How do you learn best? Seeing? Hearing? Doing? Everyone's different, and what works for you might not work for your child. Understanding learning styles and finding out which best suits your child is the key to motivating them, helping them to learn more effectively, and so, getting them to achieve more.
We all have a preferred way of learning or ‘learning style’ Some people learn best by doing practical activities, some by listening, some by reading and others through pictures. These natural preferences will affect your child and their ability to learn easily.
How can you find out what type of learner your child is? Watch them. If they struggle to sit quietly and still, then they might learn better if they are talking, moving, or have something to fiddle with like a piece of plasticine. Or they might concentrate better through seeing or hearing information. Get them to try different ways of working and see what comes most naturally.
The ‘VARK’ model categorises 4 different learning styles - Visual, Auditory, Reading and Kinaesthetic.
Visual learners learn best by seeing things and memorising information in a visual way. The use of eye-catching layouts, mind maps, graphs, charts, colours, pictures, and highlighted keywords, helps them to learn and revise. A visual learner can use visualisation tactics to remember information – especially spellings.
Help them to draw diagrams, illustrations and posters. Flashcards and videos can also help visual learners. They often like things to be neat and well-ordered.
Auditory learners’ strength is in hearing and listening. An auditory learner might not process information well by reading or writing, but if the teacher sits them down and explains, they will understand it better.
A tip for parents with children in this category is to read information out loud and discuss things they need to learn. Audio files or a dictaphone could also be useful tools. Sometimes background music helps but for some children it can be too much of a distraction.
Reading and Writing learners excel when using these two methods. They enjoy reading, taking notes and writing essays. Parents and guardians can assist their children by helping them to make or organise notes and by suggesting that they translate visuals like diagrams into words and sentences. A tip that might help these learners to revise is to re-write notes. Suggest that they make cue cards with keywords, information or questions and answers.
Kinaesthetic learners are hands-on and prefer activity, movement and touch. They do not usually like to sit still, preferring to physically get involved and try things out, instead of reading or writing about them. Such learners are animated, active and favour subjects like arts and sports. Moving around while they are learning enables them to take in information and they solve problems using a ‘hands on’ approach. They also need frequent breaks. They work best when moving, lifting, touching or clicking. Learning on PCs and apps is useful, as interaction suits kinaesthetic learners.
You might find that you clash with your child’s learning style. If you are ‘visual’ and like everything neat then you may feel distracted and annoyed by a kinaesthetic ‘fiddler’ who likes disorganising things! Be prepared to put up with things like this as it is for their benefit after all!
Your child's preferred learning style is not the only one they should use though. Recognise their favourite but don't neglect the rest. It's important to develop their skills in all areas.
American psychologist Howard Gardner developed ‘Multiple Intelligences Theory’, recognising 8 ‘intelligences’ with implications for learning.
The types of learners/intelligences are:
Goleman’s Multiple Intelligence quiz helps to identify predominant intelligences.
Although you can use your child’s innate preferences and intelligence to ‘hook’ them in, do not stick only to your child’s favourite learning style. Children need to experience various ways of working to understand their strengths, develop others and to learn most effectively.
Intelligence isn’t fixed and developing flexibility is important. Your child lives in a multisensory world. They will be taught by teachers with different styles and preferences to themselves. Much of what they encounter at school is visual (whiteboards, reading and presentations for example). Sports often suit kinaesthetic children. If your child is not a ‘natural’ in certain areas it is more important that they develop all styles so that they will thrive.
Your child’s natural learning preference helps them to process information and you can use this to motivate them. Build on it as a foundation, but help your child to develop other ways of learning, to make them a great all-round, flexible learner.