What's Your Learning Style?

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About learning styles
The visual/verbal learning style
The visual/nonverbal learning style
The tactile/kinesthetic learning style
The auditory/verbal learning style


Okay, what the heck is a learning style?

Does it mean that I have to wear baggy shorts and a famous surf- or skate- brand t-shirt when I'm learning?

Am I going to have to eat brown rice, burn sage and meditate while sitting on my book?

Tsk, tsk, tsk. As a student, your learning style is probably the most important thing you can realize about yourself. Simply put, a Learning Style is the way you learn. The approach. The method. The madness.

Have you ever studied your butt off for a test, stayed up all night, did everything the professor asked, drank lots of coffee or sugar to make sure you were awake and still bombed?

Maybe you aren't studying the right way...

You mean...?

Yes. Just like riding a bike or a surfboard or a skateboard or a skyboard or a shoe, there is a right way and a wrong way to study.

These next couple pages are designed to put you in touch with the Study You, the student within you, the person who knows she or he can learn if only given the chance. Read on...

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About Learning Styles

The sections below were lifted verbatim from the Online Learning Styles Web Site developed by Catherine Jester, Learning Disability Specialist, and adapted for the Web by Suzanne Miller, Instructor, Math and Multimedia, at Diablo Valley College. I discovered this wonderful site at TechEd '99, where I met Suzanne Miller. We both won awards for our web sites so you know she has to be good.

Here's what Suzanne has to say about the online learning styles guide:

This DVC online guide is designed to help you become a more successful student. It includes a Learning Style Survey that will help you identify your learning style. It also includes learning strategies that will help you study in a productive manner, one that matches your unique learning style.

Identification of your learning style and application of the strategies suggested in this guide will put you at the top of your class in any course! These are awesome tools. I wish I had known about them when I was a student (instead of giving up and getting drunk instead).

Please read these descriptions carefully. (Or, if you discover halfway through that you may be an auditory learner, then have your computer read them to you.) Consider your own successes and failures where learning is concerned. Think about the times you've enjoyed a course the most and the times when you've dreaded it the most. Try to be honest. Get a sense of which learning style (or combinations of learning styles) that you relate to the most. Then take the Learning Styles Survey at the bottom of the page.

Go for it!

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The Visual/ Verbal Learning Style

You learn best when information is presented visually and in a written language format. In a classroom setting, you benefit from instructors who use the blackboard (or overhead projector) to list the essential points of a lecture, or who provide you with an outline to follow along with during lecture. You benefit from information obtained from textbooks and class notes. You tend to like to study by yourself in a quiet room. You often see information "in your mind's eye" when you are trying to remember something.

Learning Strategies for the Visual/ Verbal Learner

To aid recall, make use of "color coding" when studying new information in your textbook or notes. Using highlighter pens, highlight different kinds of information in contrasting colors.

Write out sentences and phrases that summarize key information obtained from your textbook and lecture.

Make flashcards of vocabulary words and concepts that need to be memorized. Use highlighter pens to emphasize key points on the cards. Limit the amount of information per card so your mind can take a mental "picture" of the information.

When learning information presented in diagrams or illustrations, write out explanations for the information.

When learning mathematical or technical information, write out in sentences and key phrases your understanding of the material. When a problem involves a sequence of steps, write out in detail how to do each step.

Make use of computer word processing. Copy key information from your notes and textbook into a computer. Use the print-outs for visual review.

Before an exam, make yourself visual reminders of information that must be memorized. Make "stick it" notes containing key words and concepts and place them in highly visible places --on your mirror, notebook, car dashboard, etc.

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The Visual/ Nonverbal Learning Style

You learn best when information is presented visually and in a picture or design format. In a classroom setting, you benefit from instructors who use visual aids such as film, video, maps and charts. You benefit from information obtained from the pictures and diagrams in textbooks. You tend to like to work in a quiet room and may not like to work in study groups. When trying to remember something, you can often visualize a picture of it in your mind. You may have an artistic side that enjoys activities having to do with visual art and design.

Learning Strategies for the Visual/ Nonverbal Learner

Make flashcards of key information that needs to be memorized. Draw symbols and pictures on the cards to facilitate recall. Use highlighter pens to highlight key words and pictures on the flashcards. Limit the amount of information per card, so your mind can take a mental "picture' of the information.

Mark up the margins of your textbook with key words, symbols, and diagrams that help you remember the text. Use highlighter pens of contrasting colors to "color code" the information.

When learning mathematical or technical information, make charts to organize the information. When a mathematical problem involves a sequence of steps, draw a series of boxes, each containing the appropriate bit of information in sequence.

Use large square graph paper to assist in creating charts and diagrams that illustrate key concepts.

Use the computer to assist in organizing material that needs to be memorized. Using word processing, create tables and charts with graphics that help you to understand and retain course material. Use spreadsheet and database software to further organize material that needs to be learned.

As much as possible, translate words and ideas into symbols, pictures, and diagrams.

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The Tactile/ Kinesthetic Learning Style

You learn best when physically engaged in a "hands on" activity. In the classroom, you benefit from a lab setting where you can manipulate materials to learn new information. You learn best when you can be physically active in the learning environment. You benefit from instructors who encourage in-class demonstrations, "hands on" student learning experiences, and field work outside the classroom.

Strategies for the Tactile/ Kinesthetic Learner

To help you stay focused on class lecture, sit near the front of the room and take notes throughout the class period. Don't worry about correct spelling or writing in complete sentences. Jot down key words and draw pictures or make charts to help you remember the information you are hearing.

When studying, walk back and forth with textbook, notes, or flashcards in hand and read the information out loud.

Think of ways to make your learning tangible, i.e. something you can put your hands on. For example, make a model that illustrates a key concept. Spend extra time in a lab setting to learn an important procedure. Spend time in the field (e.g. a museum, historical site, or job site) to gain first-hand experience of your subject matter.

To learn a sequence of steps, make 3'x 5' flashcards for each step. Arrange the cards on a table top to represent the correct sequence. Put words, symbols, or pictures on your flashcards -- anything that helps you remember the information. Use highlighter pens in contrasting colors to emphasize important points. Limit the amount of information per card to aid recall. Practice putting the cards in order until the sequence becomes automatic.

When reviewing new information, copy key points onto a chalkboard, easel board, or other large writing surface.

Make use of the computer to reinforce learning through the sense of touch. Using word processing software, copy essential information from your notes and textbook. Use graphics, tables, and spreadsheets to further organize material that must be learned.

Listen to audio tapes on a Walkman tape player while exercising. Make your own tapes containing important course information.

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The Auditory/ Verbal Learning Style

You learn best when information is presented auditory in an oral language format. In a classroom setting, you benefit from listening to lecture and participating in group discussions. You also benefit from obtaining information from audio tape. When trying to remember something, you can often "hear" the way someone told you the information, or the way you previously repeated it out loud. You learn best when interacting with others in a listening/speaking exchange.

Strategies for the Auditory/ Verbal Learner

Join a study group to assist you in learning course material. Or, work with a "study buddy" on an ongoing basis to review key information and prepare for exams.

When studying by yourself, talk out loud to aid recall. Get yourself in a room where you won't be bothering anyone and read your notes and textbook out loud.

Tape record your lectures. Use the 'pause' button to avoid taping irrelevant information. Use a tape recorder equipped with a 3-digit counter. At the beginning of each lecture, set your counter to '000.' If a concept discussed during lecture seems particularly confusing, glance at the counter number and jot it down in your notes. Later, you can fast forward to that number to review the material that confused you during lecture. Making use of a counter and pause button while tape recording allows you to avoid the tedious task of having to listen to hours and hours of lecture tape.

Use audio tapes such as commercial books on tape to aid recall. Or, create your own audio tapes by reading notes and textbook information into a tape recorder. When preparing for an exam, review the tapes on your car tape player or on a "Walkman" player whenever you can.

When learning mathematical or technical information, "talk your way" through the new information. State the problem in your own words. Reason through solutions to problems by talking out loud to yourself or with a study partner. To learn a sequence of steps, write them out in sentence form and read them out loud.

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Thought Question?

Why do students sleep in class?