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Why It's Important to Understand Your Learning Style

by Chloe Lee. |

There has been a lot of conversations lately revolving around learning, upskilling and reskilling. Although it is very important to have a teachable attitude and a heart that wants to constantly learn and improve, very little people talk about how to excel at learning. In primary and high school, I was not a very outstanding student. However, when I was in University, I began to excel – I realized that I was much better with assignments compared to exams, and did a lot better when I had the liberty to take notes the way I wanted to, I just had to discover what learning style worked for me.

We usually know our fashion styles, but why do we know so little about how we like to learn? There are hundreds of tips out there on how to learn better or be more efficient, but it will not be productive to adopt a pattern or habit that simply does not work for you.

There are seven common ways we prefer to learn, they are auditory and musical, visual and spatial, verbal, logical and mathematical, physical or kinaesthetic, social and interpersonal, lastly, solitary and intrapersonal. Identifying your learning style allows you to identify ways to manage your emotions better, can make you a more efficient learner and also a more productive worker. You can also apply this to your relationships – be it with your students, colleagues or subordinates – and identify clearer ways to engage or communicate with others. Click here to find out what your learning style is!

Auditory and musical learners

Those who pay attention to musical subjects and are particularly attentive towards tones and notes in music or speeches. Do you need music in order to focus, or enjoy white noises being played in the background to feel relaxed? These could be signs that you are more sensitive to auditory signals in the environment.

Personal applications:

Some practical ways to focus on your task is to tune in to your favourite playlist and explore different types of binaural beats. To learn best, try out podcasts or even recording yourself reiterating the information and replaying them for yourself. If you are feeling stressed, taking care of your mental headspace can be as easy as stepping out of a noisy room and tuning into a guided meditation.

Relational applications:

Want to show someone you appreciate them? Prepare them a playlist or voice-record your notes for your auditory-driven friend.

Visual and spatial learner

If you rely on visual elements like diagrams, colours, charts or interesting designs to catch your attention, you're probably a visual learner.

Personal applications:

Don’t be embarrassed about the colours you need to highlight your notes or to create a mind-map. There are plenty of online tools to help create more visually-interesting diagrams, such as Canva, freepik and flaticon. Whenever you're distressed or confused about a situation, try drawing it out and expressing yourself through your art.

Relational applications:

I have a friend who is an amazing illustrator and often draws during lectures. At first, I took it as a sign of disrespect and aloofness but eventually understood that she simply wouldn’t be able to concentrate unless she was drawing. As such, give visual/spatial learners the freedom to doodle, scribble or write.

Verbal learner

Also known as linguistic learners, you are one if you enjoy languages, reading or writing. You find it easy to remember the information you read and thoroughly understand.

Personal applications:

Create word games that make sense to you, such as using acronyms to remember information. There are many free courses available online–such as Coursera and Udemy–that you can truly benefit from as a verbal learner. Join webinars or conversations to discuss and understand subjects better. When feeling stressed, journaling can be extremely helpful!

Relational applications:

If you want to show some love, send over a handwritten note, or attempt a cute poem. It can be a simple “you got this!” encouragement on a sticky note to brighten their day.

Logical and mathematical learner

Being a pattern-oriented individual, you prefer to engage in a systematic or logical way. I have a friend who tried to evaluate his health in a cause-and-effect manner: if I am sick -> I eat medication -> I will recover in a day. Although this makes sense in theory, our bodies (and other aspects of life) do not necessarily conform to these straightforward patterns all the time.

Personal applications:

When it comes to learning, take time to write down your notes in a pattern that makes sense to you (especially because some lecturers aren’t the best at structuring their courses) and don’t be afraid to seek clarification when you need to. You can write, draw, prepare an excel sheet - whatever works for you. However, try to be flexible, because life doesn’t always happen the way we want or think it should. So, when you do come across stressful situations, it might be helpful to list down your experiences to identify triggers that caused stress, and begin to address them one by one.

Relational applications:

Be patient with those with a lot of questions – they are merely trying to untangle the knots in their brains. A lot of things in life doesn’t have a direct cause-and-effect relationship, and logical and mathematical learners might struggle with it, but just be a listening ear and help them see the bigger picture.

Physical or kinaesthetic learner

I feel like these learners probably struggled the most in our classroom-based learning, where students who are a bit more fidgety are labelled as “undisciplined” or “naughty”. However, this stigma should be removed because it’s simply a matter of preference.

Personal application:

Move it, move it! If you need to go for a run, build a robot, use a fidget spinner or test out an experiment to help yourself understand and retain information better, do it! If you're feeling a bit down, shake it off (literally) by exercising, joining a Zumba class or going on a roller coaster.

Relational application:

Not every student or individual who struggles to sit still has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) but just needs to let out some steam. If you see them struggling, offer to go for a walk with them, or get the class to join in some squats – which is also a fun way to engage them!

Social and interpersonal learner

This learning preference may be more suited to extroverts, where you enjoy group studies or need people around to help you focus or understand a subject better.

Personal application:

Organize group studies or brainstorming sessions where you can bounce off your thought processes with others. When in need of a little pick-me-up, just go to your besties and talk it out – let them know you need assurance and encouragement. But when you're done ranting and venting, listen to your friend's honest advice and refocus on your tasks.

Relational application:

Sometimes all you need to do is be a listening ear!

Solitary and intrapersonal learner

Contrary to social learners, you are probably on the other end of the spectrum and need your peace and quiet in order to study and learn.

Personal application:

Have a “do not disturb” sign for yourself! Put on your earphones even if you are not listening to anything so people are less likely to approach you. Hang out in the library, mute your phone and tell your friends where you will be (in case they freak out when they can’t reach out). When it comes to caring for your mental well-being, take a couple of days off to just be with yourself and internalize what is happening around you.

Relational application:

Give them the space they need to study on their own or recuperate from a tiring week. The best way to help is to simply leave them alone (and no need to freak out when you can’t seem to reach them, they are merely resting).

I had low self-esteem when I was younger because I thought I was unintelligent. Although it took some time, I finally realized that I could improve just by changing the way I learn and understand concepts. If you are struggling with your studies or find yourself inefficient as an employee, try switching approaches and see which works best for you! Don’t give up and don’t be discouraged, you are merely experiencing some road bumps.

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