Why Is Learning Style So Important?

by Ann Dolin, M.Ed.

Most people have a preferred way to learn. Some learn best by listening, some have to observe every step, while others have to do it to learn it. The fact is that individuals need all three modalities to truly commit information to memory: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. While most are typically stronger in one area than another, the trick is figuring out the preferred modality and capitalizing on strengths. Take a few minutes to complete this informal inventory. The answers may surprise you.

Learning Styles Self-Assessment

  1. In order to memorize information, such as the spelling of a difficult word or locker combination, you:
    1. Practice over and over again.
    2. Recite the word or numbers out loud.
    3. Visualize the word or numbers in your head.
  2. When you want to learn new song lyrics, you:
    1. Dance around and play air guitar to the beat.
    2. Sing along to the radio.
    3. Download the lyrics and read them.
  3. While you study, you like to:
    1. Walk around and review your notes.
    2. Discuss the material with your parents or friends.
    3. Read your notes or textbook independently.
  4. When preparing to go somewhere new, you prefer to:
    1. Walk, drive, or bike the route ahead of time.
    2. Listen to someone tell you how to get there.
    3. Look at a map.
  5. When you get a new gadget that needs to be assembled, you:
    1. Just start putting it together.
    2. Ask someone to read you the directions.
    3. Read all of the steps before you begin.
  6. If you have to work on a project with others, you would rather:
    1. Help to build and construct a model.
    2. Participate in group discussions and brainstorm ideas.
    3. Draw graphs or scribe group notes.
  7. You tend to like classes that include:
    1. Hands-on experiments.
    2. Lots of lectures.
    3. Reading assignments.
  8. When studying a play in English class, you prefer to:
    1. Act it out.
    2. Listen to the play read by others.
    3. Read the play silently to yourself.
  9. When you are able to choose a project and present it to your class, you’d rather:
    1. Create a working replica.
    2. Give a presentation.
    3. Create a poster.
  10. When you are distracted, you most often find yourself:
    1. Fidgeting or playing with your pencil.
    2. Listening to or participating in conversations.
    3. Doodling on your notebook paper.
  11. When you work at solving a challenging problem, do you:
    1. Make a model of the problem or walk through all of the steps in your mind?
    2. Call a few friends or talk to an expert for advice?
    3. Create a list of the steps you need to take and check them off as they’re done?

Once you have finished, add up the number of a’s, b’s, and c’s. Tally your answers and “Voilà!” you have a snapshot of how you learn best! If you answered mostly “a”, you are primarily a kinesthetic learner. If you answered mostly “b”, you are an auditory learner, and if you answered mostly “c”, you are largely a visual learner. Now that you know the way you learn best, it’s time to put that information to good use!

Practical Strategies for Each Learning Style

Strategies for the Kinesthetic Learner (learns best by doing — “hands on”)

  • Pace or walk around while referencing your notes and reciting to yourself.
  • If you need to fidget, try doing so in a way which will not disturb others. Use the Tangle Jr., Wikki Sticks, or a stress ball.
  • You might not study best while at a desk. Try lying on your stomach or back on a comfortable lounge chair.
  • Studying with music in the background might suit you (instrumental music is best – as opposed to heavily rhythm-based music).
  • While studying, take frequent breaks. A reasonable schedule would be 20-30 minutes of study, and 5 minutes of break time.

Strategies for the Auditory Learner (learns best by hearing)

  • Study with a friend, parent, or group so you can discuss and hear the information.
  • Recite out loud the information you want to remember several times.
  • Make your own tapes of important points you want to remember and listen to it repeatedly. This is especially useful for learning material for tests.
  • When doing math calculations, use grid paper to help you set your sums out correctly and in their correct columns.
  • Use different colors and pictures in your notes, exercise books, etc. This will help you remember them.

Strategies for the Visual Learner (learns best by seeing)

  • Try to work in a quiet place. Some visual learners like soft music in the background.
  • Most visual learners learn best alone.
  • When studying, take many notes and write down lots of details.
  • When trying to learn material by writing out notes, cover your notes then re-write. Rewriting will help you remember better.
  • Use color to highlight main ideas.
  • Before reading a chapter or a book, preview it first by scanning the pictures, headings, terms in bold and so on.
  • When creating flashcards, always add a picture cue to aide memory.

It’s important to remember that everyone learns differently. Sometimes, parents make the mistake of thinking that their child learns as they do, but this is often not the case. Many adults learn well by auditory means, but children frequently need visual and kinesthetic methods. Don’t be afraid to try novel approaches when assisting your child!


Ann K. Dolin, M.Ed., is the founder and president of Educational Connections, Inc., a tutoring, test prep, and consulting company in Fairfax, VA and Bethesda, MD. In her award-winning book, Homework Made Simple: Tips, Tools and Solutions for Stress-Free Homework, Dolin offers proven solutions to help the six key types of students who struggle with homework. Numerous examples and easy-to-implement, fun tips will help make homework less of a chore for the whole family. Learn more at anndolin.ectutoring.com or ectutoring.com.

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