APU Careers & Learning Online Learning

Maximizing Your Learning Style in School and in Life

Whether you are a struggling student or competing amongst the brightest and best in a fiercely competitive educational arena here is an edge, know and use your learning style preferences to your advantage. There are three main learning styles: visual, auditory, and tactile. You are more than likely dominant in one, but you are undoubtedly a unique blend of all three. Becoming aware of your dominant and preferred style will empower you to choose among a variety of study tactics and learning environments that maximizes your results as both a student in the classroom and the experience of life.

Visual learners learn best through their eyes. In a traditional classroom they prefer to sit where they can best see what is going on in order to have an advantage when reading a teacher’s body language, studying charts and graphs, watching video, following visual presentations such as PowerPoint, observing demonstrations, and so on.  When learning online visual learners benefit from the ability to replay simulations or videos, trace an outline on the screen, note color coding, interpret pictures, and interact with a wide variety of interactive visual media.

There are some tactics a visual learner can employ to maximize learning. These learning methods can include:

  • constructing graphic organizers to represent information that may have been presented orally
  • studying diagrams
  • outlining notes
  • locating sites or placing symbols on a map
  • watching videos, demonstrations, simulations, and reenactments
  • color-coding notes
  • drawing pictures to represent events
  • writing summaries
  • direct copying of notes and vocabulary
  • using flashcards

Auditory learners attain information best through their ears. In a traditional classroom they tend to sit away from noisy distractions, where they can hear best the teacher or other instructional media such as video, recorded books, poems, or songs.  They have an advantage in listening to lectures or relating to auditory cues.  When learning online auditory learners benefit from being able to replay recordings of lectures, videos, and other auditory sources of information.

Tactics an auditory learner can employ to maximize learning include:

  • reading aloud to self from texts and lecture notes
  • replaying recordings of lectures
  • summarizing in oral format
  • asking and answering questions
  • learning from content contained in songs, poems, and drama
  • listening to videos
  • participating in study groups

Tactile learners, sometimes referred to as kinesthetic learners, learn best through their hands. In a traditional classroom they prefer to be able to move around, touch objects, conduct physical experiments, perform reenactments, and change their physical proximity with learning materials.  When learning online tactile learners do not have a distinct advantage, but may recall spelling via the muscle memory of keyboarding.

Some methods a tactile learner can employ to maximize learning can involve:

  • building models
  • participating in reenactments
  • conducting experiments
  • role playing
  • relate knowledge to movement
  • touch artifacts
  • pace when reading
  • rock in place when studying
  • taking field trips to historic sites

A final consideration is that you may discover topics differently regardless of your dominant style.  Here is an example.  As a clinical psychologist, who might be a dominant auditory learner, you may rely primarily on tactile learning to accumulate a desired knowledge of dancing. Regardless of your preference for auditory learning, if you were to study dance you would probably rely predominantly on tactile learning, but not until after first watching (visual) demonstrations by an instructor, then by listening (auditory) to the commands of your instructor and the rhythm of the music and finally by making the first practice steps (tactile) at performing.  You may find that your auditory advantage enables you to pick up complicated rhythms quicker than others, but it won’t be until after you put in sufficient time by physically practicing before you are confident and ready to take your signature moves onto the stage on Saturday nights.

Simply put, know thyself, then carpe diem.

– By Craig Gilman

In addition to being a full-time advocate for online learning in the education field for American Public University, he is also currently an adjunct with APU.  With both an MA International Relations and MS Education Craig has extensive experience teaching social studies, English, and ESL in U.S. public and private international schools and universities in Asia.  Prior to becoming an educator, he served with the U.S. Marines. 

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