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As a uni student, one of the hardest things to realise about myself is that I’m a kinaesthetic learner. If you have no idea what that is, I can promise you that you’re not alone! For years, I would sit in my classes and doodle in the margins, never really retaining enough information for exams, and barely passing classes that I actually found quite interesting. It wasn’t until third year of my undergraduate, when I finally gave up trying to take notes and started knitting in class instead when things started to click.
There are seven types of learning styles (combining cognitive approaches with the VARK model): visual (spacial), aural (auditory-musical), verbal (linguistic), physical (kinaesthetic), logical (mathematical), social (interpersonal), and solitary (intrapersonal). Each learning style utilises a different part of the brain, and just because you’re not able to efficiently learn using all of the different learning styles doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you! So if you’re like me and you’re a physical learner sat in a class that’s inherently geared towards logical learners, things might feel a bit out of control – and that’s okay!
Being at uni, one of the most helpful things you can do for yourself is identify your personal learning style so that you can better become your own advocate. If you’re a solitary learner, studying with friends might not be the best idea for you because you may find yourself distracted by those around you. But if all of your friends tend to be social learners, you’re going to have to stand up for yourself and let them know that you just can’t work together. It’s much easier to explain that you’ve identified your learning style than it is to try to come up with a flimsy excuse and create an awkward situation later. Similarly, if you’re not doing well in a course and you’re able to identify that it has something to do with your learning style, consider approaching the professor after class to talk about how you can better perform. Unfortunately, professors aren’t able to teach to every style, but you’ll find that most of them will try to help you if you’re will to take the first step and just talk to them.
Visual learners will learn better from pictures and images, aural learners prefer sounds, verbal learners will prefer speech and writing, physical learners find that being able to use your hands to work is more effective, logical learners prefer to use systems of reasoning, social learners prefer group study, and solitary learners prefer to work by themselves. And just to add to the confusion, you may also be a mixture when it comes to sorting out how best you learn! Some days you may find that you study better in groups and some days you may opt to find a quiet place to work alone.
If you’re unsure about what kind of learner you are, you might consider hopping online to look for a learning styles quiz. One of the best ones I’ve found was called VARK Learn, which uses the VARK questionnaire to help you assess how best you learn. It also tells you which styles you were close to (for example, I scored an 8 for kinaesthetic and a 6 for reading/writing) so that you can also assess how best to blend your learning styles once you know them. And as a bonus, the site uses your personal learning style to give you recommendations on how to learn and study better, including ideas which you might not have thought about otherwise. Next time you’re struggling to retain course information, try changing the way you approach your learning and see if that’s more effective in the long run.