A foundational truth in teaching is that “every student is different”. Each individual experiences the world in a unique way; with that comes variation in the ways we learn. Teachers might end up with a handful of students lagging behind if they do not put in the effort to understand and acknowledge these different ways of learning. , Allowing students to access information in terms they are comfortable with will also increase their academic confidence.

The preferential way in which students absorb, process, comprehend and retain information is referred to as ‘individual learning style’. VARK is an acronym for the four types of learning styles: Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing preference, and Kinesthetic. Aligning overall curriculum with the VARK learning styles, after identifying students as visual, auditory, reading/writing or kinesthetic learners will be beneficial for the entire class.

Visual Learners

Someone who prefers visual learning will grasp information faster when it’s presented in a visual way: by seeing and observing things—that includes pictures, diagrams, written directives and such. Visual learners understand information better by looking at visual concepts, creating them, and watching other people create them. The regular black/white boards or smart boards are best used when teaching these types of learners. Teachers catering to visual learners should continuously provide handouts and use presentations. In  physical classrooms, tactics such as seating visual learners in the front, using colour codes and cues, encouraging note taking and recopying notes during study are helpful. Teachers can also help students replace important words with symbols or initials, highlight important key terms in corresponding colors will serve beneficial.

Auditory Learners

Auditory learners tend to learn better when the subject matter is supported by sound. These students would much rather listen to a lecture than write down notes, as it may be a distraction and their unbroken attention is a more valuable way for them to learn. These types of learners would be seen reading out loud to themselves. Students who fall into this modality often find success in group activities where they are asked to discuss course materials vocally with their peers. Teachers could get their auditory learners involved in the lecture by asking them to repeat new concepts back to them, asking questions and letting them answer, writing on the whiteboard and read it out loud. Teachers need to work on their delivery to express learning material in interesting and engaging tones. Recording lessons for later listening and reference and seating them away from distractions are some of the other strategies that could be tried.

Reading/Writing Learners

Reading/writing learners prefer to learn through written words. While there is some overlap with visual learning, these types of learners express through writing and reading articles, books or handouts. Maintaining journals, looking up words in the dictionary and browsing through the internet for just about everything is their way of work. Of the four learning styles, this is often probably the easiest to cater to, since much of the traditional educational system tends to focus majorly on writing assignments, doing research and reading books. Reword main ideas and principles to gain a deeper understanding and organizing diagrams, charts, and graphics into written statements is a way to approach these students effectively.

Kinesthetic Learners

Commonly called hands-on learners, kinesthetic learners would want to attend physically with the materials of the subject matter. Kinesthetic learners often engage all of their senses equally in the process of learning. Because of their active learning nature, these learners often face difficulty succeeding in conventional classroom settings that are not equipped to meet their needs. These students often progress better in scientific subjects with lab components, as it involves them in productive ways. When kinesthetic learners physically sense what they are studying, abstract ideas and difficult concepts becomes much easier to comprehend. The best way teachers can help these students learn is by instructing them to act out a certain scene from a book or a lesson. These students are encouraged when lessons are incorporated with movement like pacing to aid memorizing, learning games that involve moving around the classroom or activities that involve students to write on the board. Using props and models will greatly supplement a kinesthetic learner. Real-life examples, applications and case studies in summary, repeating lab experiments or projects, utilizing pictures and photographs that illustrate ideas are the other strategies to engage physical learners.

Difficulties to cater to all

With large classrooms, it is not always easy to personalize lessons when the students are categorized across these styles. Teachers must turn to multimodal learning to engage a number of senses - visual, auditory, kinesthetic - during learning to make the students understand and remember more.

By combining these modes, learners experience learning in a variety of ways to create a diverse learning style. Facilitating lessons that are engaging on all levels will give students the best chance of success. While today’s media-rich environment has made multimodal learning easier, multimedia should be treated thoughtfully as a means to a specific educational goal and not replaced for the goal itself, and multimodal, interactive instruction should be applied for more complex topics than for basic concepts that would require memorization and skill-building. The key element is recognizing the differences in student learning primarily and the rest will flow from there.