By Niki Bridges
People process new information in a number of different ways. These ways—which can also be called learning styles—are often divided into five categories: visual, auditory, kinesthetic (or tactile), sequential, and global. Each of these learning styles has specific characteristics that, when identified, can be utilized to help you maximize your academic success.
1. The visual learner
This type of learner absorbs new information best when viewing visual aids like demonstrations, diagrams, pictures, and videos. Visual learners may thrive if they sit near the front of the class, and if they divide assignments and tasks into flowcharts or mind maps.
2. The auditory learner
Auditory learners often benefit from lecture-style courses. When sitting for exams, they may “hear” the problems or questions in their mind. They often enjoy participating in study groups and reading aloud. This learning style may wish to hear information several times in order to ensure full understanding.
3. The kinesthetic or tactile learner
This type of learner has a very active mind. He or she may like to take copious notes, often rewriting and summarizing class material. Kinesthetic learners may move about when studying, or they may listen to music. While these individuals may seem unfocused to others, they are constantly learning from their environment and through their bodies.
4. The sequential learner
Learners of this type often flock to subjects like history, math, and science—in short, any field that follows a logical order. Classroom discussions or professors who move from topic to topic at random often frustrate sequential learners. They may find it useful to ask “how” and “why” questions, and they typically feel the need to place concepts in some sort of order prior to attempting to understand them. They may become obsessed with the details and miss the overall picture.
5. The global learner
Global learners may gravitate toward classes like literature and philosophy They enjoy learning via anecdotes and group projects, all while also enjoying a close learning relationship with their professors. They enjoy discussing abstract concepts and situations that do not have one correct answer, and may see the “big picture” before the details.
There are many online questionnaires that are available to help you determine your learning style. When choosing classes to take at university, learn as much as you can about the structure of the course before you enroll. Gather feedback from other students who have taken the class before so that you will know what to expect. If possible, you may find it helpful to contact the professor to gain a sense of what the learning environment will be like.
After you have completed these initial steps, you should tailor your personal study environment to your learning style. For example, auditory learners may wish to have voice recorders on hand for taping lectures, and visual learners should have unlined planning notebooks so that they have room to draw as needed.
When you determine your learning style, preparing for and succeeding in your courses becomes much easier. You can discover how you learn best, and thus open a new path to academic excellence.