VARK learning styles theory is designed to describe how four distinct types of learners process information. Based upon the VAK (visual, auditory and kinesthetic) model of learning, VARK learning styles theory was pioneered in 1987 by Neil Fleming. Fleming's contribution to the prior model was to divide the visual learning component into two parts, a symbolic aspect (represented as V) and a text aspect (represented as R). Additionally, Fleming advanced the original theory to supplement the auditory learning and kinesthetic learning components of traditional VAK theory.
According to the VARK learning styles theory, every individual is predisposed to a preferred learning style, instinctively favouring one of the four styles that the theory describes. Some students process information most effectively by using a visual learning style, just as others rely more heavily on either an auditory style, read/write learning style or kinesthetic style of learning.
While most students express a marked preference for a particular learning style, they are usually not unable to process information even if it is presented in the format of a non-preferred style. In fact, few learners are exclusively committed to a single style of learning. Rather, many individuals recognise the benefits associated with multiple learning styles. For example, a student who expresses significant kinesthetic learning skills may also respond well to auditory learning opportunities.
People who demonstrate a strong preference for auditory learning strategies often fail to take meticulous notes during classroom discussions and lectures since they are so busy listening to what is being said by others. Consequently, these individuals may wish to later expand their notes "by talking with others and collecting notes from the textbook," according to the Academic Success Center of Oregon State University. Visual learners may wish to sit in the opposite direction from classroom windows, to avoid being distracted by outdoor activity. Additionally, this type of learner typically benefits from using graphic organisers. Comprehension is typically increased for reading/writing learners who take meticulous lecture notes, then rewrite their notes at least once, if not multiple times, before being tested over lecture material. A kinesthetic learner should arrive to school armed with cassette players or digital recording devices. Later, perhaps when taking a walk around the neighbourhood, this student can listen to the recorded lecture to reinforce comprehension.
According to Neil Fleming's official VARK website, the VARK learning styles theory is suitable for application in an array of contexts. In addition to its traditional usage in education contexts, VARK facilitates communication in sports coaching, workplace dynamics and even personal relationships. Indeed, according to Fleming, "some people report that their understanding of people in their lives is improved with knowledge of their own VARK profile and the VARK profile of 'significant' others."
VARK learning materials are copyrighted by Neil Fleming, and permission must be secured before using these materials for training purposes. Fleming does, however, permit free use of VARK materials to unpaid volunteers who are training tutors to work in schools. In virtually every other instance, Fleming advises interested parties to pay an annual fee of £165 or purchase a lifetime license for £308 before using VARK for training purposes, in order to avoid violating copyright law.