Saturday, September 12, 2009

Learning styles

The next thing I have been asked to think about in the Learner Centered Learning course is learning styles. The relevance of knowing about learning styles is that the more you know about how your students learn, the more you are able to tailor learning activities and assessment to maximize their learning.

One way you can work out what your learning style is to work your way the VARK questionnaire which will tell you if you are a visual, read/write, aural or kinetic learner. When I first learned about VARK 10 years ago as a new educator my score showed that I was strongly a read/write learner. 10 year on, my score shows that I am equally a read/write and aural learner.

Does our learning style change over time?
So one of my questions is: does our learning style change as we get older? Is our learning style influenced by our life experience? Is our learning style influenced by our learning? The reason I ask the last questions is because I think my learning style has been influenced by what I have learned about the Internet over the years. In other words, 10 years ago I learned by going to journals and books. Now I go to YouTube, Twitter, Slideshare etc. What comes first...learning style or learning resource/delivery?

Learning styles and eLearning
I have become and lot more conscious of learning styles since I started designing and teaching online courses. It is very tempting to make an online course text-based. I am sure many of us have seen courses like that are made up of Word documents and PowerPoint presentations put into BlackBoard or other such learning management systems, and called an online course. That's all well and good for people who are read/write learners, but what about everyone else?

eLearning Australia has made the following suggestions of online activities to sit the different learning styles.

Trainer speaks narrates workbook with extra explanations where necessary.

Textbooks and completed workbooks available for students to read through audibly.

Forums available for students to discuss their ideas.

Diagrams throughout slideshows and workbooks.

Photographic representations of the topic in slideshows.

Workbooks include sections for notes, and encourage students to ‘fill in the blanks’ in the material.

Practical tasks and assignments for students to participate in.

Practical examples that students can replicate in their own workplaces (under supervision).

eLearning is set up that students can take breaks when it suits them, and use external objects like stress balls to stay motivated without dis

Is learning styles a load of old rubbish?
I have heard it said that learning styles is rubbish...that there is no such thing. Atherton (2008) argues that catering to individual learning styles is a luxury educators cannot afford, whilst Jarche (2007) believes that all you have to do is present content in multiple modes to maintain student interest and's as simple as that.

What do you think? How do you addresses issue of learning styles in your teaching? As a student, what style of content delivery do you prefer?

Atherton, J. (2008) Doceo; Learning styles don't matter. Retrieved var mydate=new Date() var year=mydate.getYear() if (year < day="mydate.getDay()" month="mydate.getMonth()" montharray="new" daym="mydate.getDate()">12 September, 2009, from

eLearning Australia. (2009). Catering for all Learning Styles in eLearning. Retrieved 11 September, 2009, from

Jarche, H. Designing Learning for Any Style. Retrieved 12 September, 2009, from

Willems, J. (2007). Does style matter? Considering the impact of learning styles in e-learning.
In ICT: Providing choices for learners and learning. Proceedings ascilite Singapore 2007.


Mike Bogle said...

Thanks very much for the link to the VARK questionnaire. Oddly my results were Read/Write: 12 (not surprising), Kinesthetic: 11 (extremely surprising), Aural: 6, Visual: 2.

The R/W result is not the least bit surprising to me. I think it's one of the things that makes me such an avid blogger. But the kinesthetic score I find very surprising.

I suspect in the case of the latter I have a somewhat incorrect perception on what actually constitutes a Kinesthetic learning styles.

Would a tendency to just dive into a new computer program to experiment through trial and error, and learn through experience count as kinesthetic? If so then I definitely qualify.

Sarah Stewart said...

I think that is a good point, Mike. My idea of kinesthetic is sitting around making paper models...something that I would view as a complete waste of time.

And this has problematic for me...trying to work out how to deliver content & assessment to kinesthetic learners in the online environment. But your description of how a kinesthetic learner may learn has rung bells with me...which makes me think I use this learning style more than I first thought. Thanks Mike.

Pam said...

I also score well in the kinesthetic area. but maybe Sarah, if you consider the learning I have developed since completeing your course on reflective practice which includes blogging and social media should give you some insight into the online world of the kinesthetic learner in the high tech world!

Sarah Stewart said...

You're right Pam...I have gone through the same learning journey myself...and I expect Mike has's just now as we talk about this that the penny is dropping...doh!!?