The Art of Learning Better: 101 Tips to Find and Fit Your Learning Style

By Sarah Russel

Sometimes, information is hard to understand just because it’s presented in a manner that just doesn’t quite appeal to the way we like to learn best. While it isn’t always possible to take every class or complete every project in a way that fits into your individual style, there are ways that you can help to ensure that you’re making the most of the material at hand. Here are a few tips to help you start improving your learning experience by helping make it work a little better with your needs, whether you’re a visual, auditory or kinesthetic learner.

Visual Learners

Those who are visual learners understand concepts and ideas better when they are presented in pictures, text, drawings, graphs, charts or other visual representations. Here are some tips for making your coursework and schooling a little easier if you’re a visual learner.

Organization

Keeping your stuff together and staying on task can sometimes be a challenge. These tips can give visual learners a leg up on organization.

  1. Color code. If you color code classes, assignments or anything else you’ll be able to identify and locate these items just at a glance. It can be helpful if you’ve got a habit of being messy.
  2. Make lists. One way to organize your thoughts is to put them on paper or on the computer. Once you’ve created this visual representation it will be easier to see what you need to get done.
  3. Keep like materials together. Creating groups can be one way to keep yourself visually organized. If you’ve got books and notebooks for one class, try keeping these together.
  4. Diagram how things are related. Whether you’re trying to get research done for classes or just figuring out anything in your day to day life, you can benefit from creating a diagram or mind map to show how elements are interconnected and how you need to proceed.

In Class

Keep focused in class with these tips.

  1. Always take notes. If you have a hard time remembering things that you hear, make sure to write them down. This can give you a visual reference later.
  2. Visualize how to spell words. Spelling words in your own language or in another can be hard for visual learners who are just hearing them. Tying spellings, especially difficult ones, to visual cues can make it easier.
  3. Relate things through graphs and charts. If your class is filled with facts and figures it can be helpful to lay them out in ways that make more sense to visual learners, like graphs, charts or diagrams. Your information will be more organized and easier for you to understand, helping you in the long run.
  4. Use several colors. Some visual learners find that it helps to use different colors of ink to highlight different areas of their notes. Vocab words can be in one color, definitions in another and so on.
  5. Sketch. Whether you’re taking a class on architecture or human anatomy it can be helpful to sketch out concepts sometimes. It will help you to better remember and understand how they work later.
  6. Look at your professor. Because visual learners are so dependent on seeing things to understand it can help to sit near the front of the class and look at your professor. This can alert you to subtle body language and help you stay more engaged and focused.
  7. Copy information off the board or overheads. If your professor is providing you with visual information to use in class, copy things down to your own notebooks, even if you can look it up later.

Studying

Studying can be a bore sometimes, but you can make the time you spend more effective with these tips.

  1. Create a timeline. When dealing with a sequence of events you’re trying to remember or understand it can be useful to lay them out in chronological order on a timeline. This way, you’ll be able to more easily visualize how things changed over time.
  2. Make outlines. Whether you’re writing a paper or just condensing your notes to key concepts, creating an outline is a great way to organize information in a way you can see.
  3. Study in large blocks. Visual learners are often very good at concentrating for long periods of time. Take advantage of this and get your studying out of the way in big chunks.
  4. Diagram anything you can. Diagramming can be a good way for visual learners to understand a variety of topics, from geological processes to sentence structure.
  5. Make lists of important topics. Listing out the most important topics from your notes or readings can be a good way to help you remember the key elements and provides a visual reference for later.
  6. Watch videos on relevant topics. Videos can be a big help to visual learners when trying to understand coursework. Search the Web for videos that apply to your topic to see if you can find some great visual tools.
  7. Take notes on reading material. While understanding reading material is generally second nature to visual learners, taking notes can help improve the amount of information you retain and gives you something to study from later.
  8. Use flashcards. Using images or text on flashcards can be a great way to associate concepts or vocabulary words with visual representations. Create separate piles for cards you answer correctly and those you miss. Go through the missed ones until you can get them all right.
  9. Highlight, circle and underline. Creating visual cues for yourself as to what parts of your notes or reading are most important can be a a great way get more out of the time you spend working on homework and studying.
  10. Look for photos. If there are images of what you’re learning about in class try to find them. This can often be all you need to understand even the most complex of concepts.
  11. Implement mind maps. Mind maps can be a great way for visual learners to organize information from a class or to come up with ideas for projects and papers.
  12. Use the computer. Much of our interaction with the computer is done in a visual manner, and this can form an ideal learning environment for visual learners. Check the Web for programs and sites you can use to improve your learning experience.
  13. Try creating mental images. When you’re struggling to remember things, sometimes creating a mental image for yourself can help, especially when it comes to things that aren’t visual by nature.
  14. Find visual representations of audio recordings. If your class relies on historical recordings or other audio materials try finding text versions of the same things. This can be a great way to help you get some visuals and possibly remember more.
  15. Keep things quiet. Most visual learners are very easily distracted by noise in the background or other people talking around them when they’re trying to do work or study. Find a quiet place like the library to do your work.
  16. Engage your imagination. Visual learners love to use their imaginations and think of new things. Use your imaginative abilities to come up with new ways of seeing topics in class, ideas for papers or great ways to visually represent an idea.

Using Other Learning Methods

The fact is that sometimes you’re not going to be able to use the learning method that works best for you. Here are some ways you can help improve your skills in auditory and kinesthetic learning.

  1. Work on listening and speaking. Because visual learners are some image and text oriented, make it a priority to work on your listening and speaking abilities. Many jobs will require this from you in the future and you’ll be ahead of the game if you build the skills beforehand.
  2. Don’t always rely on notes. Try testing yourself occasionally to remember material without writing it down. It can be better to do this with less important things at first and work your way up.
  3. Try listening to texts. Improve your listening abilities by getting audio recordings of materials for class instead of text ones. This can be difficult at first but will help you learn to better process auditory information.
  4. Write things down afterwards. See if you can remember a list of things without writing them down immediately. Wait a few minutes before writing them down to work on remembering oral information.
  5. Create a process. Boost your kinesthetic skills by creating a process for everything you do. This interactivity with studying, homework or preparing for class can help you learn to engage your whole body in the learning process.
  6. Work with others. While visual learners are not usually opposed to working with others, they do not require it as much as those that learn through interaction. Working with your classmates can be a great way to boost your abilities to work and learn with others, skills that will serve you your whole life.

Auditory Learners

Auditory learners understand things through hearing them, meaning they are partial to learning that involves music, talking and other kinds of sounds. Make the most of your learning abilities by using these tips to help you get through classes.

Organization

Keep your thoughts and things organized with some of these tips.

  1. Repeat to-dos to yourself. Repeating the tasks you have to do can be a great way for auditory learners to remember them.
  2. Create auditory cues. Have to set aside times to study and take breaks? Set up timers for yourself to indicate when to start and stop to help you better organize your time.
  3. Make sure things are logical. Auditory learners have a preference for information that presented in a logical manner. Give yourself this advantage by keeping all your class materials together in a way that makes the most sense to you.
  4. Leave yourself audio messages. Need to remember tasks or organize your thoughts for later? Get a tape recorder and leave yourself messages that you can listen to later.

In Class

Many class formats suit auditory learners quite well, but here are some additional tips to get the most out of class time.

  1. Use a tape recorder. If taking notes does nothing to help you remember classroom lectures, then try recording them with a small tape recorder instead.
  2. Ask questions. Asking questions can be a great way for auditory learners to cement in their minds the things they do know while helping them understand the things they don’t.
  3. Sit in the front of class. Make sure you hear what’s going on in your classes by sitting up front.
  4. Participate in discussions. If there’s a class discussion going on make sure you take part. It can help you to remember more and take more away from the class.
  5. Close your eyes. If you can manage to do so without falling asleep, concentrating on the audio elements of your class while shutting out the visual can help you focus in.
  6. Don’t skip class. While visual learners can read the material they miss and learn just as easily without going to class, as an auditory learner you may have a much harder time. So, no matter how tired you are, get up and get to class.
  7. Ask for things to be repeated. Repetition can be a great way to remember concepts and can also help to ensure that you fully understand them as well.

Studying

Learn to study better and more effectively with these tips.

  1. Study with others. Bouncing your ideas off others and talking out information from class can help you get a lot more from study sessions, so long as you don’t get distracted.
  2. Read texts out loud. While it may take you a little longer, it can help you to remember more in the long run.
  3. Get audio books. If you don’t want to read to yourself you may be able to find someone else to do it. Check to see if your class materials are available on tape instead.
  4. Create oral stories to narrate ideas. Put the information from your class, whether it’s history or vocab words, together into a story for yourself and repeat it out loud. It may help you remember the material more easily.
  5. Dictate your papers. Auditory learners may find it easier to narrate their papers and homework into a recorder and type them up later.
  6. Work problems out orally. While talking to yourself may make you feel like a crazy person, it can also be a great way to help you understand material and better complete your homework.
  7. Make speeches and presentations. If you’re given a choice, present your work in a oral format rather than a written one.
  8. Create musical ways to aid memorization. Making up a song or a tune to memorize words and processes to can be a great help to many auditory learners.
  9. Read notes to yourself. Reading over your notes out loud can be more beneficial to auditory learners than simply reading them quietly.
  10. Explain ideas to others. Some students may find that they understand their coursework better when they explain it to other students.
  11. Discuss your ideas verbally.Talk with other students, your teachers any anyone else to get your ideas out there. It can make it easier to formulate your ideas and shape your homework assignments.
  12. Watch videos. Just like visual learners, auditory learners can benefit from watching educational materials. Browse video sites on the Web to find pertinent information to help you out.
  13. Read directions aloud. If you’re having trouble understanding an assignment, try reading it out loud to yourself. You may find you understand it better then.
  14. Try finding podcasts. Because auditory learners respond better to things they hear, finding educational podcasts can be a great way to supplement notes and lessons.
  15. Listen to music. Some auditory learners find it helpful to listen to music quietly or to go to a public place to study, as they enjoy the background noise.
  16. Put on headphones. You can help focus on the auditory elements of your environment by putting on headphones. This can help you to concentrate on the task at hand.
  17. Spell things out loud. When learning new words, it can be helpful for auditory learners to say and spell them out loud until they sound familiar.
  18. Use rhymes to remember important things. Rhyming can be a great way to create mnemonic devices to remember all kinds of information you need to know for classes.

Using Other Learning Methods

Learning without noise can be hard for auditory learners but they can boost their skills with these tips.

  1. Mix formats. When trying to learn using another method it can be helpful to mix formats at first. This can mean watching videos, following along in a book to an audio recording, and more.
  2. Write more down. You may not learn the best from things you write down, but you can help start adding note taking to your studying process.
  3. Try to get meaning from photos. To improve your visual skills, spend some time looking at photos and visual representations of the information from class.
  4. Play games and use flashcards. Make your learning process a little more hands on by creating games and using flashcards to study. If you struggle with this method you can also switch to an audio format instead.
  5. Create charts and graphs. Map out the data in your class into graphs, charts and diagrams to give you a more visual representation of what it’s saying.

Kinesthetic Learners

Kinesthetic learners work the best when they can get hands on with things. This means interactive learning experiences like labs, demonstrations and computer programs help them to learn the most. Here are some tips for using these kinds of thing to study, work and organize.

Organization

Take a hands on approach to keeping your school stuff, and everything else, organized with these tips.

  1. Make materials tactile. Because kinesthetic learners are so focused on touch, organizing along those lines can helpful. Buy notebooks and folders with different surfaces or create them yourself to make it easy and fun to touch your materials and distinguish one from another.
  2. Use the computer. Computers are highly interactive devices and can excite and interest kinesthetic learners. Keeping to-do lists and assignments organized on the computer can be a great way to make organization easier.
  3. Create processes. Make your organizational habits more interactive by creating a process. Whether it means turning on your favorite music when you start to pull things together or doing things in a particular order, find a process that works for you.
  4. Make it active. Being organized doesn’t have to mean sitting in one place while you do it. Make cleaning, organizing and ordering more fun by getting active while doing it.
  5. Make sure materials are functional. Kinesthetic learners are all about function over form. Make sure the materials you use to organize are highly functional.

In Class

Make the most of the time you spend in class each week with some help from these tips.

  1. Take lab classes. Lab classes offer kinesthetic learners the perfect opportunity to interact with the materials pertinent to their class. If you can, try taking classes that include a lab element so you get as much hands on time as possible.
  2. Go on field trips. Going to a museum, park or historical place that relates to what you’re learning can be a great interactive way to understand what you’re learning about.
  3. Interact with professors and classmates. Don’t just sit quietly in the back of class, ask questions, interact with teachers, and work with other students. This will create a much more engaged learning experience and you’ll take more away from it.
  4. Write and draw lecture materials. Just sitting and listening to a lecture may not be enough to make it stick in your mind. Take notes and make sketches related to class to reinforce the material.
  5. Sit near the front. It will be easier for you to interact with your teacher and see what is going on if you sit near the front.
  6. Chew gum. when you’re in a quiet classroom tapping a pen or your foot can be annoying to other students but many kinesthetic learners find it difficult to sit still. Chewing gum, quietly, can be a good way to keep moving around without bothering anyone else.
  7. Type notes. If you can bring your laptop into the classroom, try typing notes out as the class goes along. This will keep your hands busy while you listen.

Studying

Keep yourself interacting with your study materials by trying out these ideas.

  1. Study in short blocks. Kinesthetic learners will get the most out of short study sessions with breaks in between to get up and move around.
  2. Role play. One way to get invested in your material is to act it out with yourself or classmates. You’re much more likely to remember material you’ve gotten involved with using your whole body.
  3. Study with others. Working with other students gives you a chance to interact and bounce your ideas off of others, and can be a great way to improve study time.
  4. Use memory games. Playing games to help you remember important vocab words and concepts can make learning fun and much more interactive than reading them out of a books.
  5. Create flash cards. Along those same lines, flash cards are a great tool to help kinesthetic learners remember important information.
  6. Make time to move around. Don’t just sit still and force yourself to study for hours. It’s likely you’ll just be thinking about that instead of focusing on what you should be studying. Incorporate breaks into your study schedule.
  7. Draw or write things out. Get involved with your classroom materials by drawing or writing them out even if they are in audio format.
  8. Create models. Because kinesthetic learners love to make things they can interact with, creating models, dioramas or computer animations can help them to better get a handle on even the most complex concepts.
  9. Trace letters and words. When trying to learn new words in English or a foreign language kinesthetic learners can benefit from tracing them out on paper or using their eraser to spell them out.
  10. Think about studying while working out or walking. You don’t have to sit still to study. Try listening to materials related to class while walking between classes, taking a jog on the treadmill or just cleaning your house.
  11. Go through the motions. When you’re learning about processes it can be useful to act out how they work. You may remember more when you have the motions to go along with the words.
  12. Draw charts and diagrams. Like visual learners, kinesthetic learners benefit from creating charts and diagrams of information from class.
  13. Make things tangible. Abstract concepts may be difficult for kinesthetic learners to understand as they are interested more in things that can be touched and dealt with physically. Think of ways to represent these abstract concepts as tangible objects to make them easier to understand.
  14. Copy notes. Rewriting the material in your notes can be a good way to help you remember it.
  15. Multitask. For some people multitasking simply doesn’t work, but more highly active kinesthetic learners may find it highly productive.
  16. Use interactive learning materials. Whether you create flash cards, pay games, quiz yourself on the computer or talk with friends, make sure the way you’re studying involves a certain amount of interactivity.
  17. Don’t sit still. Sitting still can be a hard thing for many kinesthetic learners. Allow yourself to move around as you study, do homework or work on projects. You’ll stay more interested, no matter how boring the material is.

Using Other Learning Methods

Improve your skills in other learning methods by trying these methods out.

  1. Talk things through. Work on your auditory learning skills by talking yourself through homework problems or to understand better understand notes and class materials.
  2. Try to keep still and focus. It’s not in the nature of kinesthetic learners to sit still for long periods of time but work on improving your ability to stay put can be advantage for times when you have to.
  3. Work at understanding things abstractly. You won’t always be able to create models or drawings of things you’re learning so work on trying to understand concepts without these aids when you can.
  4. Listen to audio materials. Listening to CDs and other audio recordings instead of reading can help you to improve your auditory understanding of things. If it helps you, you can walk around or use your hands to work on something else while listening to these recordings.
  5. Watch videos. Videos combine both auditory and visual learning, and can be a great way to improve your ability to learn either way.
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