We’re all different, and each one of us has our own unique way of taking on information and learning new things. There are a number of different learning styles, and most people will use a mixture of these styles in different situations, often noticing one or two techniques that are more dominant than others.
Identifying the learning style that you use most often, and familiarising yourself with the other learning styles, can assist you in exam revision and help you to get more from your lectures and seminars. It can also help you post graduation as your learning doesn’t end when your degree does; learning styles can help you to train effectively in a new job or get more from your hobbies.
Those who favour the visual method of learning will typically prefer to use images, pictures, maps, and diagrams to take on new information. Visual learners are able to easily visualise things like objects, plans, and the outcome of a situation within their mind’s eye. Visual learners also tend to have good spatial awareness and a good sense of direction; they are good at finding their way around using a map and rarely get lost.
Visual and spatial learning techniques
If you are a visual learner you should try to incorporate lots of imagery into your studying to aid in your visualisation of the subject. Here are some methods and tools that can help to boost your visual learning:
- Mind maps: A mind map is a great way to visualise your ideas. Try to use lots of colours and use pictures and images in place of words where possible.
- Highlighters: Even visual learners will need to make notes at some point, but using colour-coded pens to highlight and categorise different types of information can help it to be better absorbed.
- Systems diagrams: These can help you to visualise the different aspects of a system and how they link together. Using pictures and lots of colour further helps with the learning process.
- Visual storytelling: Putting written information into a visual story format, such as a comic book-style layout, can help visual learners to memorise information better.
- Videos: Watching a tutorial video is much more effective for a visual learner than reading pages and pages of text.
- Peg system: This is a form of word association, in which the ‘peg’ is a mental hook on which to hang information. Numbers are often used as pegs, and visual learners are adept at pegging information for quick and easy recall.
Create an effective learning environment for yourself by ensuring that you have a selection of coloured pens and highlighters, as well as paper to draw and doodle on as you study. A whiteboard can also be useful for a visual learner as you can use it to draw out your ideas and wipe things away when needed.
Those who tend towards an aural and auditory-musical learning style typically absorb information better when listening to spoken word or music. Aural learners will usually have the ability to play an instrument or sing well, and they’ll often find themselves humming or tapping along to a song, or a jingle will pop into their head spontaneously.
Aural and auditory-musical learning techniques
If you are an aural learner you should try to incorporate sound, music, rhythm, and rhyme into your studies in order to better absorb information. Here are some techniques that can help you:
- Use recordings: Record your lectures where possible, and play them back when studying to help you take in the information. You could also use sound recording of background sounds; for example if you’re learning to tune a car engine, use a recording of an engine running to help you visualise the procedure.
- Create jingles: Mnemonics and acrostics can aid your learning, and forming them into a jingle that rhymes can help you to remember the information better.
- Anchoring: The anchoring technique helps you to associate music with certain things; therefore when you hear that music it helps you to recall information. Anchor your emotions and memories to music in order to remember them easily.
- Group study: Working with a study group can benefit aural learners as you’ll pick up information from talking and discussing things with your peers. Things such as word-association games and debates can help with your absorption of the study materials.
- Text to speech: Take notes in lectures and transfer them to your laptop, then use a text to speech programme to hear them aurally.
Create an effective learning environment for yourself by ensuring you have text to speech software on your laptop, and by using a recording device to record lectures. You should also invest in some decent headphones so that you can listen to study podcasts and watch videos on the go via a mobile device.
Those who find that they learn best by using both the written and spoken word find it easy to express themselves verbally and in writing. They enjoy reading, writing, and word play including tongue twisters, limericks, rhymes, and playing on the meaning of words.
Verbal and linguistic learning techniques
Linguistic learners regularly make the effort to seek out the meaning of new words and phrases, and use them in conversation and written work. Here are some verbal learning techniques that may help you:
- Mnemonics: Using acronym mnemonics can help you to make up another word or a memorable sequence to help you remember a piece of information.
- Speaking and writing: Verbal learners should try to find ways to incorporate more speaking and writing into their studies. For example, you could talk yourself through a procedure before and during performing an activity.
- Assertions: Try to use rhythm and rhyme in your assertions to make things memorable, and read important pieces of information aloud or set them to familiar songs or jingles to aid the absorption of the information.
- Scripting: Write your study notes down in a script format; you could even record them to play back to yourself too.
- Read aloud: Reading content aloud helps verbal learners to retain things more easily. A top tip is to read things in a dramatic and animated way rather than using a monotone voice, this will help you to recall things better.
- Role plays: Work with a study group or friends to role-play the course material. Verbal exchanges such as phone calls, sales call, radio shows, or negotiations can help you to remember and recall information more easily.
Create an effective learning environment for yourself by ensuring that you take thorough notes in lectures and rewrite them afterwards to help them sink in. Regularly group up with your course mates to discuss and role play the course material to aid your recall.
Those who favour a more physical learning style tend to be very hands-on and tuned in to the world around them. They typically enjoy exercising and playing sports, as well as physical hobbies like gardening. Physical activity is often used as a way of thinking through any problems and issues, with kinaesthetic learners favouring a walk or a run over sitting at home.
Physical and kinaesthetic learning techniques
Physical learners prefer to jump in and get their hands dirty, as opposed to reading about something or looking at diagrams. If this is your learning style, here are some techniques that may help you:
- Focus on sensations: If you learn by being physical try to use a visualisation process that focuses on sensations. Visualise the action, for example baking a cake, and think about the sensations associated with it – the vibrations of the electric mixer as you prepare the cake mix, and the smell of the cake as it bakes in the oven.
- Physical objects: use these as much as possible in your learning process. Touch an object physically as you learn and explore what it can do. Flashcards of information can also help you to recall things as you’re touching and manipulating them.
- Write and draw: These are also physical activities, so use writing and drawing to create mind maps and diagrams that will help you to be active, hands-on, and aid your recall of information.
- Role playing: You can either do it alone or with others; role playing is a physical activity that enables you to practice skills, behaviours, and processes in order to better absorb information.
- Breathing and relaxation: Using breathing and relaxation techniques can help you to stay focused, calm, and centred whilst you are studying.
Create an effective learning environment for yourself by ensuring that you use physical objects as part of your learning process. Ask your course tutors for hands-on demonstrations, and get involved with study groups for the chance to practice and role play scenarios. It will also help your studies if you schedule in time for exercise to help clear and refocus your mind.
Those who typically adopt a logical or mathematical style of learning tend to be able to easily recognise patterns and form connections between pieces of content or information. These learners work well with numbers and calculations and enjoy working through problems in a systematic and logical way.
Logical and mathematical learning techniques
People who learn in a logical and mathematical way tend to have a scientific approach to thinking, often supporting their points with statistics and logical examples. They also like to do brainteasers and play strategic games like chess and backgammon. If you are a logical learner, these tips may help you:
- Lists: Take notes in lectures and then spend time afterwards extracting the key points and forming them into lists to aid your absorption and recall of information.
- Infer meaning: Rather than just learning information by rote, try to infer meaning from content instead. Learning and understanding more detail about things helps you identify links and patterns between things.
- Illogical association: Your brain will fight against it at first, but illogical and irrational associations are remembered better than logical ones!
- Scripting: Highlight any logical behaviours and thoughts in your notes and scripts; this will allow you to identify systems and procedures so you can easily change things when you need to.
- Breathe and relax: Don’t forget that your physical body is as much a part of the system as any hardware or software that you may be using in your studies, so be sure to regularly relax and focus on your breathing when you need to re-centre your thinking.
- Systems thinking: This helps you to understand the links between the individual parts of a system, which helps you to understand and appreciate the bigger picture. Systems diagrams can help you to gain a better understanding of the way in which the components of a system work together to form a whole process.
Create an effective learning environment for yourself by ensuring that you find ways to stay focused and on topic. Avoid procrastinating by adopting a ‘do it now’ attitude and getting tasks done, or at least adding to a to-do list, as soon as you think of them.
People who favour a social and interpersonal learning approach tend to have strong communication skills, both verbally and non-verbally, which draws others to them for advice, mentoring, and counselling. Social learners typically understand others’ views, listen well, and are sensitive and empathetic to other people’s feelings.
Social and interpersonal learning techniques
Those with an interpersonal learning style tend to have strong social skills and like to interact and work with others on projects. They work through problems by bouncing ideas off others and listening to their input. If you are a social learner you may benefit from these study tips:
- Group work: Social learners should aim to work with others as much as possible. Try forming a study group with peers of a similar level and bounce ideas off each other, offering instant and constructive feedback to one another.
- Role play: Working with others, role play can help you to visualise things better, which aids your recall of information. Obviously it’s best to do this with other social learners to avoid making people feel uncomfortable or awkward.
- Assertions: Reciting assertions and working on your visualisations is a good way of absorbing information, and reciting them with others will help to strengthen them further.
- Mind maps: These are great to work on as a group; one person is nominated as the writer/drawer, while the rest of the group contribute and share ideas. Afterwards, the mind map can be photocopied for you to add things to on your own and refer back to.
- Share and listen: Share your own views and reviews with others, and listen to their views and how they solve problems. This may give you more ideas on how to solve your own issues and study more effectively.
Create an effective learning environment by surrounding yourself with people you can study with, learn from, and bounce ideas off. Other social learners will be open to group work, but other types of learners will further enhance your learning too as they all have something different to bring to the table.
Solitary learners are very independent, private, and introspective. They tend to be able to focus their thoughts and feelings on their current topic, allowing them to concentrate effectively. Those with an intrapersonal learning style spend a lot of time on self-analysis, reflecting on past events, and assessing their own challenges or accomplishments.
Solitary and intrapersonal learning techniques
Intrapersonal learners typically enjoy spending time alone; they are independent thinkers that have a deep understanding of their own needs and behaviours. If you prefer studying alone in places where it is quiet and uncrowded, here are some tips that might help you:
- Set personal goals: Set objectives for yourself and make plans to help you achieve them. It helps to understand your own reasons for your goals, and to visualise what things will be like once you’ve achieved them.
- Create personal interest in topics: In other words, study what you’re interested in and you’ll have better success at maintaining your motivation and achieving your goals.
- Keep a journal: Intrapersonal learners can benefit from keeping a log of their thoughts and feelings; this can help to outline any challenges you are facing and work on ideas for overcoming them. Write down things that have worked well, and things that have not worked so well, and any thoughts that arise as you are studying. You can then come back to this or use your notes to start a discussion with others.
- Associate your feelings: When you are visualising something it can help to think about the feelings that you associate with the situation or scenario. You’ll likely want to do most of your visualising in private, but it can also help to talk to others on occasion too.
- Role play: You don’t necessarily need others to role play with! You can visualise your peers and colleagues with you in order to practice a procedure or process alone. One advantage of role playing alone is that you can control the behaviour of whomever you have visualised!
Create an effective learning environment by ensuring you have a comfortable and quiet place in which to study alone. Build up a network of peers that you can study with when you need interpersonal input, and ensure that you give yourself the time and space to log and analyse your study behaviours and feelings.
Digital Learning Tools vs. Physical Learning Tools
Learning has traditionally taken place within a bricks and mortar institution, i.e. a school, college, or university, using physical tools like textbooks, chalk boards, whiteboards, and pen and paper. However, the rapid expansion of the digital age has seen a shift begin to occur in education. An increasing number of teachers and students are supplementing traditional teaching and learning methods with digital tools.
What are the benefits of digital learning tools?
We have a strong belief that today's students should be well-prepared for the future, and digital tools can help ensure that they are prepared."
- Julie Evans, CEO at Project Tomorrow
Many students now feel that their learning experience should be personalised, and this can be achieved using digital tools that allow education to be untethered from physical constraints. A digitally-rich learning experience can enhance the classroom experience, as well as enabling students to carry on learning outside of the classroom.
Digital tools include everything from the use of the internet for research purposes, to watching online tutorial videos, and online-based learning forums. All of these things allow students to expand on what they have learned in class, and further develop their own knowledge and understanding of a subject in a way that is much more accessible and digestible for them.
What digital learning tools are available?
There are hundreds and thousands of different digital tools that can aid learning, but some are more popular and effective than others. Here are a few that are certainly worth looking into further:
- Kahoot! – A tool that allows users to create quizzes and questionnaires to test knowledge and aid learning in a game-like format.
- Skype – Video calling that enables remote learning; for example, students could have meetings with their dissertation tutor remotely.
- Google Knowledge Graph – An enhanced way of searching; it consists of short and accurate answers that save you from digging through search results.
- instaGrok – A search engine that generates videos, articles, imagery, and terms, helping students to conduct research effectively.
- Wolfram Alpha – Part encyclopaedia, part calculator; this tool allows students to access systemised knowledge in an easy-to-use way.
- Duolingo – A language-learning app that is useful for first time learners and those who want to brush up on their language skills.
- iTunes University – A free library of educational resources, including books, videos, lectures etc, that can be used on an iPhone/iPad running iOS 7 or higher.
- Plotly – Create and share graphs and charts in a user-friendly, web-based format.
- Prezi – Create interactive presentations and collaborate with peers on projects in real time.
- Quizlet – Create study tools like flashcards, quizzes, and games that can be accessed on desktop or mobile devices and shared with others.
- Cold Turkey – A tool that blocks out applications ad websites that can cause a sdistraction, helping you to remain focused.
- Focus Booster – Helps you to focus your time effectively by reminding you to take breaks regularly and monitoring how long you’ve been working for.
- RescueTime – Helps you to monitor what you spend your time on when you are using your computer, thus helping to analyse your productivity.
- SlugBooks – Compares prices of textbooks from different retailers to help you find the best prices for buying and renting textbooks.
How to Stay Motivated And Avoid Procrastination
How many times have you found yourself with an important deadline looming, yet instead of writing your essay you keep checking your emails and social media accounts, watching videos, or taking a BuzzFeed quiz to find out which Disney Princess you are?
Procrastination can come in several forms:
- Productive procrastination: All the small tasks on your to-do list suddenly become really important to you. You start ticking off all those little tasks, which makes you feel like you’re being really productive, but you’re still avoiding the one thing that you should be doing.
- Waiting for the perfect time: You keep putting off your essay because you’ve convinced yourself you can’t possibly start it until you’ve tidied your room, updated your laptop, been to the shops for the perfect essay snacks etc.
- Waiting for the pressure: Many people feel that they work best under pressure, so they leave things until the last minute as it’s the way they’re used to doing things.
Whatever type of procrastinator you are, let’s not procrastinate any longer, shall we? Without further ado, here are our top tips to help you stay motivated and get sh*t done!
- Break it down: People often procrastinate because the task seems too overwhelming. Aim to break it down into smaller, more manageable parts, and tackle them one at a time. If you still find that you’re procrastinating after breaking the task down, simply break it down even further, perhaps into 20 or 30 minute sections, which will seem much more doable.
- Make a timeline of deadlines: If you only have one deadline for the final project you’re more likely to procrastinate and put it off as long as possible. Instead, after breaking your work down set a deadline for each individual stage of the project. If you know you need to finish each part by a certain date you’ll be more likely to get it done.
- Change your environment: If you always do your work in the same environment and find yourself easily distracted, try changing things up a bit. Rather than trying to work in your room where it’s all too easy to lie down and watch TV etc, try going to the library to do your essay instead. The change of scenery will likely help you to focus on the task at hand.
- Get rid of distractions: Start by identifying what it is that distracts you and causes you to procrastinate, then do something about it. If you check your emails and social media too often try turning off push notifications, and put your phone on silent whilst you’re working.
- Clarify your goals: Often we procrastinate because we have lost sight of what we want our end goal to be. Re-clarify your goals and you should notice if there are any misalignments between what you’re aiming for and what you’re currently doing. This enables you to make the necessary changes to get back on track.
- Take regular breaks: People can often become distracted and begin to procrastinate if they’re not taking enough breaks away from their work. Take a break at least once an hour to step away from your computer, check your emails, grab a drink, get some fresh air for ten minutes. Regular breaks help you to maintain your energy and focus in the long run.
Identifying the learning style which you’re most comfortable and most productive at using is now much easier with this best practice guidebook. Whichever learning styles you prefer, familiarise yourself with the best practices and techniques for that style for successful and effective learning.