With an increasing focus on harnessing individual strengths in the workplace (think Myers-Briggs or VIA Character Strengths), attention is now being turned towards differentiated learning to cater to individual learning preferences. The VARK (Visual, Auditory, Read/Write and Kinaesthetic) model of learning styles was popularised by Fleming and Mills back in the early 1990s, and while it has been almost universally embraced by teachers in primary and secondary settings, it has only recently gained traction in the corporate world.1
In our digital age of visual communication, it’s unsurprising to learn that at least 65 percent of us can be categorised as visual learners. As education consultant Lynell Burmark points out, for visual learners, ‘unless our words, concepts, ideas are hooked onto an image, they will go in one ear, sail through the brain, and go out the other ear.’2 EdApp templates such as Image Gallery and games such as Image Pair make ideal visual learning strategies for more effectively conveying content.
Auditory (or aural) learners learn best through listening, reading and vocabulary building. With this in mind, it is important to provide opportunities for auditory learners to listen to information and verbalise their understandings. Adding text or narration to images is particularly important when designing material for auditory learners.
Kinesthetic (also commonly referred to as tactile) learners have a ‘hands on’ style of learning that is often associated with some form of movement.3 Kinesthetic learners respond well to an experiential model of learning, or ‘learning by doing’; this might take the form of peer-teaching, problem-solving, or applying past experiences to new learnings. In face-to-face situations, tactile learning strategies might include building activities (e.g. Lego’s Serious Play) or role-playing. In the digital context, online mobile learning that is interactive, gamified and done in micro bursts can be an ideal way to engage kinaesthetic learners and boost retention. EdApp’s library of games such as ‘Swipe it Right,’ simulations, and drag and drop interactions are ideal kinesthetic learning strategies.
|Visual learning strategies||Aural learning strategies||Kinesthetic learning strategies|
|Flowcharts||Podcasts and audiobooks||Competitions|
|Graphic organisers||Songs or rhyme||Peer-to-peer teaching|
|Visualisations||Peer-to-peer teaching||Notetaking templates|
|Image associations||Captions or subtitles||Flashcards|
|Notetaking templates||Rephrasing||Real-world applications|
|Colour coded annotations||Use of background music||Problem-solving|
For most of us, we will easily be able to identify our preferred learning modalities, while also relating to characteristics of different styles. When looking at different strategies to employ, either as a student or teacher, having overlap is a positive thing. Similarly, there are many learning strategies that are applicable to multiple styles. For instance, auditory, visual and kinesthetic learners all benefit from video learning and the use of spaced repetition.
Collaborative Learning Strategies
The benefits of cooperative learning across different learning styles has long been heralded by educational theorists, and first pioneered in the 1970s by Albert Bandura, the pioneer of Social Learning Theory.4 According to educational academic Spencer Kagan, cooperative learning strategies should foster positive interdependence, individual accountability, equal participation, and simultaneous interaction.5 How do you do this? Take the time to clearly define and revisit individual roles and responsibilities, use rewards and recognition features (such as those on EdApp), and embrace interpersonal and group skills through social learning features.
One of the most effective ways to create ‘communities of interest’ (CoIs), whether that be in educational institutions or the workplace, is to embed peer assisted learning strategies into your program. Peer teaching can take place in the microlearning context both formally (via authoring tools) and informally (via shared forum content with like buttons and discussion threads). Not only does peer-assisted learning provide opportunities for exchanging and sharing knowledge between different teams across an organisation, effectively breaking down team silos, it is simply a more effective way to learn. In the words of Frank Oppenheimer, ‘the best way to learn is to teach.’
Vocabulary & Language Learning Strategies
There’s a reason why gamified mobile language learning apps such as Duolingo have taken the world by storm. Whether you want to one day read War and Peace in Russian (that would be me), or you are a Game of Thrones fan that simply wants to brush up on your High Valyrian, you have probably jumped on the language-app bandwagon, and for a good reason—if you stick at it, they work. Such apps make masterful use of language learning strategies with spaced repetition and contextualisation of vocabulary. If there was a magic recipe for language learning, it would be: do it often, put it in context, and make it fun (and therefore memorable).
How can we apply the wins of these language-learning apps to vocabulary and language reinforcement for the general learner in the world of microlearning? EdApp provides simple vocabulary learning strategies with their game templates such as Image Pair or Missing Word, and when it comes to contextualisation, the sentence construction authoring feature is a brilliant way to reinforce language learning such as key sales phrases. Wherever possible, try to tap into your inner comedian when creating content from these templates. Molly Ness from Fordham University’s Graduate School of Education notes that humorous world play has a significant impact on increased vocabulary recall.6 It turns out that joking around is one of most effective ‘brain hacks’ in your toolbox of vocabulary building strategies, and if you were taking a leaf out of the Duolingo book, the more absurd, the better.
Learning strategies for students
There’s no shortage of strategies that cater to multiple learning styles…but sometimes, navigating the various types of learning strategies can be a little overwhelming. By embracing AI-powered microlearning such as EdApp, the process of differentiating learning, and embedding active learning strategies into your training course has never been simpler. There is no need to reinvent the wheel, and you don’t need to do it all at once. Using a variety of learning strategies that cater across the learning style spectrum is key. Here are my top ten tips:
- Use mnemonics, songs, acronyms, or rhymes to reinforce key vocabulary or instil processes.
- Reinforce content and boost retention using spaced repetition features such as EdApp’s Brain Boost.
- Make it fun by using ‘hands on’ and interactive gamified learning.
- Take a constructivist approach to learning by building on already known facts and experiences, creating connections and associations.
- Embrace active learning strategies such as peer-to-peer teaching and peer-to-peer feedback in order to foster collaborative skills, while at the same time meeting the needs of kinaesthetic and auditory learners.
- As you watch videos you could try writing notes on Post-Its and arranging them on a wall, or use a system of notetaking such as the Cornell Method.
- Encourage transformations of knowledge. The most basic form of content transformation is summarising or paraphrasing. If you really want to level-up the way you reframe information and apply it to different scenarios, attempt creating new mental models.
- Use visualisation through metaphors and analogies to reinforce complex concepts. You might want to formalise this with visual thinking routines such as ‘3-2-1 bridge.’
- Use flow charts, mind/concept maps and infographics to create relationships between concepts or indicate a sequence.
- Actively reflect on feedback and foster metacognitive skills (i.e. learning how to learn).
- See Neil D. Fleming and Colleen Mills (1992). “Not Another Inventory, Rather a Catalyst for Reflection.” To Improve the Academy 11, 137-149.
- Lynell Burmark (2002). Visual literacy: Learn to see, see to learn. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
- See S. K. Major (2016, February 4). ‘16 characteristics of kinesthetic and tactile learners’ [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://child1st.com/blogs/resources/113559047-16-characteristics-of-kinesthetic-and-tactile-learners
- See Albert Bandura (1977). Social Learning Theory. New York: General Learning Press.
- Spencer Kagan and Miguel Kagan (2009). Kagan Cooperative Learning. San Clemente, CA: Kagan Publishing.
- Molly Ness (2009). ‘Laughing through rereadings: Using joke books to build fluency,’ The Reading Teacher, 62(8), 691-694.