Everyone has a unique learning style. Some people learn best with visual diagrams, while others enjoy taking lots of notes and talking through ideas. It’s important to be aware of how you learn. Once you have an understanding how you learn, you can put strategies in place to study more effectively.
There are many different ways of learning. You might identify with ones of the learning styles listed below, or you might use a combination. Some of these draw upon the “Index of Learning Styles” developed by Richard Felder and Linda Silverman.
- Sensory vs. Intuitive. Sensory learners prefer concrete facts and bits of information, while intuitive learners look for the concept, the overarching theory, the “big picture”, or the meaning behind things.
- Active vs. Reflective. Active learners like to learn by doing, such as through an experiment, case study, or equation. They tend to prefer group work. Reflective learners like analysis, and thinking things through. They often prefer working alone.
- Sequential vs. Global. Sequential learners like to have information presented in an orderly way, while global learners look for the big picture first, before taking in the details.
- Social vs. Solitary. Social learners learn effectively in groups, while solitary learners do best when learning alone.
- Visual. Visual learners tend to prefer using pictures, diagrams, and images in their learning. They’re attracted to spatial concepts.
- Verbal or Linguistic. Verbal learners like words, and they learn by talking, listening to verbal discussion, and through writing and reading.
- Logical. Logical learners are good at learning through logic, reasoning, and systems.
How to Improve the Way You Learn
You can improve the way you learn by simply trying out other styles of learning. For example, if you find that you tend to be a solitary learner, join a study group to exercise new “learning muscles”.
- If you are a sensory learner, try looking for the theory and the underlying ideas before filling in the details.
- If you’re an intuitive learner, you might be rushing through problems without paying sufficient attention to the details. If you slow down, and memorise data, it might help you retain more of what you need to learn.
- If you’re a visual learner, a focus on verbal learning techniques might be the answer to more successful studying. Practice by taking notes, and speaking with others on the subject. This will help you make use of words in your learning.
- Verbal learners need to do the opposite to visual learners. If you’re a visual learner, practice absorbing information through diagrams, graphs, and other visual representations. If you’re a verbal learner, create a flow chart to develop your visual learning ability.
- If you are an active learner, try to slow down to better digest information. If you’re a reflective learner, practice applying what you learn in practical ways. Sequential learners can benefit from slowing down, stepping back, and trying to understand the overall picture.
- Global learners, like intuitive learners, often miss important details. If this is your learning style, it’s important to make sure you understand each vital detail and take every learning step before coming to a conclusion.
Being aware of how you learn, and working on developing a different learning style, just might be the key to a more effective and fulfilling study method.