How to Figure Out Your Learning Style

Have you ever had a concept or a lesson go completely over your head, but you grasped it easily when it was explained to you later in a different manner later? While many factors can play into this phenomenon (a lack of coffee included) one of the largest assets in your ability to understand new things is to have them presented to you in a way that compliments your learning style.

Learning style refers to your natural preference for having new ideas and information conveyed to you. It does not mean that you can’t learn in other ways, only that you have a particular manner that suits you best. Discovering your preferred method can help you to better succeed in the best online BSN programs or the top online psychology programs, which often require a lot of memorization. When things are not presented in your preferred method, it can become frustrating for both you and your instructor as you struggle to understand concepts which seem to be clearly within your grasp.

There are a numberof models that attempt to organize learning styles into distinct groups, but one of the most widely used is the Felder-Silverman Index. This index was created in the late 1980′s but has been revised to adapt to changing research and information on the subject in 2002. This model proposes that there are four dimensions to learning: perception, input, processing, and understanding. Within each of these dimensions exists a preference between two distinct elements, which are organized into this chart:


Sensory: Sensory learners gravitate towards concrete facts and figures. They tend to focus on the practical and observable aspects of things, and often do well using repetition as a learning tool. Intuitive: Intuitive learners prefer the conceptual and the theoretical to the concrete. They often are more interested in the meanings behind the facts than in the actual facts.


Visual: Visual learners prefer to see what they are learning through graphs, diagrams and pictures. They will often do better if an instructor can show them what they are talking about, rather than just verbalizing the instructions.

Verbal: Verbal learners are most successful when information is heard or read through words. Verbal learners will often ask for things to be explained to them, rather than shown illustrations.


Active: Active learners tend to do best when they can work hands on and actually conduct experiments or manipulate things manually. They work well in groups and will often experiment with trial and error.

Reflective: Reflective learners prefer to think things through before they act. They prefer to work alone or with few people to analyze data and evaluate options before making any decisions.


Sequential: Sequential learners prefer to have information laid out in a linear and orderly fashion. They can work with partial information and details to see the larger picture.

Global: Global learners prefer to see the big picture first. They then work systematically to fill in the small details.

How can you figure out where you fall within this spectrum? For some people, the answer is based upon these simple descriptions as to what style of learning they prefer. For others, it may be necessary to fill out a short test or survey to obtain a more accurate understanding about their preferences. Once you know your style, you can use it to work on increasing your learning effectiveness.

Don’t assume that because you excel at a certain type of learning that you don’t have the ability to utilize another style. Quite the opposite is true. Almost everyone is capable of learning in any of the styles presented here, whether you’re an engineering major or working toward your MBA, and it can actually be beneficial in some respects to try to strengthen your ability to learn in ways which unfamiliar or even uncomfortable. While your preferred method is ideal and can help maximize your educational potential, this style may not always be available.

There are a number of ways where you can gain balance in a variety of learning abilities so that you can take in, process, and use new information and be more productive overall. Say, for instance, you are a reflective learner. In order to expand your abilities, you could make an effort to work in groups more frequently and to make a habit of applying new information to problems in the most practical and immediate way possible. It can’t hurt to try out a new way of thinking now and then, and who knows, you might even like it.

While learning opportunities may vary from situation to situation, an acknowledgement of your learning style can be a great asset to your education. By making the most of the skills that help you learn, you can make the most of your potential. It is also important to break out of your comfort zone now and again, because an ability to adapt to new ways of learning will help you to become more flexible and successful.


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