By the time most students reach college they likely have some idea of how they prefer to take in information. It’s not always possible to present material in a way that everyone prefers, but the technological advances of the last 25 years have made it possible for students to adapt and make the most of their educational opportunities. Look into your college library and you are likely to find all kinds of students, with a variety of learning styles, studying in a variety of ways.
- Visual learners. These learners prefer graphic representations to understand information. You may find these students studying all the graphs and maps they can find and they may use illustrations to help remember course material. Their class presentations are likely accompanied by an infographic.
- Auditory learners. These students like information they can hear or speak. They can often be spotted with their headphones on since a little background noise helps them focus and retain information. Or they may be in a separate room or area of the library where they can talk out ideas either to themselves with their study buddies. They prefer listening to a lecture instead of taking notes.
- Reading/Writing learners. Many of these students are regulars at the library. They prefer to read books and articles about what they’re studying. They excel at essays and are the people their classmates turn to when they’ve missed some notes from class.
- Kinesthetic learners. Students with this learning style like to learn by doing, experiencing, and touching. These students probably aren’t too happy about being in the library in the first place, since it is more difficult to accommodate their learning style there. But you may see them taking a virtual tour of a museum or historical site or in a separate room working on a presentation or coming up with their next experiment. You might also find them walking around on a study break to help them focus.
Although these preferences are mainly about how students prefer to get information and communicate, other factors come into play as well, and many students use a combination of these learning styles. A student’s skills and abilities will influence how they learn best. Some students prefer to study alone, others in groups. Certain majors and course work may lend themselves to being presented one way over another. While a student may prefer information presented one way, it just might not fit well with the topic they’re studying. Imagine being a reading/writing learner and taking a beginning piano class. The reading/writing learner still wants and needs to learn the course material but they will probably need extra work or to adapt their usual study techniques to do so. And still, other students adopt one learning style over another out of necessity. For example, a hearing-impaired student would have trouble listening to a lecture and getting everything they need to know.
With such a wide variety of learners with all kinds of different skills and preferences, the ability to accommodate their learning styles and give students a variety of tools to understand and focus on the course material is essential to their success. No matter what their learning style, students want academic success and the opportunity to reach their goals, their way.