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  • Writer's pictureJustin Grimes

Navigating Academic Success: Discovering and Harnessing Your Unique Learning Style

Understanding how you process and retain information is an essential life skill. Some of us are visual learners who thrive on visual images and diagrams, while others are auditory learners who excel in reviewing audio-based information and lectures. Then, some prefer a hands-on approach, engaging their kinesthetic senses. No matter your learning style, at Apply to Graduate School, we help you find a graduate program that allows your style to flourish. By now, you might ask, how do I identify if the graduate program I'm interested in supports my learning style? This blog post will delve into the different learning styles, help you identify and use your style, and provide tips on leveraging them in graduate learning environments.

Have you heard of the VARK Model: Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing, and Kinesthetic Learners?

The VAK model is a popular framework that categorizes learners into three primary styles: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. For more information, check out this link here or video.

  • Visual Learners: If you are drawn to infographics, hardcover books, charts, and videos, you might be a visual learner. Visual learners process information best when it's presented in a visually appealing manner. As a learner, consider using color-coded notes, creating mind maps, or watching educational videos to harness your learning style.

  • Auditory Learners: Do you remember details from conversations and lectures? Auditory learners thrive on sound and learn best through discussions, lectures, and podcasts. To enhance your learning, engage in group discussions, record important information and listen to it, or explain concepts to others verbally.

  • Reading/Writing Learners: If you excel at reading and writing tasks, such as taking notes or writing essays, you might be a reading/writing learner. Utilize accessible reading materials, take comprehensive notes, and write summaries to maximize your learning style. These learners are more likely to use an e-reader, tablet, or software like OneNote.

  • Kinesthetic Learners: Kinesthetic learners have a hands-on approach to learning. You likely belong to this category if you enjoy movement and touch activities. To optimize your learning style, try incorporating physical activities into your study routine, such as using manipulatives, video recording, or acting out scenarios related to your subject.

For me, I live in the space of being all four. I retain information best through repetition and talking out ideas, which may include talking to myself or a pretend person in the room. When concepts like statistics don't resonate or appear more complicated, I rely heavily on watching videos, images, and written examples. To understand information better, my go-to's are podcasts and webinars. My learning style is also dependent on the environment. I need quiet space for retention, but I can do environments with certain aromas and noises for idea generation and writing, like coffee shops. Speaking of writing, there are additional learning styles I tap into, which you may as well.

Other Learning Styles to Explore

Beyond the VARK model, there are additional learning styles that provide insight into how you process information:

  • Logical/Mathematical Learners: Logical learners thrive on reasoning and problem-solving. For these learners, make learning an exercise where you engage in critical analysis, puzzles, and mathematical exercises to stimulate your learning style.

  • Social and Solitary Learners: Consider whether you prefer learning in groups or alone. If you thrive in group discussions, you might be a social learner. If you prefer self-study and introspection, you might lean towards solitary learning.

Statistics and I had an acquaintance with whom we spoke, but we weren't great friends. In other words, I passed the statistics courses using a combination of learning styles. I love engaging with social and solitary learners because we process ideas and thoughts. Working on the dissertation can be incredibly challenging as it's a very isolated experience, but knowing your learning style(s) can help create a more successful experience and outcome.

Identifying Your Learning Style

To pinpoint your learning style, take a moment to reflect on your past experiences:

  • Think about instances when you've grasped complex concepts quickly. How were they presented?

  • Consider the activities you enjoy the most. Do they involve visual, auditory, or kinesthetic elements?

  • Reflect on how you naturally study or approach a new subject.

  • When the professor or teacher delivered content, what approach worked best for you (listening, watching, note-taking, etc.)?

Leveraging Your Learning Style for Graduate Success

  • Talk with Faculty: Talk with faculty, students, and alums in the program you're interested in about the lecture and assignment styles they use in the program. Even if your style is dominant, identify if you believe you can thrive in the program. If not, don't apply or pursue the degree.

  • Customize Your Approach: Craft a student action plan to suit your learning style. Integrate methodologies that resonate with you and experiment with different techniques to find what works best.

  • Collaborative With Other Students: Graduate studies often involve group projects and collaborative research. Leverage your learning style by contributing effectively in group discussions or bringing unique insights to teamwork. You don't need a team with learning styles like yours, so learn about and work with others' styles.

  • Personalize Researcher Identity: When conducting research or working on your thesis or dissertation, tailor your approach to align with your learning style. Doing this will help you uncover more profound insights and produce higher-quality work.

As you embark on your journey into graduate studies, remember that understanding your learning style is a powerful asset. Whether you're a visual learner who thrives on graphics or an auditory learner who absorbs knowledge through sound, understanding your preferences can significantly enhance your learning outcomes. By identifying how you naturally process information and tailoring your study methods accordingly, you can improve your academic performance, retain knowledge effectively, and make the most of your postgraduate experience. Graduate studies are a remarkable opportunity for personal and professional growth, and embracing your unique learning style will undoubtedly contribute to your success in this exciting chapter of your academic life.

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