8 Common Types of Learning Styles
Updated September 30, 2022
Every individual has a method of learning that works best for them. The types of learning styles you relate to can vary based on your preferences and abilities. While some can understand a topic by hearing about it, others need to physically interact with it. When you recognize the different learning styles, you can develop different approaches for conveying information based on others' needs. In this article, we provide a list of eight common learning styles and strategies you can use to engage with these different types of learners.
What are learning styles?
An individual's learning style refers to their preferred method of processing information. It represents how they gather, understand and retain new knowledge. These learning styles impact how people learn in school but also serve purposes in other aspects of life. Every day, people learn how to perform tasks or use skills that benefit their personal and professional lives. Their learning style helps them understand what methods make it easy for them to obtain and use new information.
Individuals can determine which learning style they most relate to by assessing their strengths, weaknesses and preferences when understanding and retaining information. For example, someone who enjoys taking notes and has difficulty understanding a topic without seeing it is likely a visual learner. Some people may find that a combination of learning styles works best for them.
8 styles of learning
Here are eight common learning styles and corresponding tips that you can use to engage different types of learners:
Visual learners process information through sight. For example, they respond well when presented with written materials, charts, diagrams and maps. Because of this preference, visual learners often create drawings or write notes to help themselves retain information. Their focus on visual elements also tends to make them more observant, allowing them to notice small details that others do not. When trying to learn how to do something new, they may benefit from watching instructional videos that demonstrate how to perform each step.
You can use some of the following tips to engage visual learners:
Use visual aids as often in your presentations or discussions. For example, provide maps when discussing geographic information or charts and graphs for mathematical or financial information.
When discussing more complex ideas, draw diagrams to help break down the information. For example, split the main idea into several smaller categories and use arrows to illustrate connections.
Try to provide a handout for learners when making presentations, such as a printed or emailed copy of your slideshow, as this helps them follow along as you speak and gives them something to refer back to later.
Encourage learners to take notes or draw while obtaining new information. They may also benefit from writing to-do lists to keep them on track when completing tasks or projects.
When providing text-based materials, try to incorporate visual elements. For example, you can use color-coding to illustrate related information or highlight anything particularly significant.
If individuals still have trouble learning how to perform an action or task, suggest tutorials they can follow along with or videos to watch.
Related: A Guide To Visual Learning
Auditory learners prefer to process information by hearing it. For example, they respond better to oral instructions rather than written instructions. For them, attending lectures or listening to podcasts are ideal methods of gaining knowledge about a topic. Auditory learners maintain their focus on what the speaker says during presentations, which means they sometimes avoid writing notes. They may also repeat information or ideas aloud to help reinforce and retain what they learn. Aside from solely listening, these learners enjoy collaborating by discussing ideas and talking through concepts.
You can use some of the following tips to engage auditory learners:
When presenting or teaching, do not solely rely on visual aids. Read aloud the written information provided to learners, and provide verbal explanations of charts, graphs or diagrams.
Use debates and question-and-answer sessions to give learners opportunities to listen to others' ideas and share their own.
Try to incorporate catchy phrases or acronyms when teaching something new to make information more memorable. If possible, you can also use music—think about how children learn to say the alphabet through song.
Encourage learners to read information aloud or record themselves explaining a topic to help them retain knowledge. You may also allow them to record your presentation or lecture so they can refer to it later.
If the individual has difficulty understanding a topic, provide them auditory resources, such as a podcast, that they can listen to on their own.
Reading/writing learners feel most comfortable processing information using written materials. These materials can cover various sources, such as books, presentations, reports and handouts. In addition to reading, these learners tend to write corresponding notes to understand and retain information. Because of these preferences, they often enjoy expanding their knowledge by conducting research using books and online resources.
You can use some of the following tips to engage reading/writing learners:
When presenting information verbally, provide these learners with text-based visual aids that enable them to follow along.
Encourage reading/writing learners to take notes to add context to the information they receive and retain knowledge.
When discussing a topic, suggest resources (both online or physical) that learners can read to gain further insights.
You can have reading/writing learners demonstrate and build their knowledge by giving them writing assignments such as essays or reports.
These individuals learn by seeing, so provide written instructions for completing tasks rather than solely relying on verbal ones.
The kinesthetic learning style focuses on a hands-on approach to processing information. These tactile individuals learn by doing, so they need to touch or physically participate in the topic discussed. This approach can prove useful when helping learners understand more complex or abstract ideas. Sometimes individuals with this learning style have a lot of energy or find themselves moving around often. Even if they cannot physically interact with something, incorporating movement into learning activities can support knowledge retention.
You can use some of the following tips to engage kinesthetic learners:
Try to incorporate movement while teaching kinesthetic learners. When working one-on-one, for example, take them on a walk while you discuss an idea. Or you can create learning or training exercises that require moving around a room or performing physical actions.
Use role-playing techniques as a method of demonstration. These techniques enable learners to use their energy and make concepts feel more real.
Incorporate hands-on activities when discussing how to do a task, as these learners retain information better when they physically perform the act.
Encourage individuals to study or remember concepts by using flashcards or creating visual aids, such as diagrams and charts.
Set aside a break time during a presentation, lecture or discussion to avoid learners feeling restless.
This type of learner uses a rational, ordered method when processing information. As a result, they enjoy receiving instructions and following rules to complete their tasks. Their logical nature also makes it easy for them to find patterns and work with numbers. For example, they can identify the relationship between two or more items and analyze how one aspect affects another. Because they prefer taking an ordered approach to things, they also tend to be organized individuals who categorize tasks and information.
You can use some of the following tips to engage logical learners:
When giving assignments, provide them a clear structure with instructions on how you want them to complete the task. You can also incorporate goals to keep them on track.
Logical learners appreciate facts and figures, so provide a bulleted list of the most pertinent information rather than a block of text.
When covering a larger topic or idea, encourage learners to break down information into separate categories using outlines, charts or diagrams.
You can help them make sense of complex or abstract topics by incorporating systems, demonstrating how different parts interact or identifying patterns.
Give them problem-solving and critical-thinking exercises to help them build skills. Try to have them work independently to solve the problem themselves and avoid relying on you or others for help.
Social learners prefer to process information through collaboration. They benefit from communication when learning, both verbal and written. These individuals enjoy being in groups and interacting with others, both socially and in pursuit of accomplishing tasks. Some social learners are highly extroverted and communicative, making it easy for them to build relationships and take leadership roles. However, they are not necessarily the most extroverted person and also enjoy hearing others' ideas. This style can work in combination with other types—for example, someone can be both a social and kinesthetic learner.
You can use some of the following tips to engage social learners:
Give these learners plenty of opportunities to work within groups to complete tasks or devise solutions to problems.
Social learners appreciate hearing others' thoughts and opinions, so provide feedback about their progress and abilities.
Incorporate role-playing techniques that allow them to interact with other people while putting their knowledge into practice.
Help social learners reiterate their skills by giving them the option to teach others how to learn them or perform specific tasks.
When possible, offer opportunities for individuals to share their thoughts and feelings about a topic through group discussions or debates.
Individuals who are solitary learners prefer to process information independently. Therefore, they typically work best in quiet environments. Because they enjoy working alone, they tend to have strong self-motivation and self-management skills. They demonstrate this by setting goals for themselves or making plans. Solitary learners often keep to themselves and enjoy spending time being introspective and reflecting on what they learn. This learning style can overlap with others—an individual may be a combination of a solitary and visual learner, for example.
You can use some of the following tips to engage solitary learners:
You can make them feel comfortable by providing private, quiet areas for them to conduct their work.
These learners may hesitate to speak up, so ask them questions directly to hear their insights on a topic or idea.
Solitary workers enjoy setting goals, so provide methods of tracking their progress or checking off tasks to keep them motivated.
These learners appreciate reflection, so you can deepen their understanding by demonstrating how a topic or idea connects to something they learned previously.
Give them access to learning materials and resources that they can use independently or on their own time.
In this style, an individual learns best when working with nature. Learners who have this preferred style tend to enjoy learning about scientific or environmental topics and excel in those subjects. Similar to kinesthetic learners, they benefit from opportunities to gain hands-on experience. When possible, they enjoy seeing and interacting with natural materials or objects. For example, rather than solely discussing how to garden, they enjoy learning while digging up the soil and starting plants. They tend to find patterns, perform experiments and use scientific theory to support their understanding of topics.
You can use some of the following tips to engage naturalistic learners:
Give them opportunities to perform experiments or hands-on activities to fulfill their tactile needs.
When discussing a topic or idea, demonstrate how it relates to the environment and related subjects.
With science as one of their interests, these learners enjoy the process of writing lab reports or logging their scientific findings. Have them use those techniques when learning new topics.
When discussing complex concepts, treat them as ecosystems. Demonstrate how different elements interact with one another and ask the learner to find patterns to make memorable connections.
Take these learners outdoors when possible—even if the subject of conversation is unrelated, they will be more excited to listen when surrounded by nature.
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