Learning Styles

Learning styles theories emphasize the fact that individuals perceive and process information in very different ways. These theories imply that how much individuals learn has more to do with whether the educational experience is geared toward their particular style of learning than whether or not they are "smart".

 Learning Styles Theories  are based on research demonstrating that, as the result of heredity, upbringing, brain structure, and current environmental demands, different individuals have a tendency to both perceive and process information differently.

Concrete learners absorb information through direct experience, by doing, acting, sensing, and feeling. Abstract learners take in information through analysis, observation, and thinking. Active learners make sense of an experience by immediately using the new information. Reflective learners make sense of an experience by reflecting on and thinking about it.
Learning Styles Classification #1
Concrete Learners
Abstract Learners
Active Learners
Reflective Learners

Learning Styles Classification #2
Visual Learners:
learn through seeing
These learners need to see the teacher's body language and facial expression to fully understand the content of a lesson. They tend to prefer sitting at the front of the classroom to avoid visual obstructions. They may think in pictures and learn best from visual displays. During a lecture or classroom discussion, visual learners often prefer to take detailed notes to absorb the information.
Auditory Learners:
learn through listening
They learn best through verbal lectures, discussions, talking things through and listening to what others have to say. Auditory learners interpret the underlying meanings of speech through listening to tone of voice, pitch, speed and other nuances. Written information may have little meaning until it is heard.
Tactile/Kinesthetic Learners:
learn through doing
Tactile/Kinesthetic persons learn best through a hands-on approach, actively exploring the physical world around them. They may find it hard to sit still for long periods and may become distracted by their need for activity and exploration.


 The Multiple Intelligences Theory,  developed by psychologist Howard Gardner, suggests there are at least seven ways that people have of perceiving and understanding the world. Gardner labels each of these ways a distinct "intelligence" - in other words, a set of skills allowing individuals to resolve genuine problems they face.

The ability to use words and language. The capacity for inductive and deductive thinking and reasoning, as well as the use of numbers and the recognition of abstract patterns. The ability to visualize objects and spatial dimensions, and create internal images and pictures. The wisdom of the body and the ability to control physical motion. The ability to recognize tonal patterns and sounds, as well as a sensitivity to rhythms and beats. The capacity for person-to-person communications and relationships. The spiritual, inner states of being, self-reflection, and awareness.
Intelligence Skill Set
Verbal - Linguistic
Logical - Mathematical
Visual - Spatial
Body - Kinesthetic
Musical - Rhythmic

How Learning Styles Theories impact education:

  • Curriculum - Educators must place emphasis on intuition, feeling, sensing, and imagination, in addition to the traditional skills of analysis, reason, and sequential problem solving.
  • Instruction - Teachers should design their instruction methods to connect with all learning styles, using various combinations of experience, reflection, conceptualization, and experimentation. Instructors can introduce a wide variety of experiential elements into the classroom, such as sound, music, visuals, movement, experience, and even talking.
  • Assessment - Teachers should employ a variety of assessment techniques, focusing on the development of "whole brain" capacity and each of the different learning styles.

 The Right Brain vs Left Brain Theory  of the structure and functions of the mind suggests that the two different sides of the brain control two different "modes" of thinking. It also suggests that each of us prefers one mode over the other. However, some seem to be more whole-brained and equally adept at both modes.

Experimentation has shown that the two different hemispheres of the brain are responsible for different manners of thinking. The following table illustrates the differences between left-brain and right-brain thinking:

Left Brain Right Brain
Logical Random
Sequential Intuitive
Rational Holistic
Analytical Synthesizing
Objective Subjective
Looks at parts Looks at wholes

In general, schools tend to favor left-brain modes of thinking, while downplaying the right-brain ones. Left-brain scholastic subjects focus on logical thinking, analysis, and accuracy. Right-brained subjects, on the other hand, focus on aesthetics, feeling, and creativity.

How Right-Brain vs. Left-Brain Thinking impacts learning:


Educational Theories | Bloom's Taxonomy | Learning Styles | Authentic Pedagogy | Critical Thinking