Working with Your Preferred Learning Style
5. Strategies for University Students
The Index of Learning Styles (Felder and Silverman) defines 4 dimensions, each with 2 categories. The following strategies can be combined across the components to make an individually tailored plan for you.
Use this icon key to help you quickly locate different styles within each domain:
Domain 1: Connecting with Information
Sensor or Intuitor
Domain 2: Grasping Sensory Input
Visual or Verbal Kinesthetic
Domain 3: Understanding Information
Activity based learners or Reflective learners
Domain 4: Patterns of Learning
Sequential learners or Global learners
1) How do you CONNECT with information? Grasping Material Component
Sensors learn best by.... dealing with facts, what is known, seeking clarity, describing what is seen. You like the "tangible reality" of what can be directly touched or observed, and like logic more than tradition, emotion or intuition.
Sensors could try to:
- seek or create structure in your personal and school life
- have clear expectations from the professor, and refer to learning objectives in the course outline
- be organized in each course
- use the ‘practise to theory' approach, ie. think about how details, applications and concepts are related
- look for the basic steps in a problem or concept
- break large projects into smaller units
- refer to examples of others' work, as a sample or model
- recognize that complex, abstract ideas may feel uncomfortable at first....persist! Connect facts and concepts to the "real world"
- ask questions to reduce the uncertainty or ambiguity in an abstract topic
- be aware that extra effort is needed to understand new, abstract concepts (for a "sensor", Bio will be easier than Physics or Philosophy!)
Intuitors learn best by...thinking about ideas, exploring the unknown, generating new possibilities, considering what isn't obvious, being independent. You like the "imagined possibilities", and enjoy working alone to foster your depth, originality and creativity..
Intuitors could try to:
- work from "theory to practice", so details and skills can also be learned
- learn about and practise working in groups...be patient with others who approach the world differently
- be aware of "time traps": activities that enhance your learning and understanding, but exceed the course objectives.
- reward yourself for completion of assigned work with time to explore new ideas
- practice verbalizing or explaining your thinking, until others understand
- develop the habit of checking your work, even if it's boring!
2) What SENSE do you prefer? Sensory Mode of Input Component
Visual learners learn best through...what you see- activities, demonstrations, graphs, charts, and the visual features of what you see (colour, pattern, or organization).
Visual learners could try to:
- build on natural preference for "a picture is worth 1000 words"
- use graphs, charts, diagrams, pictures to summarize information
- use mind-maps to plan essays, and summarize notes or texts
- use symbols, text boxes, and underlining in your notes to emphasize key concepts, etc
- use colour to distinguish one subject from another (blue binder, blue highlighter = biology, red= physics, etc.) or one topic from another in a course.
- prepare for class by reading web notes or skimming text: have a good idea of what will be lectured in class
- during lecture, create mental images of what professor is saying
- sit close enough to easily see all visual aids, and the professor
- try using a mind-map for note-taking in a lecture, or the Cornell note method that you can add colour or symbols to after class
- ask if other visual resources are available
- enhance your memory by verbalizing what you see in your mind, or in your visual aid...remember, you must be able to share your knowledge verbally with others.
Verbal learners learn best through...words - either spoken, heard, written, or read.
Verbal learners could try to:
- develop your ideas through talking and writing
- form a study group, and "teach" friends
- read the web notes or skim the text before class
- practice translating graphs and diagrams into words
- use the Cornell method of note-taking in lectures
- practice good listening skills during lectures and seminars
- participate in class discussions
- make clear notes of the process or desired behaviour to be learned, in lab or skill classes
- debrief with a friend after a lecture
- study using paraphrased and summarized notes (not memorized verbatim from the text)
- enhance your memory using rhymes, jingles, or listening to your own summary tapes
Kinesthetic learners, those who learn best through physical involvement while they are learning and with the material to be learned, often struggle with the sedentary and heavy verbal emphasis in instructional methods at university. Courses that are skill-based, such as athletics, fine arts, clinical skills and labs will mesh with this preferred learning style. Because this learning style is under represented at university, it is not the focus of the Index of Learning Style, but there is some overlap with the following dimension of Activity Based learning.
3) How do you come to UNDERSTAND information? Making Material Meaningful Component
Activity based learners learn best by...interacting with the material through activity: performing experiments, lab work, clinical rotation, group discussion, note-making, explaining concepts to friends. You like to "let's try and see" and discover as you go along.
Activity based learners could try to:
- maintain your interest in a topic by mentally engaging with it: allow time to think, read.
- study with others whom you can talk to or explain ideas to
- prepare for class by reading ahead, so you feel confident participating in discussions
- try to select some lab., seminar or production courses
- develop an intellectual relationship with the TA, an upper year student, or a friendly prof.
- practice the habit of "thinking before you speak" to develop critical thinking
- check out plans for research, design or projects with a reflective thinker to reduce potential problems
- internalize a methodical, careful approach to problem-solving in the maths and sciences
- integrate ideas or steps into a coherent whole before moving to a new topic
- enhance your memory by applying your knowledge...do something with it, either practically or by creating creative summary sheets like charts, diagrams, mind-maps
Reflective learners learn best by....thinking quietly by yourself, using objective logic, analyzing. You like to work it out in your head, first, before answering a question or perform a skill.
Reflective learners could try to:
- practice taking a risk in expressing less than perfectly formulated ideas
- break large topics or complex concepts into smaller steps; learn and share components as you resolve them, rather than feeling the need to complete the whole topic first
- ask yourself questions as you read or study, to engage your thinking
- summarize readings or lectures, in your own words
- use supplemental resources to understand topic better, if desired
- enhance your memory by using mind-maps to clarify associations and relationships
4) Are you linear and logical or an "end result" learner? PATTERN of Learning and Understanding Component
Sequential learners learn best by....following a step-by-step process, with logically connected steps. It may be difficult for you to associate information and to relate several concepts into an overview of a topic.
Sequential learners could try to:
- prepare for lectures by creating a lecture outline, based on web notes or text
- use the Cornell method of note-taking in class, and summarize notes afterwards
- re-do notes after class so they are orderly, if lecturer jumps from topic to topic.
- summarize whole picture, not just logical details
- associate details (steps, facts, etc.) to see inter-relationships, and over riding concepts, eg. using mind maps
- study by creating an outline of the material, relating this to the learning objectives, and then fill in the details
Global learners learn best by....exposing yourself to factual information but having the "mental space" to allow your mind to work in its own mysterious way. You typically understand the "big picture" without knowing details, steps, or connections, or may be able to solve abstract problems in math or physics but have difficulty explaining your thinking process.
Global learners could try to:
- read the learning objectives in each course outline, introduction to the lecture, lab. instruction etc to determine the goal of the activity.
- attempt to relate the learning objectives to what you have already learned on the topic
- when reading a text: read the outline, introduction and chapter summary before reading the chapter contents for detail. This will help provide an overview.
- prepare for class by reading web notes or skimming text to learn the general direction of the lecture
- tape record lectures if you loose detail in your notes, due to thinking on a point and loosing the flow
- after class, prepare notes that include details, as well as theories, concepts or innovative possibilities
- articulate verbally (on paper or to a friend) the logical steps to reaching a conclusion
- allow enough time to be immersed in a subject (with short breaks!), so your train of thought isn't interrupted
Next Part - 6. How can I Relate my Preferred Learning Style to Academic Activities?