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What is a Learning Style? How to Assess Which Teaching Techniques Are Best

Updated on May 22, 2012

Learning styles

What is a learning style?

Learning styles vary from person to person. There are typically three types of learning styles, visual learners, auditory learners, and kinesthetic/tactile learners. Some people can be a combination of all three. That is me; I have to hear it, see it, and do it, in order to really understand a new concept. When I am taking a class, or reading about something new, I will watch the instructor, and take notes as I listen. This allows me to use all the learning styles in one sitting. If I am reading about something I am not familiar with I like to discuss it with someone so that able to hear it as well. Once I get the concept, I don’t forget it. I try to look for learning styles in my family too.

My son is definitely an auditory, kinesthetic learner. He has a difficult time with letters and spelling, so I have him sign the letters as he studies them. He still has a very difficult time and has to work very hard to master sight words, but signing seems to help. His study environment has to be very structured and quiet or he becomes distracted and homework time is abruptly over for him, and there is no going back. He has been diagnosed with ADHD, and he is being assessed for learning disabilities now. He is great with numbers and math, and even excels in the subject.

My daughter is an auditory learner, she talks things out when she is doing homework, and is very chatty. She is 9 and is doing very well on her school work. It seems to come pretty easy for her, but she needs to be able to discuss her school work and talk out her problems as she does them. She actually does better on her homework in a busy environment than in a quiet one.

If you are a teacher, parent, or student, you should know what the characteristics of each learning style are, for better learning achievements for the learner. Here are some typical characteristics to look for to assess a person’s learning style.

Clues to learning styles

Visual Learners
Auditory Learners
Kinesthetic/Tactile Learners
learn visually
Talks out problems
learns best when moving
good with faces, not with names
self talks, out loud or to themself
hard time concentrating when still
enjoy reading
prefers hands on learning
benefit from take notes
difficulty taking turns in play
uses hand gestures when speaking
may dream in color
difficulty taking turns in discussions
shows emotion by physical interaction
can't stand clutter
Talks a lot, likes to listen
difficulty staying still
better when organized
Tone of talk varies with emotion
doodles a lot
uses a lot of facial expressions
better with verbal instructions
enjoys art
looks for facial expressions
very detail in descriptions, repeats a lot
tends to be more athletic
looks up when thinking
looks down when thinking
good at or enjoys puzzles

Multiple Intelligences

Howard Gardner, a developmental psychologist came up with the theory of multiple intelligences. Recently there have been a lot of studies on the concept of multiple intelligences.This concept is similar to the learning style approach, but more detailed. This concept asserts that a learner who excels in one area is not necessarily more intelligent that a learner who does poorly in the same area. Some learners may master a task quickly by memorization, but not truly have the understanding of the task as in one who takes their time learning something. Outwardly, the latter of the two may seem to be less intelligent, but may in actuality have a greater understanding of the task or subject.

Classifications of multiple intelligences include;

Interview with Howard Gardner

Types of Gardners Intelligences

good at visualization
likes to build things
sensitive to sounds/tones
self reflective
nuturing personality
enjoys science
works well with hands
sings/writes music
sensitive to peoples feelings
likes to write
interested in nature
works problems out in their head
good timing/good reflexes
good language skills
communicates well
interested in animals
questions things
can learn by singing information
comfortable with others and themselves
understands nature
enjoys puzzles/building things
learns by doing
auditory learner
learns by discussion

Theories in testing and education

Gardner believes that learning can be achieved in various ways. Traditional schooling concentrates on two main intelligences, logical and linguistic. According to Gardner's theory, statistical achievement tests may not show an individual's true intelligence level because of the lack of the variety of testing fields, and does not show an accurate level of learning ability for each individual. He believes that a broader scope of the types of education and testing techniques should be offered to individuals. The multiple intelligence theory suggests that an individual may have a combination of these types of intelligences, but can excel in one or more area. When teachers use different teaching techniques for students having difficulties mastering a concept students often show some improvement. Studies continue to be conducted on this theory. Multiple intelligence tests are easily found online.


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    • KimberlyLake profile image

      Kimberly Lake 5 years ago from California

      @muneebali Thank you for the comment I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment on my article.

    • KimberlyLake profile image

      Kimberly Lake 5 years ago from California

      @sriparna that must have been very interesting. Gardener's theory is very good, I think. I wish more schools would use his theory. Thank you for commenting and reading my article, I am glad you liked it.

    • KimberlyLake profile image

      Kimberly Lake 5 years ago from California

      @nif Thank you for the comment. I found that I need to hear it, write it, and sometimes see it when I am learning new info. Each of my children have a somewhat different learning style.

    • nifwlseirff profile image

      Kymberly Fergusson 5 years ago from Villingen Schwenningen, Germany

      Excellent hub, for parents, kids and teachers. I'm predominantly a visual learner, with a hand memory - I must write things down or I'll forget them!

    • sriparna profile image

      Sriparna 5 years ago from New Delhi

      Very interesting hub and being a teacher myself, I hold these topics of different learning styles and Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences very close to my heart. This year, I had got a life-time opportunity to listen to his talk live during his India Tour 2012. Thank you for sharing.

    • KimberlyLake profile image

      Kimberly Lake 5 years ago from California

      @Vellur Thanks again for your comments. I think it is interesting how people posses different learning styles. I do see it in each of my children. I am glad you enjoyed reading my article.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 5 years ago from Dubai

      Interesting and informative. I never knew all this about learning styles. A great read.

    • KimberlyLake profile image

      Kimberly Lake 5 years ago from California

      @billybuc wow thank you! As always I appreciate your input:)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Valuable hub for any parent to read. Well-researched and as an old teacher I can verify everything Kim has written here....well done Kim!