Learning Styles (Teaching and Learning)

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Although there is proof that individuals may have learning preferences, there is no empirical evidence that those preferences impact their learning (See Riener & Willingham, 2010, in the Bibliography section), as a result, current teaching and learning approaches, have moved away from the emphasis on "learning styles" and focus more on aligning teaching to the objective(s) of the lesson. "Learning styles" were previously defined as various approaches or ways of learning. They involve educating methods, particular to an individual, that were presumed to allow that individual to learn best. Most people prefer an identifiable method of interacting with, taking in, and processing stimuli or information. Based on this concept, the idea of individualized "learning styles" originated in the 1970s, and acquired "enormous popularity".[1] Below you can find more information about the unproven theory of the "learning styles".

Kolb and Fleming's Learning Models

David Kolb's model

The David A. Kolb styles model is based on the Experiential Learning Theory, as explained in his book Experiential Learning: Experience as the source of learning and development (1984).[2] The ELT model outlines two related approaches toward grasping experience: Concrete Experience and Abstract Conceptualization, as well as two related approaches toward transforming experience: Reflective Observation and Active Experimentation. According to Kolb’s model, the ideal learning process engages all four of these modes in response to situational demands. In order for learning to be effective, all four of these approaches must be incorporated. Kolb claimed that individuals attempt to use all four approaches, however, they tend to develop strengths in one experience-grasping approach and one experience-transforming approach. The resulting learning styles are combinations of the individual’s preferred approaches. The learning styles identified by Kolb are as follows:

  1. Converger;
  2. Diverger;
  3. Assimilator;
  4. Accommodator;.[3]

Convergers are characterized by abstract conceptualization and active experimentation. They are good at making practical applications of ideas and using deductive reasoning to solve problems.[3]

Divergers tend toward concrete experience and reflective observation. They are imaginative and are good at coming up with ideas and seeing things from different perspectives.[3]

Assimilators are characterized by abstract conceptualization and reflective observation. They are capable of creating theoretical models by means of inductive reasoning.[3]

Accommodators use concrete experience and active experimentation. They are good at actively engaging with the world and actually doing things instead of merely reading about and studying them.[3]

Kolb’s model gave rise to the Learning Style Inventory, an assessment method that was used for many years to determine an individual's learning style. [2]As mentioned earlier in this article, the learning styles aspect of the Experiential Learning Theory is no longer considered valid in current approaches to teaching and learning.

Fleming's VAK/VARK model

Another common and widely-used categorization of the various types of learning styles used to be Fleming's VARK model (sometimes VAK)[4]:

  1. visual learners;
  2. auditory learners;
  3. kinesthetic learners or tactile learners

Fleming claimed that visual learners have a preference for seeing. Auditory learners best learn through listening. Tactile/kinesthetic learners prefer to learn via experience—moving, touching, and doing. Similar to Kolb's theory of Learning Styles, there is no empirical evidence that these preferences impact learning (either positively or negatively).

Learning Styles VS. Multiple Intelligences

Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences are not the same. In fact, Gardner himself emphasizes this fact. [5]

According to Barbra Prashnig, "Learning Styles (LS) can be defined as the way human beings prefer to concentrate on, store and remember new and/or difficult information" while multiple Intelligences is a theoretical framework for defining, understanding, assessing and developing people's different intelligence factors.[6]

Many scholars, however, have linked and integrated the theory of multiple intelligences and learning style models.

Gardner's Multiple Intelligences

  • Visual-Spatial - think in terms of physical space, as do architects and sailors. Very aware of their environments. They like to draw, do jigsaw puzzles, read maps, daydream. They can be taught through drawings, verbal and physical imagery. Tools include models, graphics, charts, photographs, drawings, 3-D modeling, video, videoconferencing, television, multimedia, texts with pictures/charts/graphs.
  • Bodily-kinesthetic - use the body effectively, like a dancer or a surgeon. Keen sense of body awareness. They like movement, making things, touching. They communicate well through body language and be taught through physical activity, hands-on learning, acting out, role playing. Tools include equipment and real objects.
  • Musical - show sensitivity to rhythm and sound. They love music, but they are also sensitive to sounds in their environments. They may study better with music in the background. They can be taught by turning lessons into lyrics, speaking rhythmically, tapping out time. Tools include musical instruments, music, radio, stereo, CD-ROM, multimedia.
  • Interpersonal - understanding, interacting with others. These students learn through interaction. They have many friends, empathy for others, street smarts. They can be taught through group activities, seminars, dialogues. Tools include the telephone, audio conferencing, time and attention from the instructor, video conferencing, writing, computer conferencing, E-mail.
  • Intrapersonal - understanding one's own interests, goals. These learners tend to shy away from others. They're in tune with their inner feelings; they have wisdom, intuition and motivation, as well as a strong will, confidence and opinions. They can be taught through independent study and introspection. Tools include books, creative materials, diaries, privacy and time. They are the most independent of the learners.
  • Linguistic - using words effectively. These learners have highly developed auditory skills and often think in words. They like reading, playing word games, making up poetry or stories. They can be taught by encouraging them to say and see words, read books together. Tools include computers, games, multimedia, books, tape recorders, and lecture.
  • Logical -Mathematical - reasoning, calculating. Think conceptually, abstractly and are able to see and explore patterns and relationships. They like to experiment, solve puzzles, ask cosmic questions. They can be taught through logic games, investigations, mysteries. They need to learn and form concepts before they can deal with details.


Link to Complete Bibliography
For a complete bibliography, please visit the CTLT's shared folder on Refworks.

Having problems? Visit the RefWorks information guide.

  • Alice Y. Kolb, & David A. Kolb. (2010). Learning to play, playing to learn. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 23(1), 26-50.Permalink.svg Permalink
  • Ambrose, S. A. (2010). How learning works : Seven research-based principles for smart teaching. (1st ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Ubc-elink.png
  • Bransford, J., & ebrary, I. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington, D.C: National Academies Press.Ubc-elink.png
  • Cedar Riener, & Daniel Willingham. (2010). THE MYTH OF LEARNING STYLES. Change, 42(5), 32.Ubc-elink.png
  • Gardner, H., & Education Research Complete. (2006). Multiple intelligences: New horizons. New York: BasicBooks.
  • Heffler, B. (2001). Individual learning style and the learning style inventory. EDUCATIONAL STUDIES, 27(3), 307-316.
  • Joy, S., & Kolb, D. A. (2008). Are there cultural differences in learning style? INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF INTERCULTURAL RELATIONS, 33(1), 69-85.
  • Kolb, D. A., & Kolb, A. Y. (2009). The learning way: Meta-cognitive aspects of experiential learning. Simulation & Gaming, 40(3), 297-327.
  • Loo, R. (2004). Kolb's learning styles and learning preferences: Is there a linkage? Educational Psychology, 24(1), 99-108.Ubc-elink.png
  • Pashler, H., McDaniel, M., Rohrer, D., & Bjork, R. (2009). Learning styles: Concepts and evidence. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 9(3), 105.
  • Schunk, D. H. (2012). Learning theories: An educational perspective. Boston: Pearson.
  • Watkins, C., & ebrary, I. (2000). Learning about learning: Resources for supporting effective learning. London: Routledge Falmer.

Online Resources

  • Howard Gardner, "Multiple intelligences: The First 25 Years"


  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning_styles
  2. 2.0 2.1 Kolb, David (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Kolb 1984" defined multiple times with different content
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Smith, M. K. (2001). David A. Kolb on experiential learning. Retrieved October 17, 2008, from: http://www.infed.org/biblio/b-explrn.htm
  4. Leite, Walter L.; Svinicki, Marilla; and Shi, Yuying: Attempted Validation of the Scores of the VARK: Learning Styles Inventory With Multitrait–Multimethod Confirmatory Factor Analysis Models, pg. 2. SAGE Publications, 2009.
  5. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDtZEpf_SJ4
  6. Prashnig, B. (2005) Learning styles VS. multiple intelligences. Teaching Expertise 9

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