Learning Styles with Special Emphasis on the VARK Model

learning styles with vark model

Editor’s Note
Prof. Madhumita Bhattacharya, teaches Business Communications at Globsyn Business School – which has always been considered to be one of the best b schools in Kolkata. Prof. Bhattacharya has more than 20 years of experience across various premiere academic institutions of Eastern India, where she has held leadership positions. She has demonstrated ability in teaching as well as relevant academic administration. Her core areas of expertise include Business Communication, Interpersonal Skills, Professional Etiquette, Interview Skills, and Networking Strategies. She has been part of several industry-academia training programs, and has conducted workshops. Her teaching is marked by a blend of business acumen and psychological insights, which she leverages to enhance students’ understanding of effective communication in professional settings. Prof. Bhattacharya has proven expertise in Curriculum Design, Performance Evaluation & Mapping, and Training Needs Analysis (TNA). She has been part of various MDPs and FDPs, and is a joint recipient of Education Excellence Award by Times of India.

All of us are different and so are our learning styles. When we learn, our brain combines several methods to process information. These help us to gain knowledge effectively.

Effective learning happens when we use the learning style that suits us best. When we learn in our preferred learning style, we become more interested and engaged and are able to learn effortlessly.

Learning styles refer to a range of theories that aim to account for differences in individuals’ learning. Although there is ample evidence that individuals’ express personal preferences on how they prefer to receive information, few studies have found validity in using learning styles in education. It is widely used to describe how learners gather, sift through, interpret, organize, come to conclusions about, and “store” information for further use.

Another reason why this approach to learning styles is so widely accepted may be because they very loosely resemble the concept of ‘Metacognition’, i.e., the process of awareness about one’s thinking. One example of a metacognitive activity for educators may be to plan how to approach a task whether it be planning a piece of writing for research or a lesson. Metacognition helps students to transmit their knowledge and understanding across tasks and contexts, including reading comprehension, writing, mathematics, memorizing, reasoning, and problem-solving.

Amongst the most famous learning style models, Neil Fleming’s VARK model is a popular one. The VARK model refers to the four sensory modalities that describe different learning preferences. The model suggests that these modalities reflect how students learn best.

According to the VARK model, learners are identified by whether they have a preference for:

  • Visual Learning (pictures, movies, diagrams)
  • Auditory Learning (music, discussion, lectures)
  • Reading and Writing (making lists, reading textbooks, taking notes)
  • Kinesthetics Learning (movement, experiments, hands-on activities)

vark learning styles

The VARK Learning Styles

In order to identify the type of learner people are, Fleming developed a self-report inventory that posed a series of situations. Respondents select the answers that best match their preferred approach to learning.

Here to mention that, a self-report inventory is a type of psychological test often used to assess attitudes, characteristics, and other personality traits. Chances are good that you have taken a self-report inventory at some point in your life. Such questionnaires are often seen in doctors’ offices, in online personality tests, and in market research surveys. Even the fun quizzes you often see shared on Facebook are examples of self-report inventories.

Now, here comes the example of how a VARK model works.

Imagine that you want to learn a new language, let’s say Spanish. In which way would you learn this skill best, that defines your learning style?

For example:

  1. By watching any Spanish movie/series/documentaries etc. (Visual)
  2. By listening to an expert explain how to speak Spanish. (Auditory)
  3. By doing a course on Spanish. (Reading/Writing)
  4. By conversing with Spanish-speaking people. (Kinesthetics)

At Globsyn Business School, we expose our students to such a multi-modal learning ecosystem. Starting from complementing our lectures with visual aids like charts and diagrams, using audio-visual clips, incorporating spoken explanations through auditory media, encouraging writing exercises, engaging them in role plays, and simulations to inducting them to industries for internships, and involving them in CSR activities like Beyond Education.

Though the validity of the VARK model as well as other learning style theories has been questioned and criticized extensively, some critics have suggested that labelling students as having one specific learning style can actually be a hindrance to learning.

However, learning styles are an increasingly important area in education, affecting different aspects of the learning arena. They can predict how students might process information and solve learning problems differently even when engaged in the same learning environment.

 

Prof. Madhumita Bhattacharya
Faculty – Business Communications
Globsyn Business School