Being an Empowered Learner: Know Your Learning Style

Your learning is only based partly on the effectiveness of your teacher. It is largely based on your own personal effectiveness as a learner. Good teachers should certainly help you on this journey, but the more you can help yourself, the more you stand to gain in each of the learning situations of your life.
On our recent DTV Livestream we explored how to teach yourself the skills of the empowered learner. Over the next few blog posts I am going to dig further into the topics we explored in the livestream and connect all of you with more resources for upping your abilities as a student.

Learning Styles

There are many different models for identifying and understanding the means by which students best acquire and comprehend new information. One that I’ve found effective is the VARK model which categorizes learning into four different styles:

Visual Learning

Absorption of information through witnessing. Some examples include: watching exemplars, seeing techniques demonstrated, having corrections shown, learning from video content.

Auditory Learning

Hearing or discussing information to learn it. Some examples include: descriptions of technique, lectures, group discussions, describing to others, lecturing to others.

Reading/Writing Learning

Processing new learning through writing it down or reading it. Some examples include: reading books or articles, taking written notes, referencing your own notes, class handouts, writing exercises.

Kinesthetic Learning

Processing new information through doing it or feeling it. Some examples include: performing technical exercises, exploration through physical games, discovery through repetition, being physically posed and adjusted.
I don’t present these styles as a hard and fast rule or categorization for learning. In fact many of the theories that people fit into these categories on some inherent levels are contested. However I have found these categorizations to be useful tools for expanding your own strategies and abilities as a teacher and student.

Identifying Your Learning Style

Knowing where your current learning aptitude lies can be useful both for maximizing your learning where you are comfortable and for challenging yourself to develop in the styles where you are weaker.
There are surveys all over the internet about learning styles, like this one, that can give some idea about what your current style might be but perhaps best is to just heighten your curiosity about this subject.
Begin paying attention to which instructors you most gravitate toward in your endeavours. Do they tend to be better auditory explainers, visual demonstrators, or exercise developers? Pay attention to how you participate in a class. Do you notice that you zone out during particular types of presentation, perhaps those that are overly auditory or visual? Do you tend to need to get your hands into the activity before it makes sense? Does describing the activity to others or engaging with questions and answers open up a topic more greatly to you than other approaches? By paying attention to these various factors you can start to get a sense of how you best learn, or at least where you have developed the best strategies.

What To Do With This Information

Over the next series of posts I’ll dig into different strategies that a student can use to learn effectively within each learning style. I recommend using what you have learned about your own learning style in two ways:

  1. Make sure that you are being as strategic and effective as possible inside your strengths. If you’re a visual learner, for example, are you maximizing your opportunities to learn in this medium? And, when you do, are you putting yourself in the best vantage point, taking video notes, and wearing your glasses?
  2. Practice learning strategies for the styles where you are weakest. If listening is your forte, perhaps make it a challenge to try to learn something primarily from its visual presentation, or simply by being positioned, or from within an exercise itself.

So between now and next week start doing some self-observation. Then feel free to share your own observations about your strengths and weaknesses in the comments. Next week we’ll start digging into auditory and visual learning strategies. See you then.

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