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This expert advice comes from Janet Padgett, Ph.D., M.Ac.

Each person has their own unique learning style. Most people use a combination of styles in order to understand and integrate new materials. Some learning styles are listed below.

  • Visual - you need to see text, diagrams, flow charts, demonstrations.
  • Auditory - you need to hear, either to listen or to participate in discussions.
  • Tactile/Kinesthetic - you need to write, to touch, to do, to move, to build.
  • Reflective - you need to think through before doing.
  • Social - you prefer to study with other people.
  • Solitary - you prefer to study alone. 

If you are aware of what styles work best for you, then you can ask your instructors to add those kinds of materials to their classes (where possible) and you can alter your study habits to compensate for the lack of these styles in any classes you attend. For example, if you are a visual learner and you attend a class where the instructor merely speaks, then you might ask the instructor to write on the board or use overheads. In addition to taking notes during the class, you might later use colors to highlight important points and make charts or diagrams that summarize your notes. If you are an auditory learner, you could make audio recordings of your lectures to listen to later, or read some of your notes or textbooks out loud. In this way you can combine visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning.

For the majority of people, approaching a subject from several angles, and repetition of the material, leads to the greatest understanding and retention of new ideas. For instance, listening to a lecture, taking notes, making summary diagrams with colors, and discussing the homework with your classmates utilizes visual, auditory, kinesthetic, reflective, and social learning styles.


About the author: Janet received a doctorate in biophysics at John Hopkins University, a B.S. in Physics at the University of Virginia, and worked for 15 years as a Life Sciences Editor at Cambridge Scientific Abstracts. She currently teaches at the Tia Sophia Institute for the Healing Arts.