As we discussed last week, not everybody learns in the same way. Learning styles are a way of grouping together the basic, common ways in which people learn. Most people, while having a dominant form of learning, still rely on many of the other techniques to learn and recall information, but none of this is set in stone — your proficiency in one or more styles may change over time or to fit particular circumstances.
By identifying your learning style(s) and understanding how to use them, you can better process information and improve your long-term recall. There are seven basic learning styles, and research shows that each one uses different parts of the brain. By combining different styles and thereby involving more of the brain during learning, we not only comprehend more, but we are also able to recall more of what we learn at a later time.
Last week we described three of the learning styles — visual, auditory, and verbal. Today we will discuss two more — kinesthetic and logical/mathematical.
Brain regions: Physical movement (or the visualization of movement) is handled by the cerebellum and the motor cortex, the latter located at the rear of the frontal lobe.
Learning techniques: If you fall into this category, you’re a hands-on type of person, a builder, someone who’s “touchy-feely,” and someone who’s likely to enjoy physical movement, including exercise. When you have an issue to resolve or a problem to work through, you’ll often take a walk or engage in sports to arrive at a conclusion. You also study best when you’re in motion. Here are some additional suggestions to help you study more effectively:
- Your dominant form of information gathering and processing is note-taking. Pay attention to the teacher’s words and any graphic aids she puts up, but also write out detailed information of those words and aids on the page or type it onto a screen and rewrite it later. Write any questions you may have in the margins and make references for yourself as to which parts relate to which other parts of your notes.
- Rewrite your notes when you review the material — this second pass will reinforce the kinesthetic input.
- Use touch, movement, and hands-on work as much as you can in your learning activities. Find a way to build models that represent important concepts. This will also help by giving you visual input, a second source of reinforcement of the material. The more input you provide, the better able you’ll be to recall the information at a later time.
- When you visualize, focus on the sensations each piece of information carries, as if you were touching it. While a visual learner would picture how their garden should look and where they’ll plant everything, you, instead, should feel the earth on your hands, the weight of the trowel, the smell of each plant as you put it in the ground or how you expect it to smell when it blooms. The more detail you can imagine, the better able you’ll be to remember the steps you need to take when you’re planting for real.
- Physically touch objects as you learn about what they do, build ones that you don’t have in front of you, or visit a museum or some other location that has an object you can’t build (hands-on museums are the best). Also consider using flashcards to help you memorize information since you can feel each of the cards and physically move them around.
- Writing and drawing maps and diagrams are physical activities, so take advantage of them. Make your diagrams big and splashy — it will involve a lot more action from you, and you’ll be that much more able to remember the information for later recall.
- Use role-playing to practice skills and behaviors, either with someone else or by yourself using your imagination to get the other side of the conversation. Find ways to act out or recreate the topics you’re learning.
Brain regions: The parietal lobes, particularly on the left side, handle our logical thinking.
Learning techniques: As a logical learner, rote learning is neither effective nor advisable. Make an effort to learn the reasons that support informational content and drive practical skills. By identifying the who, what, why, when, where, and how, you’ll have an easier time understanding the content and memorizing it for later recall. Here are some additional suggestions to help you study more effectively:
- Create and use lists by picking out key points from your material and assembling them in an understandable order. Statistics and other analyses can help you identify areas you may want to focus on or research further.
- Pay attention to your breathing and stress level — you may well be isolating your body from your rational thought. It’s important to remember that you are part of the larger “system” that includes the information you’re studying and the equipment you’re using to study it.
- Remind yourself that association often works best when it’s illogical and irrational. Link two ideas — or an idea and an image — together in your mind without logical boundaries. You’re more apt to remember something later if its “oddness” stands out.
- Your scripting, though, should reflect logical thoughts and behaviors. Since you’re able to detect systems and procedures easily, and you can see how relationships between the parts affect the whole, you will be able to determine when one or more parts aren’t working correctly and change them.
- Because you understand systems and the links between their parts, you have a key to understanding the “bigger picture.” Many times the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, so while you diagram your systems, look for how everything interrelates and how that can lead to new ideas, theories, or functionality.
- Logical learners have a tendency to over-analyze information and/or procedures, which can lead to “analysis paralysis” — you’re always busy, but you may not be moving towards whatever goal you’ve set. When you realize you’re in this predicament, stop and look at all the pieces of what you’re doing. Rank the tasks in order of importance by measuring how far each will move you towards your goal and proceed accordingly.
- Recognize that even though you are a logical learner, you depend heavily on one or more of the sensory styles we’ve discussed — visual, auditory, and kinesthetic — for primary information input. We live in a world perceived by our five senses, so it stands to reason we would depend on sensory information for learning.