[Intern Insights] VARK…

When you read the title, you must have thought it’s a spelling mistake, or have you actually heard of this term?
VARK is an acronym that stands for Visual, Auditory, Read/write and Kinesthetic. Does it ring a bell?

When I first saw the term, I must admit that I hadn’t heard of it before, but then I did a bit of research and found that it would be useful for everybody to know.
The VARK model was developed by Fleming and Mills (1992) and proposes that there are four main types of learners: Visual, Auditory, Reading/writing and Kinesthetic learners.
The question is, what type of learner are you? And do you learn better when the teaching method matches your learning style?

To find out what type of learner you are, Fleming made a “self-report inventory” that explained multiple situations. You are asked to select the answer that fits your preferred approach to learning.

Let’s look at an example! Imagine that you are learning a new physical skill like riding a horse.
Would you learn this skill best by …

a) looking at charts and diagrams of how to ride a horse? (Visual Learner)
b) listening to an expert about how to ride a horse? (Auditory learner)
c) reading about how to ride a horse? (Reading/writing learner)
d) watching others riding a horse and then try it yourself? (Kinesthetic learner)

Visual learners (learn through seeing)
These learners prefer learning via diagrams, charts, graphs, flow charts, symbolic arrows and other devices that represent what could have been words. These individuals think in pictures and learn best from visual displays. They need to see the teacher’s facial expression and body languages to completely understand the content of the lesson.
However, where people go wrong is to think that visual learning includes pictures. As it DOES NOT include photographs of reality, movies, PowerPoint or videos. It does include designs or other different formats that are used to highlight and convey information.
Learning strategies for visual learners might include: ‘creating flashcards for key information (be concise) or to highlight information and to be creative with charts.

Auditory learners (learn through listening)
This type of learners learn best via discussions, verbal lessons and talking things through or listening to what others say. Regularly these individuals prefer to speak first when sorting things out, rather than sorting through their ideas and then speaking. They would probably repeat something that has already been said. However, they have to say it again to themselves, in their own words, in order to learn it. They understand the underlying meanings of speech via listening carefully to the tone of voice and speed in which it is delivered.
Some learning strategies for auditory learners are: Reading notes and text out loud, also to record notes, key information, lessons and listening to these recordings frequently.

Reading/writing learners (learn through reading/writing)
Reading learners learn best when information is displayed in words. It does not come as a complete surprise that a lot of teachers and students prefer this learning method. Since this learning method emphasises text-based input and output, like reading and writing in forms such as reports, essays and assignments.
Individuals who prefer this method use PowerPoint, Google, and the rest of Internet a lot! –. Well, I can relate to that, although, it is not my preferred learning method. –
Some examples of learning strategies for this learner are: Rewriting notes or to write lists and rewriting ideas and principles into their own words.

Kinesthetic learners (learn through touching, moving and doing)
Lastly, we have the Kinesthetic learners, who learn best via the hands-on approach. These people can sometimes find difficulty in sitting still all day and are soon/easily distracted by their need for activity – wow, I think I just found the perfect description of me!
The key of this learning method is that these individuals are connected to reality, like concrete personal experience or practice. Also, if it can be tasted, felt, grasped or held, it will most likely be included. People with this preferred learning style, learn from their own experiences and value their own background and less the experiences of others.
Learning strategies of this method could be: Record notes and listen to them while exercising, take frequent study breaks and sit in front of the classroom (to not be distracted).

Now, after writing this, of course, I had to do a test of what type of learner I am, and the results were kind of divided. I am multimodal. By the way, the link to the test I took you can find here.

Being multimodal means that I don’t have one preferred learning style. I scored the highest in Kinesthetic learning – shocker. Within this learning style, there are two types.

Type One is context specific. You choose a specific model that suits a situation or occasion. In this case, you may have two, or more almost-equal preferences in the VARK scores.

Type Two are the real strivers, they are only satisfied until they have had input or output in all of their preferred modes. Usually, they take longer to gather information from each model, however, this results in them having a deeper understanding.
Some people see them as procrastinators, however, their late decision making and learning may be better in the long run due to the breadth of understanding.

To conclude, everybody learns differently and it is important to know that there is no right or wrong learning style. Every style has their own advantages and disadvantage.
Knowing your learning style is not mean to limit you – On the contrary! It’s to help you expand, as it will eventually help you to live, work and learn more efficiently.

This post is brought to you by one of AQ’s Undergraduates, Paula van Staalduinen. As part of our internship programs, undergraduates and classic interns are encouraged to take part in company culture. Paula’s primary project focuses on training programs and eLearning and how best to adapt this to industries under pressure.