Have you ever wondered why may have done particularly well in a specific subject at school or university? Apart from the fact that a subject may have interested you quite a lot, it could have to do with the type of teaching you encountered in that specific classroom, or what you did differently in learning for that subject / the type of learner you are.

Certain people may find that they remember and understand things better when it is presented in visually. For example, do you prefer looking at diagrams depicting information? Or are you better at learning things when you are involved in some kind of physical activity? Some people dislike reading, while others love reading but are terrible at logical and mathematical reasoning.

In the world of education, it has been recognised that there are different learning styles and different techniques. Many people will have a mix of styles, favour one type over another, or use different techniques for different circumstances, or a number of techniques at the same time. There are many theories out there about these learning styles in education, and one of these is Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligence theory – ‘the seven learning styles’ - summarised as follows:

1. Visual - Spatial

These learners prefer learning through drawing or visual depiction. They respond well to the use of multimedia in the classroom such as movies, pictures, charts and graphs, to name a few.

2. Bodily-kinesthetic / physical

These learners learn best through movement, creating things, touching and carrying out some sort of physical activity. They respond well to things like role-play in the classroom, acting things out or physically putting things together like matching a piece of paper with a word to its partner meaning.

3. Aural / Auditory / Musical

Aural means ‘relating to the ear, or sense of hearing’ and refers to learners who respond best to sound stimulus. They prefer to hear something than to read it, for example, and will often say things out loud (to themselves) to remember them better.

4. Interpersonal / Social

Social learners learn best through interacting with others and communicating. They enjoy groups and will usually have many friends. They learn best through this interaction with others.

5. Intrapersonal / Solitary

Solitary learners are the opposite of social learners and learn well through independent/self study. Keywords include independent, introspective and private. They are counted as the most independent of the learning types.  These types of learners can do well with online courses, for example.

6. Logical – Mathematical

Logical learners enjoy using their brains for mathematical and logical reasoning and are able to think in abstract ways, conceptualising and connecting concepts that may seem to have meaningless relationships to others. These learners enjoy calculating and tend to enjoy learning the rules and exceptions of grammar in English class.

7. Verbal / Linguistic

Linguistic learners love reading and writing, and enjoy expanding their vocabulary to be able to express themselves in their writing, poetry, and speaking, or understanding various texts.

Are you able to see yourself in in more than one of these types of learning styles? Would you consider yourself a visual learner, but in fact find yourself repeating a number out loud to yourself when someone says it to you? You may write the number down afterwards, but first say it out loud to yourself. Or, are you a logical learner who learns and performs best through solitary learning?

It’s very possible that you may favour one style more than the others, but use the other styles depending on the circumstances you find yourself in or the different task you are doing.

In the article, ‘The Myth of Learning Styles Debunked’, it is argued that multiple intelligences do not exist as such. One particular point stands out: “Not all learning happens the same way and nor should teaching. What’s crucial is to decide which techniques are best for which learning outcomes and not about customizing a course based on learning styles.” We support this argument wholeheartedly and believe that it is imperative to look at a learning situation in the entirety of the learning context.

In the EFL classroom, all learning styles are taken into consideration. But, this does not mean a course is designed around a learning style. What we more commonly find is that different activities/exercises will facilitate learning outcomes better than others for particular and specific outcomes. For example, elementary students learning how to order food at a restaurant in English will almost undoubtedly practice this in a role play. It will be very difficult for the solitary learner to sit at home alone and read about these interactions, when the most important part of this learning exercise is about the production of the language in a particular environment – the restaurant. Similarly, students may not all be kinaesthetic learners, but students thoroughly enjoy being able to use the white board themselves to, for example, present the results of a team work exercise to everyone else.

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