What’s Your Learning Style?

Beth Pelosa, Animal Acupressure instructor (RMSAAM), and her willing subject, Jazzy, at the Longmont, Colorado campus.

by Sandi Martinez

During the process of learning, a student has different strengths and characteristics that define their overall learning experience, and the ways in which they process information.  Some students do well with written and spoken explanations, or tend to focus on facts, and data, while others are more comfortable with theories and mathematic models, and others’ strengths lie in the visual: pictures, diagrams, and schematics.  The learning styles below are generally referred to as the Felder-Silverman model used by engineering and science students; it has also been applied to a broad range of disciplines.  What is your learning style?  Click here to access the learning styles questionnaire!

The Active/Reflective learners: The Active learner tends to retain information best by doing something active with that information, while the Reflective learner’s response may be, “Let’s think about this first”.  They prefer to think about it in silence.  The Sensing/Intuitive learners: Sensing learners like learning facts, and how they connect to the real world, while Intuitive learners prefer discovering possibilities and relationships.  Visual/Verbal learners: Visual learners tend to remember best what they’re seeing, while Verbal learners glean more form words, both written and spoken.  Sequential/Global learners: Sequential learners grasp information in linear steps, each step follows logically from the previous one.  Global learners absorb material randomly, and ‘get the full picture’, but can’t explain how they are able to grasp ‘the big picture’.

Because everyone essentially learns using some, or most of all the above combined, here a few suggestions that might increase and improve your learning experience:

Active: While in a class/learning environment that allows no time for problem-solving activities, compensate for the lack of this experience by: in a group/individual environment, work with others to guess what might be asked on a test.  Find creative ways to ‘do’ something with the material.  Reflective: When there is not enough time to ‘think’ through a process, writing short summaries of the class notes or summarizing a lecture in your own words though time-consuming, may be very helpful

Sensing: If possible ask your instructor for specifics or examples of procedures/concepts and apply them in practice.  Intuitive: Because intuitors dislike repetition, and prefer innovation, ask your instructor (if possible) to interpret theories that link facts or find connections on your own.  Make time to read and thoroughly understand the question, before answering, and check your results.

Visual: Look for pictures, graphs, illustrations, photographs, etc. of the material being studied, that has been presented verbally.  Using colors in your notes with a highlighter to relate one topic to another will help keep your focus and stay on topic.  Verbal: Outline or write a summary of the material using your own words.  If in a group, hearing your classmates’ explanations will help you learn, and even more so when you are the one doing the explaining!

Sequential: If in a lecture where an instructor skips steps, you may want to ask him/her to fill those in if possible, or fill them in by accessing different resources.  If possible, outline the material in logical order.  Global: Realize that you need ‘the big picture’ of a subject/concept before you can master it.  Skim an entire chapter to get an overview.  Relate the subject to things you are familiar with, or ask the instructor to help you link the connections or look through references that will help you.

Resource Links:


http://www4.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/public/Learning_Styles.html (This site contains resources for a model of learning styles generally referred to as the Felder-Silverman model. The model was originally formulated by Dr. Felder in collaboration with Dr. Linda K. Silverman, an educational psychologist, for use by college instructors and students in engineering and the sciences.)