America’s university population is both culturally and generationally diverse. Each student has his or her own unique approach and style of learning. These differences may not always mesh with the conventional educational methods practiced at the collegiate level. As the demographics of the collegiate population continue to change, academic institutions nationwide have responded to this challenge with an increase in multimodal educational interventions. The VARK learning assessment tool is used globally as an instrument for students and educators to gauge the strengths and weaknesses of their personal learning strategies.
This essay is focused on learning styles and the outcome of the VARK learning assessment for the author. Dr. Malcom Knowles stated that adult learning is “self centered”. Adult learners are self-directed and learn best when directly involved in the education process as opposed to being subjected to the traditional lecture forum. Adults are motivated to learn when the subject matter is relevant to them and can be applied to personal experiences. When treated as an equal, adult learners are more receptive to their educators (Marcy 2001).
Learning styles can be defined as a preferred mode(s) an individual uses to gain knowledge. Dr. David A. Sousa an international consultant in educational neuroscience, identified three learning styles predominate in most classrooms. The first identified learning style is auditory. Pupils learn best by hearing the information. These students excel in the traditional lecture hall setting; tape reorders and discussion are also popular educational aides with this group. The second learning style is visual. Visual learners absorb information best by the use of symbols, bright colors, charts, graphs, and diagrams.
Like Dr. Temple Grandin, an animal scientist with autism, visual learners see abstract concepts in terms of pictures (Dabb, Zapalska 2002, VARK 2012). Lastly, kinesthetic learners are “hands on” students. This group learns best by moving, touching, and using the application of real experiences. Field trips, laboratories, tutorials, and exhibits are often a more beneficial setting for this group, as opposed to a traditional classroom. Kinesthetic type learners often struggle at the collegiate level because most educational programs are not geared toward this learning style.
Statistically speaking, the kinesthetic learning style is more prevalent in men, as well as the nursing, medical, and dentistry professions (Bernardes, Hanna 2009; Dabb, Zapalska 2002; VARK 2012). Neil Fleming, educational developer, teacher, and founder of VARK, further developed this theory by adding the read and write modality. (Bernardes, Hanna 2009). Read and write style learners work most efficiently by making lists, taking exact notes, reading textbooks, consulting dictionaries and glossaries. Many educators have a significant preference for this particular modality (VARK 2012).
The results of the VARK learning preference analysis revealed the author to be partial to a singular modality, the kinesthetic learning style. Her VARK learning assessment scores are V-0, A-3, R-4, K-9. Historically, the author has a propensity for the use of a “hands on” approach, incorporating flash cards, highlighting text, repetitive writing, demonstrations, examples and applications of abstract concepts as it applies to real life. The personal learning profile dictates that the author is resistant to other modes of learning, and is a slower learner because she learns by observations and experiences.
This approach takes more time, and often the learner must set aside several hours of study time in order to fully grasp what is expected of her (VARK 2012). Comparatively, a read and write score of four was too low of a score to be considered as a bi-modality asset, and was mildly suggestive of mediocre success at the collegiate level. Kinesthetic learners must ‘translate’ into the read and write mode. The author is in disagreement with this concept. She believes that the read and write mode is a dominant learning preference as well.
Current study techniques include note taking, ‘extra’ reading, and composing discussion question responses for class. A score of three in the aural category states a potential disadvantage for learning, especially at the university level as this technique is widely used in Western education. This result is less worrisome, because the author is involved in an online learning environment, which has little emphasis on the aural modality. A score of zero in the visual category carries a strong recommendation to avoid that mode of learning.
This analysis is also incorrect as the author utilizes underlining, highlighters, and symbols as learning aides when studying (VARK 2012). The VARK Personal Learning Profile concludes the author’s greatest weakness is visual learning. This is where study habits must be revised and changed to meet current academic needs. Grand Canyon University has an excellent interactive website with multiple tutorials for students, yet the online classroom primarily uses the read and write mode. The author will adjust accordingly using repetition, continued participation, and engaging fellow students with similar learning styles.
Efficient note taking techniques will be implemented along with diligent reading habits to avoid skimming and misinterpretation of material. In summation, the VARK Personal Learning Profile, while informative, was not intended for literal interpretation. The questionnaire has sixteen points and can be answered in variety of ways. Results differ with each individual, and even when retaken by the same individual at a different date. It provides guidelines and suggestions for academic learners to tap into a preferred style in order to be more successful.