The way people learn is a fascinating process and better understanding your preferred style can mean the difference between a frustrating or satisfying educational experience.

Learning is not the same for everyone. Some students perform better in classes simply because of the way those classes are delivered. Take science for instance, the same student can struggle in the theory of chemistry, yet excel when lesson are taught as practical demonstrations. The difference isn’t necessarily an indication of intelligence, but often just a difference in how information is best absorbed and understood.

The first challenge is to understand what your dominant or preferred style is. Once you know this, you’ll need to make sure you adapt your homework and study methods to suit. It’s even worth talking to your teacher or tutor to make sure the way a lesson is taught it conducive to your particular style.

To help you, we’ve pulled together some information on the three broad learning styles, including their characteristics and some tips on the most appropriate learning methods.

The Auditory Learner

These students learn via listening and discussion. They are often good are explaining concepts, are great at remembering names and excel at grammar and foreign languages.

Characteristics include:

  • Needing oral explanations rather than written details
  • Repeating information aloud, after it has already been said to them
  • Talking to themselves while learning
  • Have a strong preference for group discussions
  • Can detect information or meaning through changes in vocal tones
  • Can recall information by remembered how it sounded 

 Learning techniques:

  • Using word association to remember details
  • Adding rhythm when remembering details aloud
  • Recording lectures, watching videos
  • Group discussions
  • Repeating facts to other students

The Visual Learner

Visual learners learn via watching. They like to have information displayed visually, with concepts drawn as illustrations. Traditional classrooms are designed for these students.

Characteristics include:

  • Great at spelling, but often forget names
  • Needs quiet study time to reflect on concepts
  • Like colours and fashion
  • Has to reflect for a while to understand lectures
  • Often doodle while listening; need to have paper and pens handy

 Learning techniques:

  • Draw all information – display maps, process charts, timelines
  • Copy what’s on the board; the act of drawing or writing helps
  • Make lists
  • Use mind maps as a visualisation technique

The Tactile Learner

These students prefer learning via hands-on methods. They need to be actively involved in the learning process by “doing” what is actually been talked about or taught. 

Characteristics include:

  • Like to move around while listening or talking
  • Often talk with their hands
  • Good at sports
  • Can’t sit still for long
  • Enjoy building models

Learning techniques:

  • Studying in short blocks of time
  • Conducting practical demonstrations of what they’ve learnt
  • Studying with loud music or other stimulus in the background

If you’re frustrated because you can’t understand a particular concept in class, then try some of these different learning techniques first. Best of luck!