Almost 30 years ago, Neil Fleming, a New Zealand educator, and a colleague, identified four sensory approaches to learning information based on their observations in the classroom. Their theory, referred to by the acronym, VARK, explores these four major learning preferences: Visual, Auditory, Read-Write and Kinesthetic.
Since that time, thousands of educators have used the VARK method to understand their students and to create classroom lessons that appeal to a variety of learning styles. Since many people combine traits from various learning styles, educators hope that such an approach reaches the majority of their students. Knowing your own learning style and discovering the methods that allow you to absorb information best will be helpful as you progress through the education system and move into the working world.
Read and Write Learning – The Traditional Style
This post will focus on the most traditional learning style, read-write learning. Read-write learners prefer information that is displayed as words. It is a style that many teachers prefer and good reading and writing skills are sought after by employers, too. Read-write learners prefer all types of text-based input and output, including essays, books, the Internet and PowerPoint presentations – anything that focuses on words and more words.
Read-write learners succeed in traditional classrooms where the emphasis is on reading textbooks, taking notes and writing essay tests. They can be more independent that many other learners, because all they need is access to the necessary written information and they’re off and running.
If you are a read-write learner, here are some of the traits you may possess:
- Prefers reading information to hearing or seeing it presented
- Enjoys reading
- Comprehends and remembers what is read
- Prefers reading themselves to hearing stories read aloud
- May enjoy writing
- May take extensive notes in class
- Won’t shy away from resources such as dictionaries and thesauruses
- Prefers to study alone to avoid distractions
- Works best in quiet places
- Learns best from teachers whose lectures are packed with information
- Able to translate abstract concepts into words and essays.
Read and Write Learning Strategies
Success in life depends, to a large extent, on acquiring the information you need to earn a living – along with the skills or interests that bring you joy. As a read-write learner, you will want to capitalize on your strengths as you learn the information you need to progress toward your goals.
Consider a mixture of the following techniques as you pursue your studies:
- Take copious notes in class — in your own words.
- Rewrite your notes to cement the information in your mind, but do so by re-reading, interpreting and writing it in your own words.
- Paraphrase the main ideas and principles to provide yourself with a deeper understanding. If you can’t explain a concept in your own words, it’s a sign that you don’t fully understand it.
- Write out the instructions for each step of a procedure or math problem.
- Create post-it notes or note cards with key information and place them in visible places, such as the mirror or in front of the sink.
- Hang onto handouts from class and incorporate them into your studying. The more written information you have that’s pertinent to the subject, the better.
- Write notes to yourself in the margins of handouts or on the printed copies of PowerPoint presentations.
- Create bullet-point lists from your notes. Condensing information into small, easy-to-digest bits puts it into an easy-to-read/review format.
- Turn these lists into multiple choice questions to test yourself.
- Make text-based flashcards to test your knowledge of the important information.
- Add words to all charts and diagrams. Turning the pictures into words will help you process the information better because you have added your own written explanation and will be more likely to remember it. During an exam, you will also be more likely to visualize the important words than shapes or pictures.
- Be certain you understand all key terms. Use the glossary in your textbook, or even better, create your own. Defining terms in your own words will also aid in retention.
- Test your knowledge of key words and phrases by playing hangman with a classmate.
- Compare your notes to those of a classmate to ensure you haven’t missed anything.
Once you have mastered these strategies, be aware that your learning style may change over time. It is also possible that your personal learning style is a mix of the major styles, so review the traits and strategies of the other styles to see if anything fits and adjust your approach accordingly.
Learning is a lifelong process, so discovering what works for you is a worthwhile endeavour.