What's Your Learning Style?
How you learn is part of who you are. Just like your personality and your brain chemistry itself, the way you learn is intricate and individual. Your preferred learning style reflects the complexities of your unique mind and impacts how you engage with the information around you. Your learning style could be very different from that of a classmate or colleague, and understanding how you learn best can lead to tremendous breakthroughs in your education, your career, and even your life.
Understanding and using the learning styles that work best for you can help you absorb knowledge faster in school or at work. You'll be better able to deal with poor leadership or instruction by creating your own study aids and leveraging your natural skills and abilities. A basic understanding of how different people learn can also make you a better manager, colleague, and communicator.
In order to unlock these benefits, your studying habits and education have to align with your unique learning style. Find out more about the common learning styles that people exhibit, identify your own learning style, and get tips on how to maximize your success below.
Identify Your Learning Style
Researchers and theorists have identified a number of distinct learning styles and learning patterns that describe how people receive, process, and retain information. For some people, the perfect approach to learning may be encompassed by a single style, but studies have shown that a majority of people are multimodal learners who do best with a curriculum that blends aspects of several learning styles. How a person learns often aligns with certain aspects of their personality, such as shyness, extroversion, creativity or other traits. In short, it's likely that your specific learning style is as unique as you are.
The first step to unlock your brain's maximum potential is to identify your strengths as a student and learner. Start by taking our simple quiz to discover what kind of learner you are. Then, keep reading to learn how to put your specific learning style to work.
For many people, peace and quiet are essential ingredients for successful learning. Being free of distractions and interruptions lets solitary learners dig into their studies. Because of the individual nature of solitary learning, having a strong personal connection with your study materials and topics can lead to more effective learning.
If You're a Solitary Learner…
Focus your internal thoughts and reactions on the material, and find a way to create a personal interest in the topics you're researching. The more you can internalize and connect with information, the more success you're likely to have.
The opposite of solitary learners, social learners do best when they work with others. One of the most powerful effects of social learning is how strongly it reinforces itself. Social learners help teach each other symbiotically. Talking through material gets the ideas flowing, and participants have the opportunity to underscore, clarify, and explore critical pieces of information as a group.
If You're a Social Learner…
Find a study partner or put together a whole cohort of other social learners to make the most of this highly interactive learning style. If you can't or don't want to work with your colleagues or fellow students, ask a friend, roommate, or significant other to quiz you or let you talk through your material. As long as you involve others, you'll be playing to your strengths.
If you've ever been called a "left-brained" person, you may be a logical learner. Materials that offer numbers, patterns, rules, or analysis are especially useful for these learners. A reliance on data doesn't mean that logical learners can only pursue math, science, or other data-driven disciplines -- you can apply logical learning techniques to any field.
If You're a Logical Learner…
Find ways to organize information into systems and patterns that make the material easier for you to approach and understand. Use to-do lists and ranking structures to prioritize your assignments. Then, work through the information systematically and analytically. Extract key details to put into your own outline or schema, and your brain will feast on the knowledge with ease.
One of seven perceptual learning styles, aural learning is the ability to effectively process information through listening. Aural learners, also called auditory learners, have no problem absorbing content from lectures, presentations, and tutorials. They can even associate sounds and music with specific information.
If You're an Aural Learner…
Improve your recall by associating the information you receive with mnemonic devices such as rhymes, acronyms, or songs. Since listening is a central component of aural learning, try reading your notes out loud as you study or finding audio versions of your course books and materials. You can even record yourself reading and then listen while you're at the gym, running around town, or doing chores at home, making it easy to keep learning without cracking open a book.
Visual learners do best when they see information or watch a demonstration. Diagrams, graphs, imagery, movements, and other visual aids and stimuli help this style of learner by creating a mental image with which they can associate information.
If You're a Visual Learner…
Write your notes down on paper, highlight key information, and color-code to differentiate various types of data. Other visual learning strategies include recognizing spatial relationships and organizing principles, using mental images and creating mind maps. Mind maps let you represent related ideas graphically on paper so you can visually organize thoughts and information.
Bullet journaling is another highly tactical organizational method that can help visual learners stay on track and weed out distractions. The technique lets you create custom calendars and task lists you can easily reference to measure progress and prioritize assignments. Building and following a structured process removes clutter from your mind and daily life so you can increase productivity and achieve your learning objectives.
Verbal learning takes advantage of word-based methods of learning, both spoken and written. Often, verbal learners are social learners, too, because talking through material can really help hammer it home.
If You're a Verbal Learner…
Take careful notes. Written notes help verbal learners digest information, and reading them aloud makes it even easier to process and assimilate what you've learned. Like aural learners, verbal learners can also use mnemonic devices to couple information with easy-to-remember phrases, acronyms or other word-based devices.
Physical learners like to roll up their sleeves and grapple with information hands-on. Even though this learning style is especially suited to tangible or creative fields like engineering, physical sciences, and the arts, strategies for physical learners can be applied to help you learn a variety of subjects.
If You're a Physical Learner…
Find a way to energize your study sessions. Tactile feedback and bodily activity are essential tools for physical learning. Incorporate physical objects like visual aids, flashcards, or other props to create active associations. Certain visual learning techniques like writing down notes or drawing diagrams count as physical action, too. Anything that involves your active participation will help new information take root better than more passive studying approaches.
Whether you're squarely in the camp of a single learning style or you show traits of two or more patterns, there are plenty of strategies you can employ to play to your particular strengths and drive effective learning. First, identify the style or styles that best suit you. Then, use our tips to see more success at school, work, or anywhere else your ability to learn and your ability to achieve go hand-in-hand.
Depending on your unique learning style, you may even find that certain occupations, industries, or degree programs are particularly well-suited to the way you learn best. Environments that require the hands-on application and testing of information may be ideal for physical or visual learners, while proof-based problem solving might be better for logical learners. Social learners will likely want an atmosphere that makes collaboration and communication easy, while solitary learners might prefer a more structured approach that clearly defines who is responsible for what.
The diverse learning needs and preferences of Ashford University’s students demand that our programs offer a flexible approach to education. Students engage with course materials and classmates by using advanced technological tools and applications that make information delivery, communication, and organization easier. Many of our online programs even include hands-on learning. Once you’ve identified the learning styles that work best for you, explore our online degree programs to find out exactly how we can help you achieve your dreams.
Written by Ashford University staff.