True or false: all students – young and old alike – have a specific learning style and are most successful when taught using that particular method.

Answer: Both

The statement above sparks many a debate and it appears there is no absolute right or wrong answer. Science does not consistently back up the effectiveness of tailoring teaching styles to individual learners, however, people do seem to favor different styles of learning. Critics even agree on some level that it may be a good idea to be familiar with people’s preferences regarding acquiring and processing information.

So, keeping with that spirit, let us take a deep dive into the various learning styles! (we’ll also explore the controversial elephant in the room a bit more for those who like a good debate)

the 8 learning styles for lesson planning in education

The 8 Learning Styles

Before we begin, let’s address the number 8 — it’s just that — a number. People disagree on how many learning styles actually exist.

For example, in 1987, a New Zealand teacher by the name of Neil Fleming established his popular VARK model:

  • Visual learners
  • Auditory learners
  • Reading / Writing learners
  • Kinesthetic (physical) learners)(If you’re interested in seeing what type of learner you are under the VARK system, check out this link).

In contrast, others – such as Psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman – believe there are many more than four types of learning styles. In his 2018 Scientific American article, Kaufman wrote that the number of learning styles proposed varies from 3 to 170!

Moving forward — with an open mind while maintaining a healthy bit of skepticism — let’s dive into 8 learning styles proposed by some scholars:

1. Visual (Spatial) Learners

For many people, definitely, the “eyes have it.” These people prefer it when information is visually presented. Rather than detailed written or spoken information, such students respond better to:

  • Charts, graphs, or tables
  • Pictures and photographs
  • Visual aids, such as projectors
  • Information that is organized visually (e.g., color-coded categories)
  • Metaphors that take advantage of visualizing (e.g., “The battlefield was a sea of death”)

2. Aural (Audio) Learners

Others seem to respond more favorably to sound and are able to remember more when they listen to information. These learners benefit a lot from lessons that involve listening and speaking. When reading, it often helps them to do it aloud. Some ideas to improve their learning experience include:

  • Music (which may help by providing an emotional connection)
  • Rhymes spoken out loud
  • Audiobooks when appropriate

3. Physical (Tactile) Learners

For some, the most effective educational approach involves physical interaction with things. This is a real “hands-on experience” that emphasizes a type of “learning by doing,” rather than merely sitting and listening to a teacher explain concepts. This is the “kinesthetic”, or ‘K’ in the VARK model mentioned earlier. There are several good methods of reaching students who prefer this learning style:

  • Use exercises that get pupils out of their seats
  • Allow them to draw as an activity
  • Get them to perform an experiment or role-play
  • Incorporate activities that involve acting or dancing
  • Introduce puzzles or other physical objects they can handle

4. Verbal (Linguistic) Learners

Here, the key is not so much whether the information is spoken or written. Rather, these types of students simply enjoy making use of the language itself. Like aural learners, verbal ones enjoy rhymes and wordplay. Here are some strategies for best promoting learning among these individuals:

  • Encourage group discussions
  • Assign topics for class presentations
  • Give them role-plays with interesting scenarios
  • Promote flexibility related to learning new vocabulary

5. Logical (Analytical) Learners

While aural learners may benefit from forming an emotional connection with sound, logical learners look for patterns and trends in what they learn. They search for the connections, and the reasons and results. Teachers can best motivate them by using lessons that:

  • Introduce questions that demand interpretation and inference
  • Present material requiring problem-solving abilities
  • Encourage them to reach conclusions based on facts and reasoning

6. Social Learners

These students prefer educational lessons that involve participation with others. In addition to enjoying the social interaction, they appear to gain more insight this way. To help these learners, some good approaches are:

  • Use group activities
  • Incorporate role-playing
  • Encourage students to ask others question and share stories

7. Solo Learners

In contrast to social learners, there are students who prefer to study alone. When by themselves, these individuals thrive. To assist this style of learner, teachers may:

  • Use exercises that focus on individual learning and problem-solving
  • Ask students to keep personal journals
  • Acknowledge their individual accomplishments

8. Natural / Nature Learners

Finally (at least for this article), there are those learners who do best when interacting with Mother Nature. They seem to respond best to a more peaceful, natural type of learning. In many ways, they are similar to physical, tactile learners. The main difference is they prefer to do their “hands-on” learning outside. Some ideas for bringing out the best in these students include:

  • Do “hands-on” experiments
  • Conduct some classes outdoors
  • Use examples from nature in explanations

Final Thoughts

Whatever your take on how valid it is to gear teaching styles to one of eight learning styles (or 170, for that matter!), there is merit in acknowledging that approaches to learning vary. Knowing this allows educators to search for the most effective ways to reach certain students, particularly those with behavioral or learning difficulties. At the very least, it opens the door for a thorough discussion and exploration of educational methods and techniques that could help.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to tailor lessons plans to changing circumstances, especially teaching from home, check out the Teach from Home Digital Toolkit

(From the editor: This article was originally published on ViewSonic Library.)