On Learning Styles And The VARK Model
Have you ever wondered whether an eLearning course you create really impacts or influences your learners? Are you sure that every learning piece you create will be liked by all your learners? Hypothetical questions, right? Though you might not know if the learning experiences you create will help/impact/influence/transform every individual learner, one thing for sure is that you can take proactive steps to ensure that they address everyone’s interests. So, what does that mean?
Every individual differs from the other, either in terms of the choices they make or the character they express. Similarly, every learner contradicts the other, either by the ideologies they follow or by the strategies they devise for themselves. To address every individual’s interests (perhaps, to an extent), we need to understand the common different styles of learning that can influence/impact them.
The Learning Styles
In general, a learning style is the method or mode of learning adopted by each learner, which proves to be effective in knowledge retention and presents a lesser cognitive load while learning. Though this may be seen as a subtle concept in the learning domain, it is the key driving element while designing a learner-centric course. A learner following a specific learning style may or may not have the same knowledge retention and experience cognitive stress as their counterparts.
There are different ways of categorizing learning styles, but Neil Fleming’s VARK model, introduced in 1987, is one of the most popular among them. It was designed purely to help students and others learn more about their individual learning preferences–visual, aural, reading-writing, and kinaesthetic. But, as people who design and develop learning experiences, it is equally important for us to understand this as we (need to) care for all our learners. According to the VARK model, learners are identified based on their preference for:
- Visual learning (pictures, movies, diagrams)
- Auditory learning (music, discussion, lectures)
- Reading and writing (making lists, reading textbooks, taking notes)
- Kinaesthetic learning (movement, experiments, hands-on activities)
1. Visual Learning: Learning By Seeing Information
Graphical elements play a major role in educating this type of learner as they prefer to see information presented in a visual form rather than in a written form. They pay attention to the graphic displays such as images, charts, diagrams, illustrations, handouts, and videos.
2. Aural Learners: Learning Through Hearing Information
This type of learner tends to get a great deal out of lectures and is good at remembering things they are told. Their preferred modes of knowledge gaining will be through class lectures, podcasts, or audiobooks rather than going over the class notes.
3. Reading And Writing Learners: Learning By Reading And Writing
Reading and writing learners prefer to intake information that is being displayed as words and texts. They acquire knowledge by making lists, reading definitions, overheads, and handouts. They prefer textbooks and written materials over graphical representations or other types mentioned earlier.
4. Kinaesthetic Learners: Learning By Doing Things
Kinaesthetic learners acquire knowledge through physical activities rather than lectures or handouts. They prefer hands-on experience over other ways and emphasize the fact that they are practical learners. Their knowledge retention rates through practical or real-time experience are sometimes higher than the other types, as the key elements of learning—skill, knowledge, and attitude—are enhanced by this learning style. The major constraint here is how possible facilitating hands-on experiences is but that can be addressed by a scenario-based strategy in eLearning.
The VARK Model In eLearning
Intentionally or unintentionally, the VARK model is followed while developing online learning courses. The eLearning courses prove to be an effective way of knowledge acquisition for any of the mentioned learner types:
- Visual learners are catered to with the help of images, illustrations, graphs, charts, and so on.
- Auditory learners are pleased with embedded audio narration and lectures in the courses.
- Reading and writing learners’ expectations are met through the course’s on-screen text, downloadable resources, etc.
- Kinaesthetic learners are satisfied with hands-on, practical experience by adopting a scenario or a simulation strategy to replicate a real-life incident. The scenario strategy or the simulation strategy benefits the learner as such strategies can accommodate scenarios that can be practically impossible to recreate in real life.
Though the selection of learning styles is purely based on the learners and their preferences, a balanced consideration is to be given to all the learning styles while developing any eLearning course. If possible, try to learn your learners’ preferences before you develop a learning course.