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
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. 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
There are a number
of 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
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
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
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
Did you enjoy this article?
document.write("Bookmark it at del.icio.us »")