Have you heard of the four learning styles? It’s an educational theory that suggests some people learn better through different methods. The four styles are visual, auditory, verbal (as in reading/writing words), and kinetic (or hands-on). Additional theories add subcategories to these learning styles, but it’s all based on the same core idea.
If you can figure out which learning style tends to work best for you, then you can cater to that preference and learn new things faster and easier.
Of course, you need to actually know which style suits you, but that doesn’t have to be a monumental quest. In fact, there are only really four things you need to know to figure out your learning style and make good use of it.
#1 Your Learning Style Changes
Let’s start with the bad news. Your learning style can change over time. More than that, it can change depending on the topic. There’s a very good chance that you learn how to do math very differently from how you learn to change a tire.
That’s perfectly normal and natural, but it means that you can’t just figure this out once and be done for the rest of your life. Every time you run into a learning-based challenge, you’ll want to think about your learning style for that specific topic.
#2 You Can Take an Assessment
Now for the good news. For the most part, you’ll probably favor one style more than the others. Naturally, everyone is different, and there are people who don’t really favor any style. But, most people have a preference, and there are plenty of free assessment tests that can help you figure yours out.
The assessment will ask around 20 questions. It won’t take very long, and when it’s done, it will recommend a learning preference for you. They’re fairly accurate, and they’re a great place to start. You can more or less assume that you’ll learn anything according to your preference, and then you just need to deal with exceptions to your own style when they arise.
#3 Nothing Beats Trial and Error
If you want to be truly thorough, then you can test your own learning style. The key is to focus on things that can be scored.
Here’s an example. Say you want to learn to code. You can find online tutorials, and they appeal to different learning styles. You can watch a video, read a lesson, try a hands-on tutorial, or listen to a lecture. Once you’re done, you can take a test and see how you score.
Try out different learning methods, and see which gives you the best score. That way, you’re directly measuring how you learn, and that will illuminate your preference.
Keep in mind that this is only really necessary for topics that give you a hard time. If you’re a visual learner, and visual displays are teaching you how to code just fine, then you can stick with what works.
#4 You Can Combine Learning Styles
Perhaps the most important thing to understand about your learning style is that it’s not a disability. You might favor learning by listening, but that doesn’t prohibit you from visual, verbal, or hands-on learning. You can actually do all of it.
By all means, you should cater to your style and try to learn in ways that are comfortable. But, you can actually enhance the learning process by adding the other styles. This is why classrooms use auditory lectures, visual aids, verbal instructions, and hands-on practice. The most effective learning happens when you pile learning styles on top of each other.
Your preference forms the core, but the other learning styles still contribute to your success.