The VARK questionnaire allows students to understand which learning styles are more suitable for them. In this test, four strategies are presented: visual, aural, read/write, and kinesthetic strategies.
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The learning style most suitable for me is the multimodal one, i.e. it includes strategies from two different learning styles. To study successfully and efficiently, students who have a multimodal learning style need to combine different strategies (learn information in various forms via different tools). However, while some of the students might need a combination of strategies, others can easily rely on one of them (e.g. visual or aural).
My learning preference includes reading/writing and kinesthetic (10/10). People who use read/write and kinesthetic style prefer the printed word as a source of information, as well as pictures/personal experience to complete tasks.
While it is possible to assume that there are unimodal learners as well, it seems reasonable to argue that most of the students are multimodal, because it is difficult to engage one strategy to understand complex materials with qualitative and quantitative data. Read/write style implies that it is easier for a student to use books, notes, glossaries, and dictionaries to understand a new topic or gather information. For kinesthetic learners, personal experience counts. If it is impossible to rely on personal experience, kinesthetic learners can quickly switch to examples. Moreover, laboratories and field trips are also perfect learning tools for kinesthetic students, because mistakes there are rarely crucial, but there is enough experience to get familiar with the task.
Preferred Learning Strategies
There are several strategies that I find most effective:
- Writing down notes
- Reading these notes
- Empirical learning
- Reading/observing multiple examples
Writing down and reading notes are indeed the best learning strategies for reading/write learners; however, writing out words does not seem reasonable, as it is difficult to remember information that was simply written out but not read. Rewriting ideas into other words can also mislead a learner; this strategy can result in confusion and mistakes. Nevertheless, turning diagrams into other words is helpful because diagrams are more suitable for visual learners; read/write learners find it difficult to remember quantities and numbers expressed in the form of a diagram.
Writing lists is a helpful strategy as well, but it can be improved if combined with the kinesthetic strategy that focuses on examples. According to Fogg, Carlson-Sabelli, Carlson, and Giddens (2013), multimodal strategies are capable of improving students’ performance regardless of their preferred learning style. Putting abstract concepts into words and memorizing them is a dubious idea; however, it seems reasonable to use a case study to understand this concept or combine a picture with a written explanatory list.
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The suggestion to role-play the exam before the examination can also help understand how the student will act during it; moreover, if some of the learning materials that students have learned are assigned to specific periods during their answer, it can help structure information and evoke an associative array during the student’s answer.
Perceptions of Teaching and Learning
The learning styles of students are directly linked to their performance; a student can’t study efficiently if they and their teachers ignore their preferences and skills. As Kharb, Samanta, Jindal, and Singh (2013) discovered in their study, “61% [of students] exhibited multimodal learning style preferences, which indicated that they preferred multiple modes of information presentation” (p. 1091). Therefore, if teachers are aware of that, they will engage different kinds of materials to make it suitable for students with different learning styles. Moreover, this statement also indicates that providing information using a particular strategy is an obsolete approach; instead, these strategies should be combined.
As to medical students, it can also be said that due to the materials’ complexity different modes should be used. However, one should not expect a perfect and high-efficient approach to all students because all of them have different preferences that cannot be met by any teacher (Kharb et al., 2013). Instead, teachers should focus on the optimization of the lectures: for example, practicals and dissections are believed to be the most favored teaching methodologies (Kharb et al., 2013). At the same time, unmatched learning styles and modes can complicate the learning process.
From the learner’s perspective, awareness of one’s learning style can have an extremely positive impact on the learner’s performance. If the learner can adjust their preferred strategies to the learning process and materials, it will allow them to comprehend multiple sets of information more easily. Moreover, these strategies help reduce stress and anxiety during the study, which eventually can negatively influence the learner’s performance and ability to memorize materials. Adapting to teachers’ styles can be exhausting and inefficient (Shah, Ahmed, Shenoy, & Srikant, 2013). Learners should also remember that there is not any superior style that will help one put minimum effort and gain maximum knowledge; however, learning styles indeed can make studying more enjoyable and less stressful.
Fogg, L., Carlson-Sabelli, L., Carlson, K., & Giddens, J. (2013). The perceived benefits of a virtual community: Effects of learning style, race, ethnicity, and frequency of use on nursing students. Nursing Education Perspectives, 34(6), 390-394.
Kharb, P., Samanta, P. P., Jindal, M., & Singh, V. (2013). The learning styles and the preferred teaching-learning strategies of first-year medical students. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, 7(6), 1089-1092.
Shah, K., Ahmed, J., Shenoy, N., & Srikant, N. (2013). How different are students and their learning styles. International Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, 1(3), 212-215.