Tips for teaching college students with different learning styles

by Sining Kong
Ph.D. student, University of Florida

Sining Kong

Sining Kong

Learning style can be described as a set of factors, behaviors, and attitudes that facilitate learning for an individual in a given situation. It influences how students learn, how teachers teach and how the two interact with each other. The idea of learning styles usually refers to a preferred way of learning. It implied that each individual has a natural inclination toward learning, and if that preference can be identified, both teaching and learning experiences can be more effective.

Teachers can use VARK questionnaire to know students’ learning styles. According to VARK inventory, there are four types of learning styles: 

* Visual learners prefer to use pictures, images, diagrams, colors, and mind maps.
* Aural/Auditory learners prefer using sound, rhythms, music, recordings, clever rhymes, and so on.
* Reading and writing learners enjoy reading and taking notes, turn diagram and charts into words.
* Physical (Bodily-Kinesthetic) learners prefer to use their body to assist in their learning, such as drawing diagrams, using physical objects, or role playing.

Being aware of different learning styles helps teachers to be more flexible and effective in their teaching. Teachers should identify characteristics of different learners and match their teaching strategies to students’ preference.

Teaching strategies for different learners

Visual Learner:

  • Use visual cues, like graphs and maps, to help students memorize.
  • Encourage students build a model to demonstrate their understanding.
  • Teach students to use webs and maps to organize ideas to be used in writing assignments.

Aural Learner:

  • When presenting reading material to the class, have the material read aloud whenever possible. 
  • Read aloud any written directions, and have a student repeat or explain the directions. 
  • Musical jingles – make up a song to help remember information.  
    Story telling – have them retell a story in their own words.
  • Instead of writing answers down, allowed students to answer questions aurally.   
  • Group discussion 

Reading and Writing Learner:

  • Use bullet point lists to condense information into small, easily ingestible bits.
  • Turn diagrams and charts into words.
  • Use handouts to help students learn.

Kinesthetic Learner:

  • Frequent breaks.
  • Experimental learning (Making models, Role play & Gaming)
  • Use computer to reinforce learning through the sense of touch
  • Working with a study group, think of Jeopardy as ways to review information
  •  Flashcards can help students learn information, because students can touch and move them around

Preferred styles are not static, and skill development in non-preferred modes provides advantageous mental dexterity. Therefore, teachers should also help students build skills and capacities through their less preferred learning styles. Also, teachers should avoid use their own preferred learning style as the dominant teaching style.


Study Advice for Read & Write Learners

7 Major Learning Styles – Which One are You

How can different learning styles be addressed with consistent expectations?

Meeting the needs of visual spatial learners

Study Tips for Different Learning Styles


How to Teach to Different Learning Styles

Research summary-learning styles:

Sining Kong is a doctoral student in the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida and a student in Mass Communication Teaching (MMC 6930). The blog post is based on a teaching presentation she made in class.

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