Learning Styles: Visual, Auditory or Kinesthetic?

Learning Styles: Visual, Auditory or Kinesthetic?

Learning styles: How can you tell what your preferred learning styles is for taking in new information? Is it visual, auditory, kinesthetic or an even combination of two or three styles?   Find out what learning styles mean, and how to readily assess your style.

Learning Styles: VAK Model and Definition of Learning Styles

It has long been recognised that everyone learns slightly differently.

But in the 1920s, psychologists developed a model to classify primary differences in learning styles. These learning styles are predominantly described as VAK: visual, auditory or kinesthetic (tactile).

Examples of learning style descriptions:

  • visual learning style (a capacity to process visual information more effectively than other methods OR OR a preference for visual learning in conjunction with other learning styles)
  • auditory learning (a capacity to process auditory information more effectively than other methods OR a preference for auditory learning in conjunction with other learning styles)
  • kinesthetic or tactile learning (a capacity to rapidly process tactile/kinesthetic information — e.g. hands-on practical activities – OR a preference for kinesthetic learning in conjunction with other learning styles)

The VAK Learning Styles Model is one of many ways to classify common learning styles; there are many others, some of which have 7 or 8 learning style classifications.

Here are some brief descriptions of learning styles:

Visual learning style

  • absorbs information best when presented in graphs, photos, infographs, diagrams or video media (images/visual sensory information)
  • will tend to prefer art to music although can be mixed

Auditory learning style

  • often listens intently to what’s being said and focuses on words
  • may become slightly obsessed with how words are used and/or sensitive to vocal inflections
  • can be more readily distracted by background noise / competing noises
  • will tend to be passionate or sensitive to sounds, strong likes or dislikes for particular sounds or styles of music (not indifferent to music)
  • may repeat what is heard

Kinesthetic learning style

  • physically experiential – a ‘hands-on’ doer or participant
  • prefers activities to theory discussions or visual images/presentation
  • needs to be able to use physical senses to ‘feel’ an activity, task, object or assignment
  • heightened physical awareness; may show some signs of boredom in quieter environments (sometimes hyper-active)

How can you tell what your learning style is?

  • Two key ways to identify your learning style preference between visual, auditory and kinesthetic approaches are to pay attention to how you (or your students/learners) use words or to take an online learning style quiz.
  • Words: Are you/learners using visual language, auditory language or words that relate to physical sensations?
  • Examples include: I see (visual), or Let me take a look at that (visual).  I hear you (auditory) or How does that sound? (auditory). Or Let me try that (kinesthetic) or I feel that… (kinesthetic).

Learning Style Quiz (Free online quiz)

Are learning styles accurate?

  • Like any model, oversimplification is a problem, and most learners move between the three learning styles.
  • It can help to customise training to the learners style, and to offer a variety of learning experiences for larger groups.
  • Blended learning theory is also an excellent training format in terms of improving retention rates; and most people like some diversity of experiences when learning.

But how much science is behind VAK learning styles models?  While they make sense, some say the science behind VAK is missing!

Suggested journal article in Scientific American:

The problem with Learning Styles