7th September 2022
What Are VAK Learning Styles & What Do They Mean? | Engage
What are VAK learning styles and what do they mean?
What are the VAK learning styles?
A learning style is simply how a person learns and processes information best. VAK is an acronym of the three most common learning styles: visual, auditory and kinaesthetic. The VAK model of learning was designed by Walter Burke Barbe and later developed by Neil Fleming.
Visual learners: learn by seeing
Auditory learners: learn by hearing
Kinaesthetic learners: learn by moving
A pupil can understand and retain lessons more effectively by focusing on their dominant learning style (although many pupils will also learn with elements of the other two learning styles).
Let’s break down the different styles into more detail.
What is a visual learner?
Visual learners process information by seeing it, or by visualising it in their head. They tend to be:
- Those who appreciate, aesthetics, art and text
- Students who revise well for exams using flashcards, mind maps and colour coding
- Able to visualise complex ideas or images without an aid
- Easily distracted (by what is going on around them visually, such as working next to a window, or by their vivid imagination)
- Good at spelling
- People who like to use diagrams, maps, written notes, graphs and maps
- Those who struggle with verbal instructions alone
What is an auditory learner?
Auditory learners assimilate information, for the most part, by hearing it. They:
- Prefer to listen to recordings of lessons, rather than to take notes
- Follow verbal instructions easily
- Can be easily distracted by noise and voices
- Talk through concepts to fully understand them and to process information
- Often excel at public speaking
- Are very conscious of sound, including the pitch and tone of voice, as well as the rhythm
- Prefer to learn with background music on
- Do well in group discussions
What is a kinaesthetic learner?
Kinaesthetic learners mainly learn through movement. They:
- Problem-solve in a hands-on way
- Are good at sport
- Often enjoy dancing or performing arts
- Find overly abstract ideas difficult to understand
- Have a good sense of direction
- Like to draw or doodle to help learn a concept
- Gravitate towards practical subjects such as design and technology, home economics, PE and science
- Often fidget in the classroom
How has the VAK learning model developed?
Neil Fleming developed an expanded version of the VAK learning model, VARK, which includes four learning styles.
The additional ‘R’ is the fourth learning style: primarily learning through reading/writing. This is when someone prefers to learn by seeing the information displayed as words. This includes essays, manuals, reports — all the various forms of reading and writing. People who prefer this type of learning will also enjoy using dictionaries and the internet to process information. They enjoy making lists and taking notes as part of their everyday life.
Why are VAK learning styles important within education?
The VAK learning styles have been life-changing in the classroom for many. The model has helped students to learn to the best of their abilities and, importantly, to enjoy learning. It has helped teachers to plan their lessons to facilitate all the different learning styles so that all students have the same opportunity to learn.
For example, teachers can use visual aids such as PowerPoint, flip charts, hand-outs and objects, alongside note-taking, textbooks and audio. With the VAK model, teachers will also understand the importance of factoring in practical activities to aid understanding for kinesthetic learners (such as science experiments or practical demonstrations).
There has been criticism that in defining a child’s learning style, you’re restricting them by ‘putting them in a box’, but in fact many students learn in a variety of ways, and the VAK model acknowledges that. By showing a student their most dominant learning style, you can work to their strengths, while also incorporating other ways of learning to create a multifaceted educational environment for students.