User:Reen.redrose/My Content on Adult Learning & Learning Styles

From WikiEducator
Jump to: navigation, search



In this block, we illustrate the importance of knowing about the different perceptual and learning styles that your learners will have and help you identify ways of integrating these concepts in your teaching environment.


By the end of this material, you should be able to do the following:

1. Explain the different perceptual styles, mainly Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic.
2. Explain the different learning styles, according to Kolb and Gardner.
3. Apply the perceptual and learning styles at the level of:
(i) Development of content/curriculum
(ii) Design of activities and assessment
(iii) Conducting tutorials
4. Adopt a more learner-centred approach in your teaching and learning environments.


Each individual has a different style of thinking doing things and he/she learns and processes information in his/her own way. In fact, the very word ‘style’ is commonly used to differentiate between individuals. Therefore, the appeal of the concept of Learning Styles  is that it creates a framework for dealing with individual characteristics and distinctiveness.

Prior knowledge of learners is taken into account in the learning environment, where learners integrate and reorganise information in view of creating new knowledge. The construction of knowledge is dynamic and will vary from learner to learner. Therefore, knowledge construction will differ from learner to learner.

Similarly, strategies and approaches to learning are dynamic and can easily be adapted to different situations and an effective instructor implies not only developing an awareness of the different existing learning styles but also devising strategies to cater for the different approaches to make learners learn best and evolve in a specific learning environment. However, there are probably as many ways of ‘teaching’ as is there of learning. 

The learning environment involves content delivery/development, activities, learning outcomes, and activities.Therefore, the challenge task of teachers would be to put at the disposal of learners, teaching and learning methods and strategies in the learning environment that cater for different perceptual and learning styles.

Thus, we are going to look at the learning and perceptual styles proposed by Kolb and Gardner and the application of these styles in the class/learning environment.



People respond differently in different learning situations mainly because they perceive differently using the sensory channels through which they give, receive, and store information. An individual’s primary learning style is his/her perceptual strength, the way he/she prefers to interact with information. The three widely recognised perceptual learning styles are labelled:

1. Auditory

Auditory learners also fall into two categories. Auditory learners prefer spoken messages. The more prevalent type, 'Listeners,' most likely did well in school. They remember things said to them and make the information their own. Conversely, those who need to 'talk it out' often find themselves talking to those around them. In a class setting when the instructor is not asking questions, auditory-verbal processors (talkers) tend to mutter comments to themselves.

2. Visual

Visual learners prefer seeing what they are learning. Pictures and images help them understand ideas and information better than explanations. A drawing may help more than a discussion about the same.

3. Kinesthetic

Kinesthetic learners want to sense the position and movement of what they are working on. Tactile learners want to touch. "Enough talking and looking," they may say. "Let's work with this stuff. Let's get our hands dirty already."

Therefore, we each learn and process information in different ways. There are many different ways of classify learning styles. These fall into general categories: perceptual modality, formation processing, and personality patterns. The categories represent ways to focus on the learner. We are going to look at the Perceptual styles of learning.

Perceptual modalities define biologically based reactions to our physical environment and represent the way we most efficiently adopt data. In other words, Perceptual learning styles are the means by which learners extract information from their surroundings through the use of their five senses. Individuals have different "pathways" or modes that are specific to them. We usually rely on those modes to process information at an unconscious level, but we may be consciously aware of which modes we prefer. We access through all senses, but generally favour one. We process visually (by sight), auditorally (by sound), kinesthetically (by moving), and tactilly (by touch).

We can sometimes sense the way people process by listening to the words they use to describe learning situations. For example, a visual learner may say, "I see your point." An auditory learner may instead say, "I hear what you're saying." And a kinesthetic learner may say, "I feel we're moving in the right direction."

What Makes Perceptual Styles a Different Way of Learning?

1. Print - refers to seeing printed or written words.
2. Aural - refers to listening.
3. Interactive - refers to verbalization.
4. Visual - refers to seeing visual depictions such as pictures and graphs.
5. Haptic - refers to the sense of touch or grasp.
6. Kinesthetic - refers to whole body movement.
7. Olfactory - refers to sense of smell and taste.

Therefore, auditory learners learn well in lecture settings; visual learners are more apt to gain knowledge from a power point presentation than from reading a text. However, these are only two out of the array of preferences found among intellectually capable people. When learning experiences are limited to these modes only, those learners who rely on other styles are bound to be less successful or at least, they are bound to find difficulties in their learning process since the learning environment and teaching method inhibit students whose preferred styles are not given the opportunity to be used. Sometimes, the attitudes of those learners are wrongly attributed to a lack of motivation.


Please attempt the free, interesting and interactive 'my personal learning style' inventory. You might be pleseantly surprised to find out more on your personal learning style! 

You can also take a perceptual modality test to know more about yourself!


People are not all alike. Our perceptions shape what we think, how we define and judge what is and what is not important and how we make decisions. Our individual perception also determines our natural learning strengths, or learning style. Since we are basically different, our approach to a particular task or situation will also differ. Each learner has his/her own unique learning strengths and weaknesses and it is vital for teachers to deliberately use a variety of methods to reach the students to enable them to make the most of their learning potential, in terms of efficiency, effectiveness and personal appreciation and dedication.

Students process information in different ways, according to their preferences be it by seeing and hearing, reasoning logically or analysing and visualising. Similarly teaching methods also vary. Some instructors give lectures, emphasise on understanding  and still other prefer to demonstrate or adopt problem-based learning that may to lead students to self-discovery.

But, when mismatches exist between learning styles of most students in a class (which might be very often the case) and the teaching style of the teacher, the students may not find the class interesting, become bored and inattentive. Consequently, they tend to do poorly in tests, get discouraged about the courses, and themselves.

We are going to refer to the David Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory and Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory to elaborate on the different learning styles.

We will first look at Kolb’s theory. The concept of experiential learning explores the cyclical pattern of learning from the four quadrants: from experience through reflection and conceptualisation to action and on to further experience.

1. Kolb

Kolb’s Learning Style Model categorises learners on two continuums:

1. Concrete and abstract perceivers - Concrete perceivers absorb information through direct experience, by doing, acting, sensing, and feeling; using their concrete ability to deal with the obvious. Abstract perceivers, however, take in information through analysis, observation, and thinking; using their intuition and imagination.

2. Active and reflective processors - Active processors make sense of an experience by immediately using the new information. Reflective processors make sense of an experience by reflecting on and thinking about it.

Thus, there are four learning dimensions in this model:
a) Concrete experience - learning from specific experiences, relating to people, and sensitivity to feelings and people
b) Reflective observation - careful observation before making a judgement, viewing things from different perspectives, and looking for the meaning of things
c) Abstract conceptualisation - Logical analysis of ideas, systematic planning, acting on intellectual understanding of a situation.
d) Active experimentation - ability to get things done, risk taking, influence people and events through action.

This theory even goes further to suggest that learning in the best way is to cycle through all four styles in order to fully understand a topic. It may seem an over simplification but it, in fact, suggests that the learners can start wherever they are on the two spectrums and then systematically work their way through the other three modes of learning.

For instance a person who is concrete/reflective can wonder what will happen if he/she tries to do some particular action with regard to the information being presented. He/she can try it and then observe carefully what the concrete results are. He/she can then reflect on these results, thinking about the practical and abstract implications. Based on the new information gained they can then construct a next experimental action.

The comprehensive diagram of Kolb model will definitely help visual people to better the concepts!

2. Gardner

Another theory that seeks to explain the differences of human perceptions and understanding is, Multiple Intelligences. Howard Gardner has developed this theory of human intelligence; a theory that suggests there are at least seven ways that people have of perceiving and understanding the world. Gardner labels each of these ways a distinct "intelligence".

Gardner identifies the seven original intelligences as follows:

1. Verbal-Linguistic - The ability to use words and language. This intelligence is used in listening, speaking, reading and writing.

2. Logical-Mathematical - The capacity for inductive and deductive thinking and reasoning, as well as the use of numbers and the recognition of abstract patterns. People high in this intelligence find it easier to recognise patterns, work with geometric shapes and make connections between pieces of information.

3. Visual-Spatial - The ability to visualise objects and spatial dimensions, and create internal images and pictures. People high in this intelligence are good with visual arts, navigation, architecture and games such as chess.

4. Body-Kinesthetic - The wisdom of the body and the ability to control physical motion. People high in this intelligence are good at expressing themselves with body language.

5. Musical-Rhythmic--The ability to recognise tonal patterns and sounds, as well as sensitivity to rhythms and beats.

6. Interpersonal--The capacity for person-to-person communications and relationships as well as the ability to have empathy for other people’s feelings and beliefs. Chat rooms, discussion forums and dialogue databases would probably better serve such learners.

7. Intrapersonal--The spiritual, inner states of being, self-reflection, and awareness. Intrapersonal intelligence allows us to tap into our being-who we are, what feelings we have and why we are this way.  Such intelligence can lead to self-esteem, self-enhancement, and strength of character that can be used to solve internal problems.

By recognising distinct intelligences that give rise to specific skills and abilities, Gardner has indeed questioned the traditional definition of intelligence as being based on Intelligent Quotient that englobes solely linguistics and logical abilities.

Moving the teaching practices in a direction of MI theory aims at guiding teachers to develop diverse activities and assessments that cater for multiple ways of learning and knowing. Such a direction would also enable the students to have a better control on their own learning process by giving students the freedom of choosing the ways they  best learn and demonstrate their learning.

Consequently, being aware of the different ways in which students may demonstrate or express their understanding of material, teachers will be more apt to assess differently based on individual intellectual strengths and weaknesses. Students also are more likely to become more engaged and committed in learning as they are using learning modes that match their intelligence strengths and hence, they feel more comfortable and confident in their own capabilities and in their learning process.


You can take this Interactive Multiple Intelligence test  or Mutiple Intelligence Assessment to know what is your dominant intelligence.


How the Learning Styles Theory Impacts Education?

Being aware of the existence of the different and equally efficient ways of learning of the students can help the teachers and instructors design the course and deliver the content in such a way that it caters for students from the four kinds of learning styles. The following hyperlink can give a helpful indication on learning styles in curriculum, instruction and assessment.

To help students cope with their learning, it is important for them to identify their learning style. Once they have figured out the way they learn, they will need to use specific strategies to fit into their way of learning. For example, if one of your learners is a visual learner, you could suggest him/her to use a highlighter when reading a text book. The bright colour would appeal to his/her artistic sense and help him/her concentrate on the reading.

Click on the hyperlinks to have some more practical suggestions pertaining to each learning style: 
Visual Learners 
Auditory Learners
Tactile/Kinesthetic Learners


The process of thinking and learning need to be made an explicit part of classroom activities. Any learning activity provides the potential for process awareness. It is helpful to take a few minutes from a lesson for a discussion of the strategies students are using. You might ask students to gather in groups to discuss how they would approach a particular problem, say for example, a writing project. It gives students a chance to see how others are thinking, within the actual activity. They can then go back to work with a new set of insights that they can test and apply.

As students become aware of the strategies they use to learn, you can help them assess their own learning styles. If the environment is one of support, and students are not threatened with judgment or criticism, their own curiosity can be a powerful motivator. If, for example, a student has trouble remembering spoken instructions but can follow written directions, it can be an exciting revelation to discover that the visual system works better for some tasks than does the auditory system. With this information, you can help a student develop strategies which use the stronger systems and help strengthen the weaker ones by writing the instruction on board.

In teaching to whole classrooms, it is helpful for teachers to introduce information so it can be processed by the three modalities (i.e. hearing, seeing, and doing). Multimodal teaching can become an automatic process for teachers if they have an awareness of learning styles and differences that exist between students.

How Multiple Intelligences Impact Learning

The following hyperlinks can give a helpful indication on multiple intelligences in curriculum, instruction and assessment.


We are sometimes active and other times, reflective. our preference of one category may be strong, moderate or mild though a balance of the two is desirable. If we always act before reflecting we can jump into things prematurely and get into trouble. But, if we spend too much time reflecting we may end up procrastinating and may never get anything done at the right time.

Here are a few tips and some advises which you could give to your students:

How can active and reflective learners help themselves?

How can visual and verbal learners help themselves?

How can sensing and intuitive learners help themselves?


You can also have additional information and take online quiz for each of the aspect discussed above.

You can also download for free the Teaching Style Inventory which is a self-assessment instrument that can give an insight to your teaching methods