Even though I’m retired from teaching, I still get excited about the back-to-school season. Whether or not we are headed to a traditional classroom this fall, we should all think of ourselves as lifelong learners. Discovering our individual learning style can help us elegantly continue our education throughout our lives.
In one of my earliest teacher education classes, I was fascinated to find out we don’t all learn the same way, and that’s okay! Learning style refers to the way a person processes information. Some of us find it easier to learn something new by hearing about it, others need to see it, and some need to physically interact with it. Understanding our unique learning style can help us enjoy learning and be more successful.
It should be noted that education, like most fields, is prone to an abundance of research that is sometimes contradictory and confusing. While there are many different theories about learning styles, most research confirms we all have preferred ways of learning based on our individual interests and talents.
Albert Einstein said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” Let’s take a look at the most common learning styles.
- Verbal (linguistic) – You learn best by using words in both speech and writing. You want to read and write about it.
- Visual (spatial) – You prefer to use pictures, diagrams, images, and spatial understanding to help you learn. You want to see it.
- Musical/Auditory (aural) – You like using music, rhymes, and rhythms to help you learn. You benefit from listening to new information repeatedly. You want to hear about it.
- Physical (kinesthetic) – You like to use your hands, body, and sense of touch to help you learn. You might like to act things out and enjoy a hands-on experience. You want to touch it.
- Logical (mathematical) – Learning is easier for you if you use logic, reasoning, systems, patterns, and sequences. You want to prove it.
- Social (interpersonal) – You like to learn new things as part of a group. Talking things out with a group helps you learn. You want to work with others.
- Solitary (intrapersonal) – You like to work alone. You use self-study and prefer your own company when learning. You want to do it by yourself.
Do you see yourself, or your children, leaning towards one of these learning styles? Many people find a combination of approaches works for them, and some research indicates that being presented new information in a variety of ways increases longterm retention. Knowing our learning style can steer us toward our best learning environment.
Let’s say you want to learn a new hobby, such as knitting. You might want to read a book on the subject, watch YouTube videos, go to a group class, take a private lesson, or just dive-in and learn by doing. By honoring your own learning style, you will likely be wrapped in a cozy handmade scarf just in time for winter.
Even when our school days are behind us, we can still join in the back-to-school fun. Armed with a little self-knowledge and a couple of freshly sharpened pencils, we’ll be on our way to learning with style.§
“Once you stop learning, you start dying.”
~ Albert Einstein