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Understanding Learning Styles

Learning Style

The term ‘learning style’ is something you’ve probably heard, but need a better understanding of in order to help your child learn most effectively. It refers to group of characteristics which define the way people process information – which is why certain learning methods work better for some than for others.

Following the model of most education experts, there are 3 basic styles –visual, auditory and kinaesthetic. Adopting the appropriate learning style will result in better learning and development, focussing on strengths, not weaknesses.

Visual learners

This is thought to be the most common learning style, with approximately 65% of children falling into this category. Visual learners prefer to take in information by watching what’s going on around them.

To remember information, visual learners need to be able to see it. They can be very detailed orientated in their nature, and enjoy using maps, drawings, charts and diagrams to aid learning. Visual learners:

  • Remember visual details
  • Prefer to see what it is they’re learning
  • Like to have a pen and paper handy
  • Often doodle while listening
  • Like to write down instructions, or see them demonstrated
  • Prefer a quieter environment to avoid distraction
  • Find body language and visual expression important

Auditory learners

The name was probably a giveaway, but auditory learners learn best by listening.  If your child is an auditory learner, they might enjoy music, rhyme and rhythm in the learning process, and like to hear stories and have information read aloud.

Auditory learners can look as if they are not paying attention, but often, they are listening! On the other hand, they might easily be distracted by background noise. This applies to about 30% of children. Auditory learners:

  • Remember information by talking aloud
  • Need things to be explained orally
  • Might have trouble with written instructions
  • Talk to themselves while learning something new
  • Enjoy discussion groups over working alone
  • Find tone, pitch and nuance very important

Kinaesthetic learners

The kinaesthetic type learn best by moving, touching and doing. Rather than just listening to how something works, they want to take it apart and find out! They learn best by hands on activity and movement, but are often ‘misdiagnosed’ as ADHD or considered misbehaving, but they in fact need to fidget a little as they learn. Kinaesthetic learners:

  • Want to get involved in whatever is being discussed
  • Tend to move around while talking or listening
  • Action with their hands as they speak
  • Like to touch things in order to learn about them
  • Remember events by recalling what was done, rather than what was said
  • Can appear slow, since information is often not presented in a style that suits their own style of learning.

Which type of learner is my child?

So you’ve got to grips with the 3 learning types… but how do you identify which applies to your child?

Simply watching them as they work and play will give you a good insight into what type of learner they are. Ian Wallace, a Consultant Psychologist, suggests observing children through their everyday play and conversation styles. For example, a visual learner might like to explain events by using words such as “did you see what happened?” or “I saw that she was upset”.

An auditory learner might choose to describe circumstances using the tone of voice or words that were used. A kinaesthetic learner would bring into focus the feelings associated with events, such as “I could feel that she was upset”, and they might also like to roleplay

Why is it important to know?

Not only will identify your child’s learning style make them more successful learners, it also guides you as a parent to help your child take the next positive step on their learning journey.  It can make learning more effective and increase likeliness to achieve, encourage creativity, reduce stress and frustration while learning, and inspire greater curiosity and motivation for life-long learning.

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