VARK Learning Styles

By Nick, posted
Neil Fleming’s VARK model, established in 1987, is one of the most popular methods used to help learners to identify their preferred learning style and understand more about how people can learn best and retain information within a teaching setting. 
The acronym “VARK” stands for: 1. Visual learning (seeing) 2. Aural (speaking & listening) 3. Reading & writing and 4. Kinaesthetic (practical).  Fleming proposed the 4 different styles of learning and argued that each person has a preference to learn through one particular learning style. This theory is important for teachers as it recognises that everyone learns in different ways and by having a range of activities or approaches within your lessons, you can keep the attention of learners and the flow of the lesson-ultimately making your lessons interesting. A useful method to establish learners’ preferences is to use a VARK learning styles questionnaire. This scenario based quiz includes 16 questions investigating how the individual best learns. The questionnaire can be completed online following the VARK-learn website and is a particularly useful initial assessment activity when teaching a new class. Once the results from the questionnaire have been generated, the learner will find out which learning preference they belong to. Of course, a learner may have a blend of learning styles otherwise known as ‘multi-modal’. This is where the learner has two or more learning styles they are particularly strong with.

The below provides a breakdown of information on each of the styles and how best to cater for each learning preference. 

Visual Learners

A visual learner is someone who prefers charts, illustrations, graphs and diagrams to understand the teaching topic. They are often seen highlighting or underlining key words within a textbook or handout to retain the information being taught. Within a lesson, visual learners enjoy looking at photos or pictures and often find this can also help with memorising for an examination or test.  When teaching a class of learners, it is important to note that visual learners can find too many verbal instructions a challenge to process and may become disengaged within an in-depth conversation. It is best to keep information concise and simple to understand. 

A visual learner would prefer activities which involve:

  • Watching YouTube videos, DVDs, documentaries and other educational shows.
  • Paper handouts with lots of images.
  • Observing practical demonstrations.
  • Colour-coded notes. 

Aural Learners

Aural learners enjoy talking and discussing topics on a regular basis. They relish debates and listening to verbal responses from group members. Aural learners are often conscientious in nature and will ask the teacher lots of questions for guidance and reassurance. Aural learners enjoy role play activities, peer to peer feedback opportunities and being on work experience placements in the community. It can be seen that often aural learners tend to lean towards hospitality and customer-focused careers.     
  • Aural learners are most comfortable within lectures or large classroom environments, where the tutor presents information. Can be easily distracted learners. 
  • Aural learners do have difficulty with written instructions- they prefer to discuss

An aural learner’s preferred activities involve:

  • Listening to podcasts, audio books or class recordings. 
  • Personal 1-1 teaching, where questions can be raised. 
  • Using mnemonics, listening to or creating songs about new content.
  • Classroom discussions and debates. 

Reading & Writing Learners

Reading and writing learners are those who enjoy taking the time out of a busy classroom environment to focus on reading instructions alone to process information. They tend to have a preference to study independently and dislike becoming distracted by other learners. This type of learning style will involve reading information and writing the key points or summarising with notes. These types of learners will enjoy researching, reviewing articles and analysing different points of view. 

Learners who enjoy a reading & writing style would enjoy the following activities: 

  • Writing notes in class and highlighting important details.
  • Creating presentations.
  • Story writing and creative writing. 
  • Research. 
  • Writing ordered lists. 

Kinaesthetic Learners

Kinaesthetic learning is a practical or ‘hands-on’ style of teaching and development. This type of learning style encompasses the physical sense of touch and learning through trial and error. Kinaesthetic learning is particularly useful for careers involving trades or using practical-based skills on a daily basis. 

It is important to recognise that this type of learner can become bored within a typical or traditional classroom and may prefer to be out of their seats involved within group work or a practical task.    Kinaesthetic learners do enjoy healthy competition within the classroom and will relish the opportunity to become involved within fun, interactive games or team based quizzes. 

Learners who enjoy a kinaesthetic approach to teaching will enjoy the following activities:

  • Using physical resources. 
  • Learning through movement. 
  • Active and practically based activities. 
  • Carrying out experiments. 

 Photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash

Share this article on social media

Related Articles