Determining Your Learning Style

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Prominent social scientist Howard Gardner is well known for his pioneering work involving the identification and explanation of multiple intelligences (MI). Prior to this MI concept, human thought was typically assessed on a two-dimensional, high-low scale (IQ), which was based on conventional measures of intellect. However, Gardner theorized that people could possess acumen in many different areas, including a few that hadn’t been considered in previous appraisals of intelligence.


Gardner maintained that there were at least seven different categories of MI: visual/spatial, verbal/linguistic, logical/mathematical, bodily/kinesthetic, musical/rhythmic, interpersonal and intrapersonal/reflective. To illustrate, someone like Michael Jordan would be considered a bodily/kinesthetic genius, whereas William Shakespeare would be a wunderkind in the verbal/linguistic group. This is not to say that an individual can’t be good in more than one area. Perhaps Jordan could write a great sonnet if he tried. Maybe Shakespeare, were he alive today, would be playing on the English national team in the World Cup soccer tournament.


The point is that everyone has intellectual strengths in an area, and generally this leads to specialization in professional and personal endeavors. And just as people tend to be smart in different ways, so too do they prefer to learn in different ways. To be sure, their intellect will likely influence the method in which they favor learning about new skills or knowledge. A visual/spatial mind will probably be more inclined to respond to visual educational methods.


Figuring out what kind of learning works best for you is an important part of your educational development. Before you try to determine what that is, though, start out with the bigger picture of getting to know yourself. (This will probably come naturally to those who fall into the intrapersonal MI category.) Try to establish where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Also, consider taking a personality test like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to discover more about the kind of person you are. This introspection is a beneficial introduction not only for learning, but also for how you live your life, as it will help you further realize how you manage tasks, whether you prefer to work alone or in groups and so forth.


Once you sufficiently know yourself (if such a thing can, in fact, be accomplished), then you can undertake your quest for finding your learning style. Typically, these are divided into three very broad classifications: visual (see), auditory (hear) and kinetic/tactile (do/feel). A visual learner might respond best to an instructional video or demonstration, an auditory learner might prefer a traditional lecture or lesson on tape, and a kinetic/tactile learner might favor a lab or simulation.


It shouldn’t be hard to resolve what your learning style is if you don’t know it already. All you need to do is run a few mental exercises. First, think about how your memory works: What especially makes you remember an object, experience or thought? Is it appearance, sound, texture, a combination of these or something altogether different?


Also, consider how you concentrate on an activity and what distracts you from thinking about something or performing a task. Perhaps you keep glancing at a colorful picture on the wall. Maybe a noise in the other room is driving you crazy. Looking at people walking by outside through a window might be causing you to lose focus. You should also reflect on what sorts of things you like to read. Maybe you go for a magazine with big bright pictures on every page, or perhaps you like books in which there is a great deal of dialogue between characters. Or you might be partial to stories in which there’s a great deal of action.


The whole point of these evaluations is to determine what makes you remember something, what gets your attention and what entertains you. If these are overwhelmingly visual, auditory or kinetic, then it’s safe to say that you’ll respond best to training that has these characteristics. Of course, not everyone will fall neatly into one category, but this is hardly a disadvantage. By and large, when it comes to how you learn, the more versatile you are, the better.

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