Learning Styles

What are learning styles?

Some students learn best visually when a professor presents key points either on the board, on an overhead or with a handout. Others find they have a much easier time hearing someone talk about a subject than reading the same ideas on paper. These two examples present the two key learning styles: visual and auditory. But learning styles are not limited to the senses of hearing and sight; there are as many different ways of learning as there are learners.

While learning styles are varied, there are some specific categories that people fall into, and there are some specific hints for each category on how to learn more effectively.

Visual, aural, read/write and kinesthetic (VARK)

VARK, first suggested by Fleming and Mills (1992), is an acronym that stands for Visual, Aural, Read/Write* and Kinesthetic learning preferences. These learning preferences are the preferred way learners naturally choose to take in information, and one learning preference can also be used to study and recall information. Although there is some overlap between them, they are defined as follows:

Other strategies

Improve your concentration

  1. Set aside a place only for study.
    • Room to spread out; good light; out of traffic
    • Music? Instrumental and mood are OK; vocal music and talk are not.
  2. Daydreaming?
    1. Stand up; face away - look at anything but books to break the association.
  3. Strengthen your ability to concentrate by selecting a social symbol related to your study.
    • What you wear affects how you feel and think.
    • Wear one particular item of clothing when studying, so others will know when you're looking; take it off when you're not learning.
  4. Set aside habitual time to begin studying; this will make it easier to start without daydreaming or talking with someone.
  5. Don't start unfinished business just before time to start studying.
  6. Set small, short-range sub-goals.
    • The closer people get to their goal, the faster they move (, the faster you read, the better your concentration.)
    • Divide assignments into sub-sections and set a time limit for finishing each; for instance, plan to complete ten problems in 30 minutes.
  7. Keep a record of goal setting. Write down what you plan to do and note what you've accomplished.
  8. Keep a reminder pad by you as you study.
    • Jot down what comes to mind.
    • You'll have peace of mind that you won't forget it.
  9. Relax completely before studying. Sit quietly for a moment or two to collect your thoughts before starting.

Study tools

Improve your memory in 7 easy steps

Question: Which of these statements is correct?

  • You can improve your memory by exercising it--that is, by memorizing poetry, important dates and so on.
  • You can't do anything about your memory: like height, it's inherited.

Answer: Neither, according to the latest psychological research.

Volunteers who memorize masses of material get poorer as their minds become cluttered. Memory isn't a muscle; exercise doesn't make it stronger. Yet you can improve your memory. Here are seven proven ways:

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External memory

External memory.This refers to all physical devices that help you remember, lists, memos, diaries and alarm clocks. Many of us are either too lazy or too proud to make the best use of such help; we forget to perform a chore because we feel we don't need to jot it down.

One handy form of external memory is the deliberately misplaced object. When my wife needs to remember some chore first thing in the morning, she stands a pitcher or jar of jam at the foot of the stairs where she can't miss it on her way down to breakfast. "What's that doing there?" she'll say. "Oh, yes!"


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Chunking.This means grouping several information items into one piece that's as easy to remember as a single item. We recall an acronym like UNICEF as a single name, not six letters. And, to clue us into the Great Lakes, many of us use HOMES; Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior. Psychologist Laird Cermak, the author of Improving Your Memory, urges you to make up your chunks. His example: For a picnic, you need milk, soda, beer, salami, bologna, liverwurst, napkins, paper cups and paper plates; if you don't have a pencil handy, that's a lot to remember. Yet you can make it easy. There are three drinks, three types of meat and three paper goods; use the first letter of each category -- d. m. p -- to make a word: damp (bad for picnics). Remember that, and you'll recall the categories and items in each.

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Mediation.This means attaching the items of a list to some easily remembered "mediating" device, such as the jingle most adults use to recall the lengths of the months. "30 days hath September. . . ."

Make up your mediators. To remember all the things to take care of when going away for a weekend, I listed them: water plants, throw out spoilable food in the refrigerator, turn on telephone answering machine, lower thermostat, lock windows, put out the garbage, lock doors. From the first letter of each item, I made up the sentence, "Peter Rabbit Takes Tums With Gourmet Dinners." Ridiculous, but easy to remember.

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Association.Visual images are one effective form of association. To remember names, think of a visible link between a person's name and some facial features. For instance; You have just met a Mr. Clausen, who has bushy eyebrows. Think of a "keyword" (a sound-alike) for his name -- claws, then visualize a lobster claw tearing at his eyebrows. When you try to recall his name, you see his eyebrows, then remember the claw pulling at them and -- aha! -- Clausen!

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Reliving the moment

Reliving the moment. Studies have shown that sensory impressions are associated in memory with what we're learning and later help remind us of what we learned. So if you're trying to recall a name or fact, picture the place in which you knew it, the people around you at the time, even the feeling of the seat you sat in, your chance of remembering it will be significantly increased.

If you're trying to remember where you lost something, mentally retrace your steps. "Ah!" you may suddenly say, seeing the scene in your mind's eye. "I put the parcel on the empty chair next to me in the restaurant when the waiter handed me the menu."

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Mnemonic pegboards

Mnemonic pegboards.Performers who remember scores of names called out by people in their audiences do not have unforgettable memories; they've previously memorized a set of words or images in which they mentally attach the names. Anyone can do it. First, memorize these 10 "peg words" (since they rhyme with the numbers one to 10, it's easy): one - bun; two - shoe, three - tree; four-door; five - hive; six - sticks; seven - heaven; eight - gate; nine - line; ten- hen.

Now make up a list of 10 other words and number them. Link each one to the pegword with the same number utilizing an image. Suppose your first word is bowl; picture a bun lying inside a bowl; if your second word is a desk, imagine a shoe parked on a desk. A minute should be enough for all 10. You'll be amazed at how effortlessly --, and for how long--you can recall the whole list.

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Weaving it into the web

Weaving it into the web. All the above methods help recall simple lists and names. But with more detailed information, you can't merely memorize; you have to connect it to the many related items you already know. That, according to psychologists, is the best way to retrieve it later.


You are now equipped with seven ways to increase your memory power -- if you can remember what they are.

Resources:2001 - 2011 Neil Fleming; Copyright Version 7.8 (2014) held by VARK Learn Limited, Christchurch, New Zealand; Adapted from: SYSTEMS FOR STUDY by Alton Raygor and David Wark, McGraw-Hill Book Company; Idaho State University; Adapted from Effective Study, by F. R. Robinson