As humans we are naturally curious, so much so that we have been described as “informavores” who crave information like carnivores desire meat. This is especially obvious in children, who will ask dozens of questions and physically examine everything that crosses their path.
Unfortunately, as we grow older, a combination of educational methodologies and a desire not to look vulnerable, cause us to dial back this curiosity. This second element can be characterized by negative self-talk, such as telling yourself something is “boring” or that you’ll never be able to grasp something.
The truth, however, may be that you are just approaching this new subject in a way that doesn’t suit your specific “learning style”. The theory of learning styles, known as VARK, was developed by Neil Fleming and puts forward distinct learning types for people. Here’s how to recognize yours:
- Do you have to see or visualize something to take it in? Are long lectures or big books likely to make you bored? Then you’re most likely a Visual learner, someone who learns by turning information into a graphical form, such as diagrams or spider charts.
- If you follow lectures easily and love to take part in discussions then you are probably an Auditory/Aural learner. You are the type of learner who prefers verbalizing ideas by reading out loud or listening to instructions.
- If you enjoy written instructions or investigating a written theory on your own then there’s a good chance you’re a Reading/Writing learner. To excel it’s best for you to take notes and look for textual descriptions.
- Do you look to get stuck into a task straight away? Do you find you remember something better when you have experience of it? Then you’re probably a Kinesthetic learner. To pick something up, you should get involved with it as soon as possible or imagine applying it in real life.
- Do more than one, or even all, of the previous types strike a chord with you? Then you could be a Multimodal learner. Try and assess situations before beginning and seeing which style will be the most effective.
Everyone learns in different ways, so don’t compare yourself to others. Be willing to experiment to find out what works for you and you’ll find that no subject is beyond your abilities.
Miller, G.A. 1983. The Study of Information: Interdisciplinary Messages. New York, NY: Wiley
Andersen, E.2016. Learning to learn. hbr.com
Fleming, N.D. & Mills, C.1992. Not Another Inventory, Rather a Catalyst for Reflection. To Improve the Academy, 11
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