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Teaching Strategies for the 8 Different Learning Styles

April 17, 2018 - Rasool Somji

It’s believed people processes information uniquely, so trainers and teachers should understand the different learning styles. With this knowledge, you’ll be able to tailor your teaching to suit your students or trainees.

In this article, we discuss methods of teaching for the eight different learning styles, as well as conflicting evidence which suggests these learning styles may not be as effective as once believed.

The learning styles

Everyone has a dominant learning style depending on the situation. There are eight in total:

  1. Visual learners
  2. Aural learners
  3. Verbal learners
  4. Social learners
  5. Logical learners
  6. Physical and tactile learners
  7. Solitary learners
  8. Naturalist learners

We’ll now go through each of these in detail.

Visual learners icon

1. Visual learners

Visual learners retain information more effectively when visual aids are used, such as, pictures, images, film clips, colours and diagrams. They’re also good at understanding visual data presented in maps, charts and graphs.

Strategies for teaching visual learners:

  • Use visual aids – most other learners will benefit from visual elements as well.
  • Provide visual analogies and metaphors to help with visual imagery.
  • Sometimes graphics are not easy to use for specific topics but consider writing key points in front of the class as this provides visual cues.
  • Substitute words for colours and pictures.
  • Ask the students to write down explanations and take notes because this entails looking at your presentation or visualising what you’re presenting.
  • Colour or emphasises key points in text.
  • Avoid using large blocks of text.
  • Include exercises where the students create mind maps.
  • Use storytelling to help with visualisation.
  • Colour-code and organise any materials you provide as this helps organise things in their minds.
  • Get students to visualise using phrases, such as, “Picture this”, “Let’s see what you would do.”
Aural learners icon

2. Aural learners

Aural learners respond to sound, music, recordings, rhymes, rhythms etc. They remember conversations well and music causes an emotional response in them.

Strategies for teaching aural learners:

  • Encourage your students to participate in discussions.
  • If reading is required suggest audio books if appropriate.
  • Suggest for them to listen to music as they go over material.
  • Allow recordings of your training sessions or make your lessons accessible via online course platforms – this is also helpful for other learning types.
  • Get students to pair up and explain concepts to each other.
  • Encourage problem-solving aloud.
  • Suggest rereading their notes back to themselves when they get home.
  • Use mnemonic devices and rhyming.
  • If you are explaining a story, play relevant sounds from your computer.
Verbal learners icon

3. Verbal learners

Verbal learners favour using words and linguistic skills – in speech and in writing, such as, reading, writing, listening or speaking. They like word games, puns and rhymes etc and are often strong public speakers.

Strategies for teaching verbal learners:

  • Use verbal teaching and writing activities.
  • Ask them to discuss or present.
  • Use acronyms or mnemonic devices.
  • Get the class to read aloud. Try to get them to read in a varied way rather than in monotone.
  • Role-playing, for example, practicing elevator pitches or interactions between employees and clients.
  • Ask them to teach members of the class certain material..
  • Suggest they reread and rewrite their notes, including summaries.
  • Incorporate quizzes into your lessons.
  • Show them or provide them with lists of key words.
  • Providing these learners with a combination of information in a variety of verbal ways can assist their learning, for example, they may initially read about a concept, afterwards they listen to an audio to support what has been read, then they write notes and finally they partner up with someone and discuss the topic.
Social learners icon

4. Social learners

Social learners process information by interacting with and relating to others. They enjoy working with others and are often strong leaders.

Strategies for teaching social learners:

  • Be inquisitive and ask them what they think about a concept/topic/idea.
  • Ask them to bounce ideas off of each other and compare their ideas with others’.
  • Allow them to discuss and share stories.
  • Include group work.
  • Engage in a role-play.
Logical learners icon

5. Logical learners

Logical learners favour using logic and reasoning. They like to classify and categorise information and solve problems with numbers. Logical learners are especially good at analysing cause and effect relationships.

Strategies for teaching logical learners:

  • Provide the class with problem-solving tasks.
  • Challenge them to work things out for themselves.
  • Ask them to interpret abstract visual information.
  • Include critical thinking exercises.
  • Provide statistics and facts.
  • Ask them to suggest conclusions after providing them with evidence.
Physical and tactile learners icon

6. Physical and tactile learners

Practical learners process information effectively when they use their bodies and when they are actually doing something. They put their learning into practice.

Strategies for teaching physical and tactile learners:

  • Use physical exercises and provide hands-on experiences.
  • Exercises where they are standing and walking are very effective.
  • Include activities where they use a pen and paper to map out their thoughts and problem-solve because writing is a physical exercise.
  • Find a venue that provides these learners with large spaces so they can write and draw.
  • Encourage them to draw diagrams, graphs and maps.
  • Get them to interact with physical objects or solve puzzles.
  • Role-playing.
  • Provide real life examples, such as, case studies.
  • Suggest reviewing their notes whilst they engage in physical activity.
  • Ask them to teach other class members some of the lesson content.
  • When you are asking them to visualise, explain the sensations that would be felt, such as, “The wind was forcibly hitting against the left side of my body.”
Solitary learners icon

7. Solitary learners

Solitary learners like to work and learn by themselves and self-study. They may come across as shy or cold as they keep to themselves. If you get solitary learners feeling comfortable during some of the training they are more likely to speak up during presentations or group work.

Strategies for teaching solitary learners:

  • Ask questions so you know what they’re thinking and how they’re feeling.
  • Provide individual problem-solving exercises.
  • Explain why the lesson material is important as solitary learners are often interested in outcomes.
  • Along with this, give the class ways to track their progress.
  • Suggest links between what they have previously learned/should know and new concepts.
Naturalist learners icon

8. Naturalist learners

Naturalist learners process information by working with and experiencing nature. They learn by finding patterns in nature and using scientific logic for understanding.

Strategies for teaching naturalist learners:

  • Include experiments in your lessons.
  • Get them to imagine that what you’re teaching is a new ecosystem that they can understand by finding patterns. This will help them link concepts together.
  • Have exercises where they can identify and classify.
  • Use examples linking to daily life, people or nature.
  • Provide observational data, such as case studies.

Courses to improve your teaching skills:

Evidence against the different learning styles

The concept that people learn better when taught through their preferred learning style is very popular. However the evidence for this is lacking so we’ve included this section to make you aware of studies showing that different learning styles may not be that effective.

For a new paper in Anatomical Sciences Education, a pair of researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine have conducted an investigation into learning styles with hundreds of undergrads. The findings do not support the learning styles concept, reinforcing its reputation among mainstream psychologists as a myth.

The study showed that student grade performance was not correlated in any meaningful way with their dominant learning style or with any learning style(s) they scored highly on. Also, while most students (67 per cent) actually failed to study in a way consistent with their supposedly preferred learning style, those who did study in line with their dominant style did not achieve a better grade than those who didn’t.

Additional evidence against the different learning styles:

Despite the conflicting evidence for the effectiveness of different learning styles, it’s good to know different teaching methods. By varying the methods of teaching, you’ll keep the attention of your students for longer and make the learning experience more enjoyable.