Adapting teaching to Learning Styles – How I VARK my students.
When I was studying for my teaching qualification there was a lot of interest in ‘Learning Styles’ and a later development of the idea in Neil Fleming’s VARK model.
The model identifies learners as fitting in to one of four categories depending upon the way they prefer to learn – their ‘Learning Style’. These categories are Visual, Aural (Auditory), Read/Write and Kinaesthetic.
You can identify your own preferred style if you didn’t know it already and probably have noticed that some types of teaching appeal to you more than others. You’ll also have noticed that other people prefer different ways of learning. For me this means that there are four preferred methods of learning scattered around in every class I teach. Whichever style I adopt is therefore going to be really appreciated by some students and of less benefit to others.
Interestingly, despite the popularity of the idea of Learning Styles, there is no evidence that using one method only (your preferred method) gives better outcomes. That means you won’t do better if you are taught or self-study in only one way, even if it is your favourite.
Students benefit from mixed style presentations even though they may prefer to receive their material in one way.
As I’ve got a mix of students preferences in every class and you benefit from being exposed to more than your preferred style, I’ll mix the methods I use in teaching you.
So how do I ‘do it’ to you? How do I VARK you?
You prefer to learn through watching – you like to have a demonstration of how to do things.
I demonstrate examples of questions on the board in class, I provide worked examples on the website, I provide videos explaining topics and videos on topics related to management accounting on the website and Facebook page. Tons for you to watch.
You prefer to learn through listening – you like to hear things explained. If you are recording my classes, then you probably have an Auditory Learning Style.
I talk you through some questions getting you to complete as we go along rather than me writing on the board, I provide worked examples with audio explanation on the website, I provide recordings of some lectures on Moodle, I provide recordings of podcasts on relevant topics on the website and Facebook page. I will explain things more than one way, often using different terminology. You have tons to listen to.
If you do record my classes, come and see me at the end of class and I’ll upload it to the Moodle site so everyone can have access to it.
You prefer to learn through documents – you like to read explanations and make notes.
I provide you with handouts that we use in class, I provide you with seminar questions to attempt before you come to class and answers to lecture examples and seminar questions after the classes. I provide you with newspaper articles, journal articles and reports on related topics on the website and Facebook page. I tell you to look things up in the Library or online to get alternative ‘voices’ of explanation. You have tons to read.
You prefer to learn through doing – you like to do practice questions and solve problems to ensure that you understand. You probably also like showing your friends how to answer questions too.
If you do the question, you are doing kinaesthetic learning. I get you to do questions in class, from filling in the handouts to doing full questions that we have made up on the spot. I get some of you to come up to the board and demonstrate the answer. You will know if you have written on the board, that it gets you thinking differently about the problem and that’s not just because we are looking at you!
I get you to work together as that’s partly kinaesthetic too.
I get you to use your calculators, particularly for the more complicated techniques. Practice makes perfect, or at least means you are more likely to remember how to do something in an exam. If you have seen Karate Kid, this is ‘wax on, wax off’.
I teach you ‘step-by-step’ approaches to answering many problems. Although you are not actually moving about, the steps replicate the idea of movement and often help kinaesthetic learners particularly.
I provide you with past exam papers and answers to work through and I provide you with question banks that allow you to do hundreds of questions. This might look like Read/Write, but it’s actually Kinaesthetic if you do them rather than just look at them and kid yourself that’s the answer you would have given!
You’ve got tons to do.
So, you’ll find me doing a variety of things in my lectures and seminars, I’ll probably use all four approaches in most classes.
This does mean that we don’t always do every seminar question every time, but why should that matter? It just gives you more practice questions for which you have the answer. What matters is that you get an understanding of the techniques so that you can do more questions; what matters is that you understand why we are doing something in the first place. (It’s not to pass exams, it’s to be a business person!)
It would be much easier for me to read to you from PowerPoint slides (I suppose that would be Visual and Auditory), but it really isn’t in your best interest.
I know I prefer to learn by reading, and I am sure you have your own. If you want to, you can identify your own category by taking a short questionnaire at http://vark-learn.com/the-vark-questionnaire.
- Colfield, F., Moseley, D., Hall, E., Ecclestone, K (2004) Learning Styles and Pedagogy in Post-16 Learning. A systematic and Critical Review.
- Fleming, N. D. (2001) Teaching and learning Styles: VARK Strategies.