VARK Learning Styles, What Are They?

Today, we'll discuss VARK learning styles. This is a useful tool to classify different ways of accessing knowledge and improve teaching-learning processes.
VARK Learning Styles, What Are They?

Last update: 17 July, 2021

Can you imagine if students could know and communicate how and in what way it’s easier for them to learn faster and better, and how useful this could be for educators? Well, an instrument such as VARK (visual, aural, read/write, kinesthetic) learning styles has precisely this objective. More specifically, to determine each student’s preferred way of grasping, remembering, processing, and learning content or information.

What are the VARK learning styles?

Neil Fleming and Colleen Mills are professors at the Lincoln University, in New Zealand. They developed a project to determine people’s sensory modality predilections when learning.

The creators started from the premise that when a person receives information, it passes through the senses. From there, the brain can select, process, retain, ignore or eliminate this information.

So, the name VARK is composed of the first letter of each of the four sensory modalities for capturing information. Specifically, sight (visual), auditory (aural), reading and writing (read/write), and the use of the body in general (kinesthetic).

Students in class working in groups thanks to VARK learning styles.

  • Visual: preference for graphic and symbolic forms as a way of representing content.
  • Aural: listening is the best channel for capturing and learning information.
  • Read/write: students prefer printed information, in the form of words and sentences.
  • Kinesthetic: the perceptual is conditioned by the use of experience and practice, real or simulated, as a way of understanding content.

Students’ learning preferences according to their learning style

So, the VARK instrument makes it possible to classify students according to their learning style; how they capture and process information, and to analyze how they learn faster and in what conditions. And it does so by taking into account which perceptual channel is mostly used by each student to register information.

The model establishes, according to each sensory modality, the different preferences of students:

  • Visual: students who understand better with charts, diagrams, schemes, graphs, drawings, projections, concept maps, videos, and images.
  • Readers and writers: students who prioritize books, texts, written summaries, essays, notes, and bibliographies for their studies.
  • Auditory: students who prefer information in the form of audio, debates, discussions, conversations, seminars, and summaries.
  • Kinesthetic: students who better understand theoretical concepts from praxis, such as physical activity and sports, role-playing, and dramatizations. Or laboratories and demonstrations.

Advantages of determining learning styles according to the VARK approach

VARK, by determining the learning styles of students, makes it possible to improve training processes at all levels of education. Mainly, because it helps personalize teaching proposals, and considers preferences in sensory modalities as concrete learning needs.

So, VARK has advantages and benefits for both the student and the teacher:

  • For the students, because it allows them to identify their own learning style, according to their preferences and sensory ease to internalize the contents.
  • For the teachers, because they can adapt the teaching proposals to the learning style of each student, and consequently optimize teaching processes and achieve more significant learning.
Students working in class using the puzzle technique.

Conclusions regarding VARK learning styles

It’s worth mentioning that not all students learn using a single sensory representation system, but rather, in most cases, students make use of a combination of sensory modalities.

Therefore, it’s important that teachers are able to combine different methodological strategies consistent with all learning styles. They should try to satisfy the diversity of their students’ ways of learning, in terms of the perceptual channel of access to academic content.

This way, educators could improve the academic performance of their students, by increasing their students’ motivation, participation, and engagement with their own learning processes and styles.

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