Written By Paul C., Master Tutor & Major Giver for Enhanced Prep
VARK sounds like the noise a dog makes when it tries to bark with a mouth full of peanut butter, but it is actually an important acronym related to learning.
VARK represents 4 distinctive learning styles that all have their advantages and limitations. Having even a slight understanding of your specific learning style(s) can be very helpful, especially when focusing on individual learning and efficiency in communicating information to others.
The acronym VARK stands for the following:
V – Visual A – Aural (hearing) R – Reading and Writing K – Kinesthetic (doing)
Visual learners have the ability to focus on trends, patterns, and outliers to gain a better understanding of information.
Aural learners are able to take auditory information from lectures, conversations, and group discussions and turn it into meaningful learning opportunities.
Reading and Writing learners can be very independent at times due to their ability to understand information by breaking down text and gaining a clearer insight on topics.
Kinesthetic learners are often more hands on; for this group, the act of physically doing or seeing tasks provides the greatest learning experience.
Just knowing your learning style(s), however, is not enough; the real power comes into play when you learn how to use it to your advantage!
There are two parts to your VARK learning style: the first is how you learn and the second is how you organize and communicate information to others.
We all have had those times where we just can’t learn something, where no matter how long we look at it or or listen to a lesson about it, we are just unable to grasp the concept. This is a situation where knowing how you learn best can come into play.
For example, say you are a kinesthetic learner who missed a day in class and has to catch up with the material before your upcoming exam. You call your friend and ask for their notes, you jot them down word for word, and yet you still have no idea what any of it means. You might then visit your professor the next day to discuss the concept with you, but all the words might seem to go over your head.
What do you do?
As a kinesthetic learner, your strength lies in real world/hands-on approaches to learning. It may be good for you to draw out problems to improve learning, for example, and practice by trial and error. You might also wish to review videos online that show the application in action. This simple awareness of how you learn best can limit the stress of learning new material and improve the efficiency of the learning process itself.
VARK can also be very valuable when it comes to communicating information.
The most important job for a teacher is communicating information clearly and effectively to others; although this may seem like a simple task, there are many challenges that can arise, whether it is the time allocated to give a presentation, the complexity or simplicity of a concept, or having a room full of individuals who all have various levels of understanding and learning styles.
For example, even though I have various VARK learning styles, visual learning is my primary choice. I love identifying words of interest and finding patterns in order to discover answers, and oftentimes when teaching I encourage students to begin by zeroing in on what the question is asking; I do this by highlighting a question’s keywords, much as one might highlight a novel’s key plot points or character developments. This technique allows me to give a storyline to problems that some students can follow.
However, many students have different learning styles and I end up needing to vary how I teach, possibly by having the student read through material, draw out diagrams, or speak out the steps they are working through. When communicating, it is important to know your preferred style, but it is equally important to know the possible styles of your audience.
For students, consider the relationship between your specific learning style(s) and the way you communicate with friends, teachers, peers, and mentors, whether personally or academically. How does your learning style influence the way you give an in-class presentation? How might it impact the way you talk with your best friend about a specific conflict?
No matter your learning style(s), it is a good idea to determine both its strengths and weaknesses. How does this learning style help you? How might it hinder you? What can you do to harness its power and potential in school and outside of the classroom? Asking these questions can cultivate greater awareness about the way you learn, which can prove beneficial in high school, college, and beyond.
For more information about VARK, including a VARK questionnaire that can help you determine your learning styles and strategies, click here.