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What Are the 4 Types of Learning Styles

Written by: Wilson College   •  Dec 21, 2023
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What Are the 4 Types of Learning Styles

Teachers understand that each learner brings unique strengths and needs to the classroom. Some students can repeat every word of a lecture, while others only seem to retain information when they take detailed notes. And some students best absorb information through hands-on activities.

Investigating different learning styles can help educators design effective lesson plans that consider the needs of different learners. But what are the four types of learning styles? And are there more than four types? Experts in customized learning have shown how transformational technologies can help educators effectively instruct learners.

What Is Learning Style Theory? 

Every individual absorbs new information in different ways. Learning style theory investigates the most common styles of learning. For example, while some students learn well in a traditional lecture format, many may prefer more interactive learning methods. 

Educators can use learning style theory to design lesson plans and instructional delivery methods that appeal to different types of learners. 

Scholars have identified several theories of learning styles. For example, in 1984 psychologist David Kolb outlined a theory that identified four learning styles. The styles were based on abstract versus concrete thinking and active versus reflective observation.

The most widely known learning style theory is called VARK, which stands for visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic. This learning style theory helps teachers create course material that meets the needs of diverse learners. 

4 Learning Style Types: What Are They? 

The primary categories of learning styles include the aforementioned VARK types. While visual learners prefer to absorb information visually, auditory learners benefit from listening. Reading/writing learners gravitate toward text, while kinesthetic learners prefer hands-on learning.

Identifying individual learning styles, and taking the extra step to design lessons that serve multiple learning types, can improve the effectiveness of student learning.

1. Visual

Visual learners thrive in learning environments that emphasize visuals, including charts, infographics, diagrams, and pictures. Videos can also help these learners retain information.

For example, watching a video of a famous speech allows visual learners to absorb the information in a more effective manner than reading text alone. 

2. Auditory

Auditory learners benefit from listening to material. Live and recorded lectures appeal to these learners, who also typically do well in verbal discussion groups. Podcasts, verbal directions, and reading texts out loud can benefit auditory learners.

Learners who prefer auditory information often do well in a traditional classroom setting. However, these learners may struggle in virtual learning environments that rely more heavily on reading and writing.

3. Reading/Writing

Reading/writing learners prefer to absorb and process information through the written word. In class, they retain information best by taking notes. Outside of class, these learners prefer to read content in the form of textbooks, worksheets, or other written materials.

These learners also benefit from referencing written texts. For example, reading/writing learners tend to excel on standardized test sections that provide a passage and ask questions based on the text.

4. Kinesthetic

Kinesthetic learners, also known as tactile learners, prefer to learn through hands-on methods. Lessons that incorporate physical activity and engage several senses appeal to these learners. Kinesthetic learners also thrive in laboratory coursework due to its hands-on nature.

In virtual learning environments, kinesthetic learners benefit from interactive content and simulations that create an immersive experience. Cutting-edge instructional tools make it easier for educators to integrate hands-on materials in courses. 

How Can Teachers Use Learning Styles? 

Considering learning styles when designing lessons helps teachers engage with different types of learners. However, educators must keep in mind that individual students often fall into multiple categories––learners are rarely purely auditory or kinesthetic, for example.

By integrating multiple instructional methods, teachers can keep learners engaged. For example, videos that feature audio and closed captions appeal to visual, auditory, and reading/writing learners. Pairing presentations with verbal instructions and interactive components likewise meets the needs of multiple learning styles.

Teachers can also offer students options for delivery methods. Providing a choice between written texts or audio recordings allows students to gravitate to the form that best serves their needs. Integrating assessments into lesson plans can also help teachers measure engagement and adapt their delivery methods.

Because learners often bring multiple learning needs and strengths to the classroom, educators should avoid matching learners to one method. Instead, a multimodal approach can help students progress while developing flexibility.

Improve Instructional Design With a Master’s in Mass Customized Learning from Wilson College Online 

Teachers explore instruction models and design learning models that reach diverse learners. The Master’s in Mass Customized Learning program at Wilson College Online empowers educators to learn and leverage emerging technology to improve student learning outcomes. 

In this specialized program, the curriculum examines the effectiveness of instructional strategies. Coursework prepares graduates to adjust instructional approaches based on data and assess learning through multiple methods. The program’s flexible online delivery also allows master’s students to work in the classroom while earning their graduate degree. 

Learn more about advancing your teaching career with Wilson College Online.

Recommended Readings

A Look Inside the Modern Classroom

Mass Customized Learning: All You Need to Know

Why Earn a Personalized Learning Degree?

Sources:

Continu, “Engaging With the 4 Different Types of Learning Styles”

Education Endowment Foundation, “Learning Styles”

Sphero, “4 Types of Learning Styles: Explaining the VARK Model”

We Are Teachers, “What Are Learning Styles, and How Should Teachers Use Them?”

Verywell Mind, “Kolb’s Cycle of Learning”

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