We learn new things every day, whether we admit it or not. Some of us are lifelong learners, always hungry for more knowledge and experience, while others are content where they are and just ride the status quo. Either way, every day presents an opportunity, or forces us to learn new things.
What many of us may not know, however, is that the way in which we learn can vary widely from person to person, and can have an incredible impact on our own chances of learning new skills or lessons effectively. Knowing your preferred learning style can go a long way toward helping you reach whatever goal you have in mind. One caveat here, though, is not to use these to label yourself or others. The human mind and body is very complex, and while these serve as interesting guides, that is precicely what they are, guides.
The Visual Learner
The visual learner learns by seeing things. These are the people who can watch something, then copy it, and begin using it in their daily lives. Think of all of the how to videos out there, and how helpful they are to many people. I myself have learned a tremendous amount of stuff by watching those and implementing them. These play well to the visual learning style, as they show you what you need to do to perform a specific task. It's the "show me, don't tell me" style.
The Auditory Learner
This style plays into our sense of hearing and comprehending what is being said, or presented through sound, like music, language, noise patterns, and the like. People who prefer this learning style often do well by hearing information presented, such as in a lecture or podcast. They also may do better by talking about a topic rather than reading about it. Question and answer sessions can be useful to the auditory learner.
The Kinesthetic Learner
These people learn primarily by doing that which is being taught. They need to be "hands-on". Classes that cater to actually performing the task that is being taught work well for these types of learners. Think of woodshop or home economics classes. These classes have you actually doing the work, physically. Another example could be martial arts classes, where actually using the techniques being taught form the core of the learning experience, and commit the moves to muscle memory.
A Mix of All Styles
Thought there are some people who strongly favor one style over all else, many of us use a healthy mix of learning styles. We might learn how to operate certain software programs by first listening to someone explain why we need to use the software, then watch them use it, and finally use it ourselves. This way, we get the full experience of learning utilizing all of our senses. We are, after all, sponges who are constantly interacting with our ever-changing environment.
Does This Matter?
There is a growing body of educational psychologists who think that these classifications are not necessarily indicative of how we learn, and are too simplistic in nature to accurately describe the learning process. Humans have evolved to use all of our senses together to learn and to operate in the material world, therefore, it might be unwise to put too simplistic a classification on how we learn best. Using these styles as a guide for educational development might also backfire in that it may label children and classify them into different groups of learners, thereby limiting their education.
While there are always pros and cons to anything worth exploring in life, it's best to use your own judgement, and take away what is most useful from things that you read and learn. If something helps you evolve, then use it mindfully. If knowledge of learning styles helps you learn something new, use it. If you find that it's detrimental to yourself or others, leave it alone and don't take too much stock in it.