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Understanding VARK Learning Preferences, Part 3

Updated on April 16, 2013
Teach students to learn by playing to their strengths and natural inclinations. Help students understand their learning preferences.
Teach students to learn by playing to their strengths and natural inclinations. Help students understand their learning preferences. | Source

Learning Tips

Galindo (1998) as cited in Simmons (2009) notes, “the learner’s participation in the learning experience … is the key to effective learning” (p. 95). As students digest what the teacher presents in class, they are able to better comprehend material. Even Freud (1978) notes, “it is quite impossible that the same educational procedure can be equally good for all children” (p. 185). In contrast, Rhem (1998) as cited in Fleming (2006) suggests that teachers should not be expected to change their teaching strategies, but that they should train their students to learn new learning strategies:

It seems unrealistic to hope to provide programs that can meet the needs of all these learning styles, to ask the teacher to forgo strengths and become a presentational pretzel. Instead, Fleming thought, why not empower students by helping them identify their learning preferences, and offer them advice on how to utilize those in response to the different teaching styles they might encounter? (Fleming, p. 122). Fleming agrees with this sentiment to an extent, suggesting teachers advise students on learning styles and challenges students to expand their learning habits.

Learning to overcome a teacher with a predominant teaching style or teaching students how to study to strengths and preferences should only take a little extra work when studying for the course. Carson, (2009) notes that students should not be worried about succeeding in a course where a teacher does not use the student’s primary learning style. It is not about studying more, but rather of studying better and learning to use time more efficiently (p. 97). For example, to supplement class learning, Hill (1997) as cited in Fleming (2006) suggests that visual learners copy diagrams from the book or classroom visuals (p. 28). Aural learners should record lectures when possible and actively participate and discussions (Hill as cited in Fleming, p. 28). Reading or writing learners should take notes during lectures and write down everything the teacher says when possible (Hill as cited in Fleming, p. 28). Kinesthetic learners should ask teachers for real-life examples and hands on experiences (Hill as cited in Fleming, p. 28)

Making the Connection

Before a teacher can adequately educate his students, he must determine what the student already knows; Fleming (2009) asserts, “What students already know is the best predictor of how much they will earn. Those who have the most before they start will take away the most” (“Prior Knowledge”). Fleming further contends “nothing is learned until something new is attached to what is already known” (“The Four Rs”). Building upon accurate knowledge is key, because it will only increase confusion if a teacher instructs students with a faulty foundation. Essentially, teachers must build a foundation; trying to teach students a difficult concept without previous understanding just doesn't work.

Teachers can encourage better comprehension and discern what their students already know by using what Fleming (2009) refers to as the Four Rs: reflect, recall, reconstruct and repeat (“The Four Rs”). This Socratic method of teaching encourages students to review material, apply it to new contexts and essentially forces students to view information from a new point of view. The Four Rs allow teachers to discover what students already know, build upon new material and encourage them to analyze the new knowledge. Fleming recognizes “Repetition means that the teacher needs to do more than merely say something. It needs to be said in a variety of different contexts so that it is meaningful repletion not mindless repetition” (“The Four Rs”).


The teacher’s goal should be to educate students to the best of his ability. Sometimes that requires a teacher to learn more about his student to tailor lesson plans in a certain way, or to ask leading questions that make the concept more understandable to the student. In addition to teaching the curriculum, the teacher should instruct students on how to play on their mental strength’s and learning preferences to become the best student they can be. Distinguishing between the basic learning preferences, and understanding the characteristics and tendencies of each preference allows the teacher to teach better and create better learners.

Article Series Information

This article is part 3 in a 3-part series.

Check out the other 2 parts in this series by clicking HERE for part 1 and HERE for part 2.


Carson, D. (2009). Is style everything? Teaching that achieves its objectives. Cinema Journal, 48(3), 95-101. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Fleming, N. (2009). 55 Strategies for Teaching. Retrieved from

Fleming, N. (2006). Teaching and learning styles: VARK strategies. The Digital Print and Copy Centre: New Zealand.

Simmons, L. (2009). Five resources on teaching methods. Religious Education, 104(1), 95-98. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

VARK: A guide to learning styles. (2011). The VARK Helpsheets. Retrieved on September 14 from


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