How Do You Learn?

In this world where we value just one way to learn (and that style generally favors women and girls), it can be hard to remember that there’s more than one way to learn a skill or concept. In my opinion, there is some value in combining learning styles even if you have one dominant style. I wanted to take some time near the top of the month to talk about different ways to learn and how we can combine those ways of learning to improve our personal outcomes and the outcomes of our society?

There are seven learning styles:

  • Visual
  • Aural
  • Verbal
  • Physical
  • Logical
  • Social
  • Solitary

Folks who are dominant visual learners learn by seeing something. These individuals tend to have what we would call a photographic memory – although not all visual learners have great memories. In a classroom setting these are people that benefit from having a lecture presented to them in something like a PowerPoint or when the professor is writing on the board.

Aural learners are folks who learn by hearing something. In a classroom setting aural and visual learners generally jive pretty well because the visual learners can see the lecture while aural learners will hear it.

Of all the learning styles, I think that verbal learning is the least intuitive as to what it means when you look at it (yeah, one of my dominant learning styles is visual, haha). Verbal learners and physical learners have a lot in common. Verbal learners learn through speaking and writing, so things like teaching a concept or taking notes (or writing a blog post) really help concepts sink in for them.

I like to think of physical learners as people who “learn by doing.”  You might also hear the phrase “tactile learners” to describe this set. These are folks who, when you’re looking at a career, can do really well in more technical, “blue collar”, jobs. As kids though, these are learners who learn well in simulations – I’m thinking of things like a Model UN or student council. I mentioned above that this type of learner has a lot in common with verbal learners, and that is because there are some things that are best learned by writing or speaking. You’re not going to become a good writer or speaker unless you write or speak.

Logical learners like to learn things in a sequence, which works really great in STEM fields as well as some business fields (accounting springs to mind as an example).  They are learners who will generally respond well to statements that contain statistics in them. So rather than saying “Writing down your S.M.A.R.T Goals will measurably increase your success” you could say “Writing down your S.M.A.R.T. Goals makes you 76% more likely to achieve your goal.”  Both statements are true, but one is more likely to influence a logical learner to take a specific course of action.

Social learners are people who learn well in groups. In elementary and secondary school, these are the kids who get really excited when they walk into a classroom and see desks grouped in “pods” because it means GROUP WORK!

Finally, solitary learners prefer to work alone and sort things out for themselves.

I think there is some value in the classroom in working being in settings that encourage both social and solitary learning. The social component helps folks to absorb the experience of another – either through reading someone else’s story (verbal and visual learning) or telling your own (auditory and verbal learning) – while the solitary component can encourage introspection. Both types of learning are extremely valuable and hold an important place in our world.

When you think about your own learning styles, do you think you have a dominant one?  Or do you combine some, or all, of these learning styles in pursuit of your own knowledge or teaching? If you’re not sure, go here to do a learning styles inventory. If you are sure, sound off in the comments.

Photo by Michael D Beckwith on Unsplash

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