Learning Styles

by Margaret Stockwell
Posted on 1st May 2010

So how was school for you? Did you find lessons and subjects easy? Were there some subjects that you never seemed to 'get'? Why did you find some lessons easier than others?


  • That French lesson when you sat with eyes fixed on your desk dreading the teacher asking you to answer a question in an incomprehensible language that you'd only spent a whole 2 years trying to understand?
  • That History lesson when, even though you liked the teacher, you found yourself unable to keep your eyes open whilst listening to the reasons for the founding of the League of Nations?
  • When you were told how to perform an experiment in science and you just got it all in the wrong order and never could get any experiment to work?!

Do you know someone who:

  • Never ever reads the instructions before trying to put the new IKEA bookcase together?
  • Does not seem to understand an 'exploded diagram'?
  • Can hear a song just once and can then remember all the words?

We are all unique and have differing ways of learning, very often we do not appreciate 'how we learn' and neither do our teachers. This means that children can be studying a subject but either do not seem to understand or remember any of the lesson. The solution is to understand the best way that each child learns and make sure that the lesson contains the style that allows learning for each individual.

There is a model that suggests most people can be divided into one of three preferred styles of learning (and there is no right or wrong learning style). These styles are

  • Visual Learning Style

This person has a preference for seen or observed things, including pictures, diagrams, demonstrations, displays, handouts, films etc. People with this learning style will use such phrases such as 'show me', let's have a look at that' and will be best able to perform a new task after reading the instructions or watching someone else do it first. These are people who will work from lists and written directions or instructions.

  • Auditory Learning Style

This person has a preference for the transfer of information through listening; to the spoken word, to sounds and noises (of themselves or others). People with this learning style will use phrases such as 'tell me', let's talk it over' and will be the best able to perform a new task after listening to instructions from an expert. These are people who are happy being given spoken instructions over the telephone, and can remember all the words to songs that they hear!

  • Kinaesthetic Learning Style

This person has a preference for physical experience, touching, feeling, holding, doing, practical hands-on experiences. These people will use phrases such as 'let me try', 'how do you feel?' and will be best able to perform a new task by going ahead and trying it out, learning as they go. These are people who like to experiment, hands on and never look at instructions first.

As soon as children know their preferred style, then they will know how to make sure they can 'learn' each subject.

For the last few years I was Head of a School in Cheshire. During the first couple of weeks after a pupil started in Year 7, they were tested to ascertain their preferred learning style. The results were explained to the pupil, to their parents and to the teachers. Therefore each child knew the best way they were able to learn and could try and make sure that they used this information for each of their lessons. Their teachers also know how they should prepare the lessons to make sure each pupil within their class could achieve in that subject. This means that children are empowered to learn and gain confidence in their abilities so that they can achieve in both within lessons and in external examinations.

Using this knowledge any child in any situation (large school / home school) can improve their ability to understand and 'learn' a subject. This means that they should be able to see 'how' they learn and so begin to characterise their independent learning. This enables them, as they continue to higher and further education, where they receive less help and are expected to work more on their own, to knowledgably plan their own learning regime.

Understanding the learning style of a child should help parents to choose the method of education for their children. Parents who Home School can use the knowledge of learning styles to help choose a curriculum that is suitable for their child. Considering the many different Home School curricula and the way in which they can be taught, in the light of their child's learning style, will aid a decision. When considering a school education looking at different styles of teaching being used in the classroom will help a parent decide whether it is the correct place for their child.

Margaret Stockwell has been an educator for over 30 years. Most of that time teaching Science (GCSE) and Biology (A Level) in large comprehensive schools. For the last eight years she was Head of an Independent School, which caters for pupils from 3 months to 18 years. From September 2009 she has been Anchor Education, which aims to provide quality educational services for Africa and the Middle East.