Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences

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.

Another way to get an idea of which learning style suits your child is to run through a VAK or VARK questionnaire with them.


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.

Multiple Intelligences

American psychologist Howard Gardner developed ‘Multiple Intelligences Theory’, recognising 8 ‘intelligences’ with implications for learning.

The types of learners/intelligences are:

  1. Linguistic - excel at language; prefer to write notes or use words to learn
  2. Logical–mathematical - love to solve problems and puzzles and are good at calculations. Clear thinkers, with strong analytical skills and a particular talent for noticing patterns and trends
  3. Musical - a gift for recognising musical patterns; good at listening and identifying different rhythms and tones. Rhymes and songs help learning, as does background music while studying
  4. Bodily-Kinaesthetic - use the body and movement; respond to touch and have excellent co-ordination skills. Able to use whole body (e.g. dancer), or parts of the body (e.g. hands), to solve problems or create. Jigsaws, physical games, practical experiments and activities help learning
  5. Visual-Spatial - focus on images, graphics and layouts; ability to conceptualise and manipulate large-scale spatial arrays (e.g. air pilot, town planner), or smaller spaces (e.g. architect, chess player). Diagrams, kits and plans help learning
  6. Interpersonal (social intelligence) - talent for interacting effectively with others; reading body language; respond well to people and have the ability to pick up on moods and feelings. Talking, teams, group work and emotional engagement with others help their learning
  7. Intrapersonal (self-intelligence) - sensitivity to own feelings, goals and anxieties; capacity to plan and act according to their own qualities. Understand themselves; able to analyse and make appropriate changes. Like working quietly by themselves; thinking and making own decisions; self-led learning and planning
  8. Naturalistic (nature intelligence) - love being outside; make distinctions in the world of nature – for example, between one plant and another, animals or cloud formations. Learning through using environmental issues, nature and Forest Schools, all help

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.

  1. VARK is an acronym of the 4 main recognised learning styles. What are they?
    Studies have shown that preferred learning styles are real. Information learned via a child's natural favourite is understood and remembered much more than if it is taught in another way
  2. There are questionnaires available which aim to find out which type of learner a child is. How else might you find this out?
    Fidgeting children are more likely to be kinaesthetic learners, those who like to have things explained to them are probably auditory learners etc. Try all of the different techniques with your child and see which ones are more successful. Of course, the questionnaires are also very good pointers!
  3. Visual learners often struggle to learn how to spell words. Which of the following is a good strategy to use when helping a visual learner to learn spellings?
    The above methods are taken from which is one of many sites offering practical advice on ways to teach visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learners
  4. Does background music when studying help auditory learners to take in information?
    The term 'auditory learner' covers a good many different people. Musical learners is a more specific term and it describes people for whom background music while studying is of benefit
  5. Hands-on activities help kinaesthetic learners to take in information. Which of the following would be a good method to use with a kinaesthetic child?
    A lecture would probably suit an auditory learner and a video a visual learner. There are many ways to help kinaesthetic learners though - field trips, experiments, trial and error and exhibits are but a few
  6. The Multiple Intelligences theory is more specific than the VARK system. How many types of 'intelligence' does it propose?
    They are: linguistic, logical, musical, kinaesthetic, visual, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalistic. As you can see, things are more complicated than they at first appear!
  7. According to the Multiple Intelligences theory, people with different types of intelligence are better at different tasks. Which of the following would be best at reading a map?
    Those with visual intelligence also have a natural spatial awareness and are good at understanding diagrams, plans and maps
  8. Children with naturalistic intelligence learn best when outside in nature. Which of the following would be a good career for a naturalistic learner?
    Naturalistic learners tend to have a love of the Earth and so care for the environment. They like to be outdoors and are usually animal lovers so jobs in animal care or conservation are ideal
  9. Most children have one dominant learning style which they prefer. Once you've discovered what it is, how should you use this information?
    Although this method will probably generate the best results it is important that other styles are not neglected. Different teachers use different methods and if your child can only learn from one style then they will be held back
  10. Which one of the following statements is true?
    It is true that most of us have one particular dominant learning style but not to the exclusion of all others. Each of us has at least a little of them all - otherwise mathematicians would be terrible at English and sportsman would struggle to read. That's why it is important to develop the areas in which we have less natural ability


Author: Linda Innes

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