Learning Styles — The General Categories
Learning styles are ways of learning. A preferred learning style is the way in which a student learns best, which reflects the relative strengths or weaknesses of that student's underling cognitive (learning) skills. Different scholars use different learning style categories. Multiple Intelligence (MI) theory maintains that there are at least seven learning styles ("intelligences"): interpersonal, intra-personal, body/kinesthetic, visual/spatial, logical/mathematical, verbal/linguistic, and musical/rhythmic (D. Lazear, 1991). Some academic organizations trim this list to a basic two: logical/mathematical and verbal/linguistic. For purposes of this article and in accordance with the majority of today's educational literature, we'll focus on the following simplified list of three learning styles: Auditory, Visual, and Tactile.
Learning Styles — A Simplified List
- Auditory -- A student with an auditory learning style learns best when information is delivered in auditory formats such as lectures, discussions, oral readings, audio recordings, or podcasts. Auditory learners do well in classroom settings where professor lectures and student discussions are the norm. These students also do well with taped courses and group study situations.
Visual -- A student with a visual learning style learns best when information is presented in visual formats such as books, articles, web pages, images, videos, or diagrams. Visual learners do well with class handouts, power point presentations, movies, and chalkboards. These students take detailed notes, highlight their texts, and use flow charts for study aids.
- Tactile -- A student with a tactile learning style learns best when information is conveyed in "hands-on" settings such as trade positions, labs, workshops, or participatory classes. Tactile learners respond well to touching and creating things in areas such as art and science. These students want to hold and manipulate the subject matter, rather than merely viewing an image of it.
Learning Styles — The Importance of Cognitive Assessment
Learning styles should be discovered and encouraged. It's the way we're "wired" and we're always more successful in life when we pursue our natural wiring. However, although learning styles are important, working within a student's learning strengths too early may actually hinder the child's overall success. If a child is encouraged to avoid areas of struggle, the underlying cognitive skills in that area will remain weak and that child may lose the opportunity to fully develop an array of learning tools. Regardless of whether they'll ultimately favor the auditory, visual, or tactile styles, all students need a strong foundation in the core cognitive skills.
Cognitive skills are the fundamental tools that all people use to learn and achieve. Cognitive skills are not the learning style preferences such as auditory, visual or tactile, but rather, the underlying mental abilities required for long-term proficiency in core subjects such as reading, writing, and mathematics. These foundational learning skills include auditory processing, visual processing, attention, memory, processing speed, logic and reasoning, and comprehension. All of these mental tools should be solid for learning success, but it's the strongest of these underlying abilities that leads to a preference in learning styles.
At LearningRx, an assessment of basic cognitive skills is the first step towards discovering a student's preferred learning style. A "Learning Styles Inventory" is an exciting part of our assessment process. If your child is struggling in an area of learning, we encourage you to learn more about our cognitive skills and learning styles assessments.