. When someone gives you instructions how to complete a task, write it down. Don’t be the person who thinks to themselves “oh yea, I will remember that”, because we all know you won’t.
- Journal about it. Maybe you are having some problems in your life, maybe you are trying to make a big decision in your life. Journaling can help a verbal learner understand all of the information and make a good decision.
- Make an acronym. Anybody remember the color of the rainbow? ROYGBIV, red orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Make an acronym for anything you want to remember. (Thank you Mr. Sinclair, 5th grade science)
A physical or kinesthetic learner is someone who loves to get their hands dirty. If you were the kid who took the microwave apart, you are probably a physical learner. Many people who are physical learners are also good at sports, they seem to inherently understand the nature of movement and how to use it to their advantage. A physical learner will learn best by being able to put their hands on something to learn it.
Here are some tips for people with a physical learning style.
- Use visualization techniques to remember information. If for example you are trying to remember information about the Battle of Gettysburg, close your eyes and imagine the scene around you using all 5 of your senses. Hear the sounds of the cannons and the screams of the injured. Smell the burning gun powder and sweat of the men around you. Taste the smoke in the air and the dirt clods that fly up and hit you in the face. Feel the impact of a cannon ball to your right and a riders leg brushing past your left shoulder.
- Take it apart. Physical learners learn by having their hands on things, so taking apart an object will help you learn about that object.
- Use meditation. Feel the air go in and out of your lungs, feel the tension in your body, push the tension down your arms and out of your fingertips. Meditation is a great way for physical learners to deal with emotional turmoil.
Take a Learning Style Quiz
I did you guys a favor and weeded out the quizzes that cost money and the ones that require email addresses. This one is a basic quiz that will get you pointed in the right direction. Remember that most people have multiple learning styles and use them in different ways for different situations. The key is to understand how you learn best so that you can continue to learn and grow through out your life.