An individual's learning style indicates how he or she best retrieves and retains information. Different people prefer different methods of learning. The VAK learning style encompasses three methods of sensory learning: visual (sight), auditory (sound) and kinesthetic (touch or motion). The most effective teaching methods involve a combination of all three sensory components. Though individuals may prefer to use a particular learning method, it is important to understand that learning styles are situational, and no single style is dominant in every circumstance.
One way to determine an individual's preferred learning style is through a VAK questionnaire. A typical VAK survey consists of situational statements and a preference scale. Individuals completing the questionnaire are asked to choose or rate how they prefer to address a situation. Based on responses to the scenarios, points are totalled to determine which sensory learning method the individual tends to use most often. The dominant style is determined to be visual, auditory or kinesthetic.
People who prefer to learn visually can be categorised into two groups: linguistic or spatial. Visual-linguistic learners benefit most by reading and writing tasks. They can quickly understand and retain information that is in written form, so materials such as meeting handouts, notes in class and textbook assignments work well for these learners. Visual-spatial learners do not enjoy reading or writing tasks but instead learn most effectively when graphs, illustrations, colour coding and other visual aids are used to present information. People who prefer to learn in this manner tend to associate new information with mental imagery.
Auditory learners like to receive new information and instructions through listening and speaking. An auditory learner can best absorb information by having a conversation with someone, listening to an audio tape, sitting in a classroom lecture or participating in a presentation. People with this learning preference may enjoy activities that involve brainstorming, debate and other vocal exchanges that take place between people.
Kinesthetic learners can be classified as dependent on touch or motion. A kinesthetic learner may appear to be easily distracted by exhibiting excess movement, doodling on notes in class or falling asleep during a long presentation. These learners perform best when encouraged to be active. Teaching techniques that benefit kinesthetic learners involve taking stretch breaks during long presentations, performing activities that involve movement, providing the opportunity for notes to be written or highlighted and playing music when appropriate.
The VAK learning style is important because it allows people to better understand how they can improve performance in a wide range of situations. An individual who becomes aware of a personal preference for auditory learning may choose to attend more lectures, participate in more conversations and listen to more material on compact disc than before. A manager who knows her employee is a kinesthetic learner can provide better training on new tasks by giving the employee hands-on opportunities. Understanding the VAK learning style provides more opportunity for adaptation and success by individuals and those who interact with them.