What even is a ‘learning style’?
Learning styles are an individual’s preferred method of acquiring, retaining and processing information. They are an important factor to consider in education and career development as they have a significant impact on an individual’s ability to learn and retain information. Understanding one’s own learning style can help an individual tailor their approach to learning to their strengths, which in turn can lead to greater success in their education and career.
The 3 Learning Styles
Visual learners prefer to learn through visual aids such as images, diagrams, and videos. They learn best by seeing information presented and tend to be good at retaining information through visual memory. For visual learners, note-taking is an effective way of learning and can include mind maps and charts to help organise information.
Auditory learners prefer to learn through listening, including lectures, discussions, and podcasts. They learn best by hearing information presented and tend to be good at retaining information through verbal memory. Auditory learners can benefit from listening to music or audio recordings while studying and participating in discussions or debates.
Kinaesthetic learners prefer to learn through hands-on activities and physical movement. They learn best by doing and tend to be good at retaining information through muscle memory. Kinaesthetic learners can benefit from hands-on activities such as experiments, role-playing, and simulations.
It is important to note that individuals often have a combination of learning styles and that their preferred learning style can change depending on the subject matter or task. For example, a visual learner may benefit from hands-on activities when learning about a physical process, while a kinaesthetic learner may benefit from visual aids when learning about a complex concept.
Learning by Instinct or Instruction
Additionally, knowledge of learning styles is a critical aspect of education and career development, as they impact an individual’s ability to learn and retain information; by in which they employ a style of learning, whether it be by instinct or instruction. By understanding one’s own learning style, individuals can tailor their approach to learning to their strengths and increase their success in education and career. It is important to keep in mind that learning styles are not mutually exclusive and that individuals often have a combination of styles, which can change depending on the subject matter or task.
Neurodivergent Learning Styles
Learning styles are a unique and individual approach to acquiring, retaining and processing information. While some models categorise learning styles into visual, auditory, and kinaesthetic, it is important to acknowledge that learning styles are not mutually exclusive and can change depending on the subject matter or task. Furthermore, there is a growing recognition of alternative styles of learning that go beyond traditional categorisations.
Neurodivergent individuals, for example, may have unique learning styles that do not fit into the traditional categories. This can include individuals with autism, ADHD, and other neurodevelopmental differences who may have specific preferences for learning, such as a preference for structured, routine-based learning or a preference for learning through hands-on, sensory experiences.
In considering learning styles, it is also important to note that learning is not limited to the classroom or the workplace. Individuals can learn through everyday experiences and activities such as hobbies, travel, and community engagement. These experiences can provide opportunities for learning and can also inform an individual’s preferred learning style.
The Educational Environment
Another important aspect of learning styles is the role of the educational environment in shaping and facilitating learning. This can include the physical environment, the social and cultural context, and the attitudes and expectations of those around the learner and the teacher. A supportive learning environment that recognises and accommodates diverse learning styles can lead to greater success and engagement in learning. Including expanding the diverse toolkit that many teachers and educators employ on a daily basis.
In conclusion, learning styles are a complex and multifaceted aspect of education and career development. Rather than viewing learning styles as mutually exclusive categories, it is important to recognise and embrace the diversity of learning styles and to create supportive environments that facilitate learning for individuals with a range of learning styles. This includes acknowledging and accommodating alternative styles of learning and creating opportunities for learning through everyday experiences.
My University Experience
When I reflect on my learning journey, I realise some unexpected positive outcomes in my teaching, mentoring, leading, and following within the workplace.
During my bachelor’s degree, I experienced educational frustration. The three-hour-long, in-person lectures revolved around my inability to sustain note-writing at a level of perfectionism that was impossible to maintain, let alone learn or absorb what was being taught.
Over the years, I have found this behavioural pattern rising its proverbial head, less than before now that I’m older. However, the old mental gremlin comes along with the imaginary ruler on the knuckles to let me know I’m not learning correctly – that’s not the way you learn. Back to incessant note-taking!
I thank the mental gremlin for giving me a lesson. I remember Maharaji, a guru of the East, speaking of our greatest teachers in this life and within the world – the “ego-jis.” The people who are so brazenly unaware of themselves, their actions, and their impact (good or bad). There is nothing wrong or good about it. It is in each person’s dharma to learn the required lessons.
It is in the moments of interaction with the “ego-jis” that we can exercise our response, our reaction, and our tenacity to believe what we believe to be correct (it’s not). In those moments, knowing that there are many methodologies in life experience and no one way is more correct than the other.
And so, I thank the mental gremlin, the little “ego-ji” in my mind. It has given me the freedom to know that learning and its methods and mediums of transmission are as unique and ubiquitous as the people around you. To not be restricted in learning by whoever tells you the way is incorrect. It just may be an incorrect way of learning for them.
When mentoring and teaching, even the prompt of inquiry in others regarding learning behaviours and styles leads people to feel invigorated in their learning and career journeys. The degree of joy, thoughtfulness, understanding, and degrees of success makes it almost a compulsory workplace exercise. Through my own life experience, I have found that it leads to a cavalcade of change and positivity, which is not just restricted to the person at hand but the organisation (or community) at large.
I am grateful for the journey that led me to understand my personal learning style and for the opportunities that have arisen as a result of this understanding. I hope that by sharing my story, I can inspire others to become more self-aware of their own learning styles and to seek out the support and resources they need to be successful in their pursuits.
I also hope that by raising awareness about neurodivergent learning styles, we can help create a more inclusive and supportive environment for all learners, regardless of their learning preferences and environmental needs.
In conclusion, an understanding of the diversity in learning styles are a critical aspect of education and career development, and recognising the diversity of learning styles can lead to greater success and engagement in learning. While traditional categorisations of learning styles are useful, it’s essential to acknowledge that individuals may have unique amalgamations of the learning styles, especially neurodivergent individuals who may require specific environmental modifications. Many individuals may also have an inherent understanding of their learning needs and only require affirmation and accommodation to achieve their set goals.
Understanding the role of the environment in shaping and facilitating learning, including a supportive learning environment that recognises and accommodates diverse learning styles, can lead to improved learning outcomes, including providing what is a healthier foundational medium for childhood development and well into adulthood.
Benjamin Christmass, MPH.
Public Health Scientist
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