We’ve all experienced it, ways in which we like to learn. We all have our own way of preparing for a test, a job interview, or a speech. Some of us prefer note cards, and some of us prefer listening to a recording or watching a video. While some of these methods may be more effective than others, it prevents us from becoming well-rounded. It forces us to see ourselves as only one type of learner. In reality, the human mind is pretty amazing. Trying different ways to learn something provides a more robust experience and could provide a better understanding of the material. The same is true for our kids. While children may have different learning preferences, forming the right habits and consistency around learning is the key. In this post we will discuss the different types of learning styles for children while debunking some myths about them and provide practical tips for incorporating different types of learning at home.

Types of learning styles: visual, auditory, reading, & kinesthetic

One popular model for understanding learning styles is the VARK model, which was developed in the early 90’s. This model identifies four learning styles: visual, auditory, read/write, and kinesthetic. Visual learners prefer to learn through seeing. They learn best through pictures, diagrams, and videos. Auditory learners prefer to learn through hearing. They learn best through lectures, discussions, and podcasts. Reading learners prefer to learn through reading. They learn best through books, articles, and writing. Kinesthetic learners prefer to learn through doing. They learn best through hands-on activities, experiments, and role-playing.

Debunking myths about learning styles

Experts aren’t sure how this concept spread, but some have suggested that it was an easy way to explain how every child is special, so every child must have a particular learning style. The danger with this is that we are programming our kids to believe they are only one type of learner and other methods just won’t work for them.

MYTH #1: teaching to a child's preferred learning style will improve their academic performance

There is mounting evidence suggesting people aren’t just one kind of learner. In a study conducted in 2018, hundreds of students took the VARK questionnaire to determine which type of learner they supposedly were. Study strategies were then suggested based on the type of learning style of each student. The results showed that not only did the students not study in the ways suggested (according to their learning style), but for those that did, they didn’t do any better on their tests.

In a separate paper in the Journal of Educational Psychology, no relationship was found between the study subjects learning-style preference (visual or auditory) and their performance on reading- or listening-comprehension tests. Interestingly, visual learners performed best on all kinds of tests. Based on this, it was recommended that teachers should stop trying to develop lessons for auditory learners since it may actually do more harm than good. Their reasoning was that since visual learners performed better on all tests, instead of trying to accommodate auditory learning styles they should be trying to strengthen their visual word skills.

In reality, it's important to provide a variety of learning experiences to help children learn in different ways.

MYTH #2: learning styles are fixed and cannot be changed.

It is true that everyone is not equally good at everything. People do have different abilities, but not learning styles. Instilling the idea that our children are just one type of learner puts them at a disservice. It’s not that something bad will happen by thinking in terms of learning styles, but there is no benefit either. At the end of the day, everyone can think in words, images, or sounds. Providing our kids with a toolbox of skills and styles will put them on the best path over the long term. If you think about it, most of the things we encounter in our daily lives are really only suited to one style or another. So, having a well-rounded skill set is important. Developing this well-rounded skill-set does require practice and consistency, which parents can help with.

The reality is learning styles can change over time, especially during adolescence. It's important to be open to different types of learning and provide various learning experiences for children.

Supporting your child's learning style at home

Parents can support their child's learning journey by playing to their child's learning style strengths. For example, multisensory learning involves using multiple senses to help children learn. This type of learning is important because it helps children remember information better. Children who use multiple senses to learn are more engaged and more likely to retain the information.

Technology can also play a role in different types of learning. For visual learners, technology such as videos and interactive diagrams can be helpful. For auditory learners, podcasts and online discussions can be useful. Technology such as virtual reality and simulations can be helpful for kinesthetic learners.

There are many ways to support your child's learning at home. Here are some tips:

  • Provide a quiet and comfortable space for homework and studying
  • Encourage your child to read and provide books and materials that match their interests
  • Incorporate hands-on activities into learning, such as cooking and gardening
  • Use technology in a way that enhances learning (read our guide on the best learning apps for kids)
  • Be supportive and encouraging

Now that you've covered the bases on your child's learning style, dive into our insightful post on the types of parenting styles. Which type are you?