Visual, auditory or kinesthetic learners – which learning style suits your child? Mya Newlands introduces strategies to help your child study.
“By using the senses, parents can help setup an environment conducive to learning, an environment where an unhappy task can become fun and fulfilling.” Priscilla J. Dunstan.
During the 1970s, individualised and student-centered learning theories began to surface due to increased research in the field of educational psychology. In 1983, the developmental psychologist Howard Gardner devised the theory of multiple intelligences. Gardner’s research found that when learning tasks are matched with a student’s learning style or intelligence they show higher levels of engagement, greater levels of motivation and achieve more academically. Gardner identified eight separate intelligences that each person possesses: musical-rhythmic, visual-spatial, verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic.
There is much debate about the pedagogy of learning styles, including the argument that some complex concepts require more than one type of delivery for understanding. Although the theory of learning styles and multiple intelligences may have some flaws, it can still be a useful approach for parents who are seeking ways to help their child with learning.
In this article we provide strategies relating to three main learning styles: visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Think of these ideas and strategies as tools, or a bag of ‘goodies’ to pick and choose from during teachable moments at home. After all, understanding how a child learns can provide a better experience for all. Parents can involve their children by asking them to pick and choose which tips appeal to them.
Different Styles of Learning
Visual Learners are often gifted with a strong imagination and an interest in art. They benefit from seeing information on a chalkboard or in an illustration and may grow impatient listening for long periods of me. Telling these learners how to do something may not make sense to them at all – they need to see it. Allow them the freedom to tidy up before they sit down, and be patient when each assignment needs to be redone because it doesn’t look neat enough
Strategies for visual learners include:
- Using flash cards
- Studying charts, tables, and maps
- Drawing illustrations, remembering visual details, doodling while listening
- Needing to have paper and pens handy
- Writing things down and reviewing notes
- Highlighting and underlining
- Colour‐coding information
Auditory learners show aptitude in music. They are typically good at absorbing information from spoken words. Auditory learners may look like they are not paying attention when you talk to them, but their listening skills are more developed than their visual skills.
Strategies that work well for auditory learners include:
- Paraphrasing what they are learning
- Reading important information aloud, perhaps recording it and playing it back
- Reading a book and listening to the audio book at the same time
- Using word associations
- Singing information to a tune and singing it to help remember it
- Limiting distracting noises
Kinesthetic learners are physical and often show aptitude in sport. They prefer to be active while studying and may not be able to focus while sitting still. These types of learners can be misdiagnosed as being ADHD or troublemakers because the more traditional visual or auditory learning styles just don’t work for them.
Strategies for kinesthetic learners include:
- Reading aloud and tracking words on a page with a finger
- Writing things down multiple times to commit them to memory
- Highlighting and underlining
- Playing with a stress ball or toy while studying
- Moving around or taking frequent breaks, stand writing, role playing
- Doing hands‐on activities, such as building models or playing games
- Allow moving around while listening or talking
- Tactile things to touch in order to learn about them
Resources on learning styles and multiple intelligences are available online, including checklists to help identify which learning style your child is most likely to respond to. Despite the fact that most of these checklists are fun rather than scientific, they can still be useful.
Sample questions to identify learning styles
If I have to learn how to do something, I learn best when I:
Visual learner – Watch someone show me how.
Auditory – Hear someone tell me how.
Kinesthetic – Try to do it myself.
When I read I often find that…
Visual learner – Visualise what I’m reading in my mind’s eye.
Auditory – Read out loud or hear the words inside my head.
Kinesthetic – Fidget and try to “feel” the content
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This article was updated in September 2021.