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What Type of Learner Are You, and Does It Matter?

By Edited Apr 15, 2016 3 16

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.



Apr 23, 2011 1:03am
Great article, I've been interested in this area of research for a long time. I was surprised that some psychologists are questioning this model. Definitely something I will be looking into.
May 4, 2011 3:31pm
This a very good article. Great comparison.
May 5, 2011 6:38pm
Excellent article and yes, I think it matters. Thank you!
May 5, 2011 11:36pm
Nice Article !
May 6, 2011 12:45am
Thanks! I know how difficult learning new things can be, so I'm glad to read these comments. It sounds cliche, but if this article can help just one person, then it's all worth it.
May 7, 2011 12:17pm
I used to be a teacher and good teachers will use a variety of types of teaching to suit all the types of learners in the class.
May 19, 2011 12:47am
I agree, and I did as well. It's a bit more difficult, but certainly more rewarding!
May 7, 2011 12:21pm
I am definitely a visual learner. There is nothing like seeing something getting done, and having the opportunity to ask questions along the way.
May 19, 2011 12:47am
I find myself more drawn to visual learning as well. I can copy things pretty quickly, sometimes :)
May 7, 2011 2:06pm
Very nice article! I find visual learning works vest for me too. Kind of a show and tell.
May 19, 2011 12:49am
I loved show and tell, and I often learned a whole lot in those early sessions. I used "show and tell" in art classes when I had students critique other's work and show how they did certain things.
May 18, 2011 2:27pm
I'm surprised psychologists are questioning these categories. haven't studies been done to validate these?
May 19, 2011 12:49am
Studies always seem to be underway, but there are always dissenters. That's what keeps everything honest I guess :)
May 18, 2011 7:40pm
I have always been thinking about this for myself. I personally think I must be a mix. Thanks for a great article!
May 19, 2011 12:50am
I have a feeling that most people are a mix even while favoring one style over others.
May 21, 2011 9:19am
inetersting article thanks for the great thoughts
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