You may have heard of the VARK learning styles approach in education. This approach assumes that children each learn in a different style, visual, auditory, reading/writing or kinaesthetic. However, research has shown that this method of teaching may not actually be very effective for children.

At Explore Learning we understand that every child learns at their own pace and in their own way. But we also know that there isn’t just one style of learning that suits every child. 

So let’s take a look at what VARK learning styles are and whether or not there’s any effectiveness to them.

A quick glance: what are VARK learning styles?

In the context of the VARK learning styles system, a child’s learning style supposedly refers to the way that they process, understand and retain information. There are four VARK learning styles. 

Visual learning

A visual learner would be a child who retains information through visual information, things like diagrams and infographics. Information presented through videos or demonstrations will supposedly stick with them better. 

Auditory learning

An auditory learner will retain information that they’ve heard, for example through audiobooks, recordings or conversations about a subject. Also reading their own notes out loud can help information sink in.

Reading/writing learning

A reading/writing learner is usually a child who enjoys taking notes while learning about something. Information is best retained through reading about it and taking comprehensive notes.

Kinaesthetic learning

A kinaesthetic learner will take on more information if it’s presented to them in a physical way that they can get involved in. Things like chemistry experiments or mixing in physical activity with learning can be really helpful.

Are VARK learning styles effective?

There are elements of the VARK learning style approach that can be useful in a child’s learning and development. For example, using different approaches to retaining information if that helps a child understand a particular topic better. 

However, research has shown that assigning children different learning styles doesn’t actually work. There are a few reasons why that is. 

Learning doesn’t just work with one approach

The VARK learning style approach suggests that children learn in just one way effectively, or sometimes a mixture of two ways. But according to neuroscientists, the brain just doesn’t work that way. While the brain processes different types of information in different areas, that doesn’t mean only one part of the brain is activated by learning. So just teaching a child in a way designed to focus on one way that their brain works is quite limiting. 

There’s a lack of evidence to support the learning style approach

When learning styles research has been carried out there’s been very little evidence to support it as effective. Researchers found that there wasn’t really a link between students’ performance and the learning style they were assigned based on a questionnaire about how they learn. 

Different learning styles suit different subjects, not students

A professor at Swansea University has suggested that assigning learning styles to students can actually be harmful to their education. If a child is told that they’re an auditory learner they may be discouraged from visual or written subjects like art or English. Instead, the approach to teaching should really match the subject that’s being taught, rather than an assigned learning style for each student.

Learning styles and the Explore Learning approach

At Explore Learning we’re committed to supporting children’s learning effectively, with evidence and research-based methods of tutoring. We know that sometimes it’s necessary to adapt our approach to help children understand certain topics, but we won’t assume a child learns everything in one way. 

For example, a child will learn maths in a visual way in one area, but that doesn’t mean visual learning will always be the best route for that child in every area. Similarly, sometimes reading aloud can help a child learn English pronunciation and spelling, but other times writing might be better for them. 

We know that the way children learn and understand the world around them changes all the time. That’s why our expert tutors know how to change up their approach to give every child a unique learning experience that works for them. 

So why not see how we can give your child a personalised learning journey to support them in school?

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