There are three distinct cognitive learning styles: 1) Visual: learning by seeing; 2) Auditory: learning by hearing; and 3) Kinetic: learning by doing. Nearly everyone gravitates towards one of these styles and few are experts at all three. The first step is to discover your preferred learning style. Accomplishing this should be fairly straightforward. Think about a time when you learned a new skill and it became truly ingrained in your mind.
Can you picture the instructor’s hand motions or facial expressions? -Visual
Were you focused mostly on the instructor’s voice? -Auditory
Were you shown an example and then able to successfully demonstrate it yourself? -Kinetic
If you still aren’t sure, here are a few resources to help discover your best learning style. Take a quiz or two, and then keep reading to figure out how to capitalize on your preferred learning style.
Maximizing Visual Learning
- During lectures, sit near the front of the class and away from potential distractions such as windows.
- Be sure to take advantage of any visual aids used by an instructor. For example, focus on a teacher’s slides or notes on the board. Without seeing the words, you will struggle to absorb information.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for a copy of an outline before or even after a lesson.
- Make flow charts, diagrams, or semantic webs instead of standard, numbered outlines.
- Color code different subjects or key aspects of the information you are trying to learn. Your mind naturally wants to associate information with visual cues, and colors facilitate those associations.
- When taking notes, try to use arrows, pictures, or shapes, whenever possible, to represent textual information.
Maximizing Auditory Learning
- Try to minimize background noise. Find a quiet place while studying. Do not study in coffee shops or areas where people are constantly making noise and moving around. Listening to music is ok, but avoid anything with lyrics.
- In a lecture, sit somewhere where you can clearly hear your instructor. Straining to hear will hinder your ability to absorb the information.
- Record a lecture to replay later. The more you can listen to the course material, the better.
- Repeat information to yourself silently when in the classroom. When studying, recite your notes and any textual information aloud.
- Study with a friend and discuss information together.
- Turn course material into songs and rhymes; recite them to yourself out loud.
Maximizing Kinetic Learning
- Be an active learner and ask questions. Engage in conversation with your professors and classmates.
- Have an object that you can play with while in class. Clicking a pen or holding a tennis ball are just a couple of examples. You can also lightly tap your foot on ground; anything to stay active while not distracting classmates.
- Whenever possible, take a break, get up, stretch, and move around. Sitting still for too long will inevitably distract you.
- Make reading as movement oriented as possible. Take notes, highlight the material, follow the words with your fingers, or draw in the margins.
- When trying to study, carry your notes with you and move around your room.
- Associate movement with learning. Act out situations and use objects to represent chains of events or show relationships between concepts.
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