You know those lessons you learn in school that stay with you for years? Which ones have a profound impact on your daily life? The VARK model is all about teaching you what type of learner you are, which could be one of those a-ha moments that gives you a deeper understanding of yourself and is even profoundly life changing.
One of many models identifying learning styles, the VARK model identifies four main types: visual, auditory, reading and writing, and kinesthetic. Visual learners are better able to retain information they can see, such as graphs and charts. Auditory learners prefer to hear information. Reading and writing learners love worksheets and presentations. And kinesthetic learners like to engage all of their senses.
The idea is that knowing which style of learning you lean towards can help you adapt the teachings in order to better assimilate them. For example, as is the case with me, if you know you are learning to read and write, take more notes. Or if you’re an auditory learner, ask the teacher to explain a reading you might not understand.
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Although primarily used in the context of a simple learning situation, such as school or an online course, the VARK model can also be applied to the way you work, helping you to be a better worker.
“Understanding how you learn information means you’re able to work more effectively, build on your strengths, and communicate to others the best way to work,” says Mary Spillane, clinical psychologist and mental health expert at Headspace app.
“It also helps you identify areas of weakness or development, which means you can ask for additional support when needed or consider developing other areas.”
Jodi Paton, head of people and culture at Hoyts Group, notes that the VARK model should be interpreted loosely.
“How we learn also depends a lot on what we learn,” she says. “It’s also important to remember that no one size fits all, so be open to embracing different learning styles, as the most effective learning for you might use a combination of styles.”
Ahead, Spillane and Paton take a look at the best way to work, depending on your learning style.
person with visual memory
“Visual learning is often referred to as spatial learning, which means this type of learner usually has a good sense of direction and an awareness of the space around them,” Spillane says.
Visual learners could benefit from using flash cards, creating mind maps and visualizing Ted Talks, says Paton. “If you’re in a Teams or Zoom meeting, make sure your video is on and encourage others to do the same,” she says. “Seeing those talking will be more effective for you than just listening. If you’re in a physical meeting room, make sure you can see the person speaking.
If you’re primarily a visual learner, she also suggests using different highlight colors in your notes to ensure you have a visual representation of your priorities or key actions from a meeting.
In addition to listening and speaking, auditory learners will benefit from group discussions and brainstorming, verbal rehearsals, and mnemonic devices, which are essentially memory shortcuts.
“Summarize what you’ve learned from a meeting or discussion by repeating key points to a colleague,” says Paton. “Sometimes hearing your own voice repeat something can be helpful.”
Paton also suggests recording a Teams or Zoom meeting so you can refer back to it, using Audible, if the material is available there, and creating an example or story that you can relate to what you learn.
Learned to read and write
“This type of learner is quite adept at expressing themselves using spoken language,” says Spillane. “They often have an extensive vocabulary and like to use different and new words.”
Spillane suggests that they of course use reading and writing to work, but also acronyms, puns or rhymes, which can help them memorize information. Paton adds that they should take detailed notes and rewrite them if the information is still not kept.
“At the end of each meeting, summarize and write down the key points of what you said,” she says.
Finally, kinesthetic learners learn by doing. These types of learners learn best by experiencing and practicing physical interactions and hands-on approaches.
“Get involved in projects that allow you to test new skills in a real-life scenario, but in a safe space, where you have the support of your project team,” says Paton.
She also suggests trying walking meetings, which let you move around while you talk through a new concept, allowing you to absorb your learning more effectively.
You can find out which style learner you are with the VARK questionnaire here.
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