It’s important for teachers to understand how their students learn, but it’s even more important for students to understand how they, themselves learn.Neil Fleming and David Baume
Understanding the different learning styles isn’t meant to put you in a box. Instead it’s there to help you understand what options you have if you get stuck.
The first part in becoming a better student, is understanding all the different ways that you can present information to yourself. Thus, if you don’t understand something, you can at least have some options to try.
A common misconception is that we all have one style of learning. This is not true.
While we may have a main learning style, we all have some mix of different types of learners within us.
Types of Learners
The main types are as follows:
This type is for persons who learn by seeing.
Visual learners can benefit from: flow charts, graphs and symbolic diagrams that use icons to represent things that could have been said with words.
Make your notes Fancy
Colour code your notes so that you can quickly process walls of information.
- Green for definitions
- Blue for examples
- Red for important notes
- Black for everything else
Make Outlines, Maps and Diagrams
This is huge for visual learners.
Not only should you pay close attention to the outlines and maps given to you.
But you should also try to spend as much time trying to create your own visuals of your learning material.
This way you will force yourself to think about the topic on your own terms. It’ll also help you to notice what you don’t understand more quickly.
Study with as little distractions as possible
Since you are really sensitive to visuals, you want to prevent yourself from losing focus.
Try to set up study time in really short periods where you are more focused on developing a mental image of what the material is trying to tell you.
Remember, lots of study sprints, no marathons for you!
- Try creating your own handouts
- Sit close to the front so that you can see everything
- Look for demonstrations on the topic
- Make lots of to-do lists
This type is for persons who learn by hearing.
Auditory learners get the best out of lectures and group discussion.
They also benefit heavily from informal text resources such as blog posts, texts and email. This is because these mediums sound conversational, even though they are written.
Try to teach the topic from top to bottom as though you were tutoring.
Of course, one way to do this would be to actually try teaching someone. However, teaching is just as effective when you are trying to teach yourself.
Remember to be thorough. As you try to teach the lesson you’ll notice that it’s harder to put certain parts into you own words. These are the parts you want to focus on.
Find a Study Group
A good study group is a golden resource.
You can bounce ideas off each other and have live conversations about the topic.
However, you and your group will have to decide on some clear goals of what you want to achieve in each section.
Also include some chill time with the group so that it is not all one sided.
Write Blog Posts
Similar to teaching, this will force you to think deeply about what you are trying to learn.
When you are writing, try as best as you can to avoid editing at the same time. Editing while writing will only break your rhythm and slow you down.
Try to be as conversational as possible while writing. This way you can still get the benefits of teaching.
Once again when you feel like it is difficult for you to explain a part of the topic. Here’s where you want to focus.
- Read Notes & Assignments Out Loud
- Study with lyric-less music
- Record lessons (with teachers’ consent)
- Try to find explainer videos
This type is for persons who respond best to information as text.
Reading /Writing learners benefit most from all kinds of text. They often flourish with manuals, reports, assignments and essays.
Rewrite Your Notes
Try to write a summary of your topic in a new book.
You really want to focus on the details.
Additionally, you really want to make sure that you are engaged when writing.
Sometimes you can find yourself mindlessly copying your notes but this is a huge waste of time.
Really think about what you are writing, and try to use your own words as much as you can.
Translate Visual Diagrams To Words
Don’t settle for the picture. In your case it’s much better for you to try to write out what you think the picture means.
Once you’ve finished, compare what you’ve written with the picture and see if you can find any new details.
Find Additional Text Books and Blog Posts
The best way for you to get the full picture is to get as many different takes as possible.
Other text books will have a different spin on the same topic. This will help you to get new details to better fill in the complete idea.
Blog posts will have summarized, easy-to-read versions of the topic content so that you can move quickly. Text books can sometimes be too long-winded and frankly quite boring – even for reading learners.
- Take Lots of Notes
- Read widely
- Turn on the subtitles with explainer videos
These learners operate best when they are moving their bodies.
Unfortunately, they are the most often misunderstood and get the short end of the educational experience. To make the most of this learning style, the student has to be physically engaged while learning.
Try Standing Up
This is an easy way for you try to feel more engaged while you study. Perhaps using a book stand might help as you stay up for longer periods of time.
While you stand, allow yourself to fidget and your feet to move as long as you keep on reading.
Mix in Some Exercise or Playtime
It can be useful to do some jumping jacks or even play full on sports while a family member quizzes you.
It isn’t necessary for you to do them at the same time though. Short periods of study and then play can do wonders.
Just remember that the goal is to use the physical activity to help you focus better on the material at hand.
Use Small Movements
Tiny fidgets are great because you can keep them with you even in a class room.
For instance you can try twisting a rubber band around your wrist or a pencil while you read. You can also try shaking your leg.
However, you’ll want to be careful since some of these things may cause distractions for other students.
- Try to relate topics to the real world
- Use pencils and highlighters while reading so that your hands are always moving
- Do some stretching as you feel yourself losing focus
What if None of These Fit?
That’s totally fine!
These are the most common ways that people learn but there are tonnes of other methods out there.
The important thing is to know that you have options when you are having trouble understanding one way.
All the Best!