VARK is a very active topic for researchers and this statement is an attempt to assist researchers from following unhelpful pathways.
Firstly, VARK is only part of a learning style. A complete learning style should have information on all the preferences that affect learning. This includes such things as preferences for learning at different times in the day. Such an inventory would be a complex amalgam of questions and analysis. VARK is an intensive look at only one set of preferences within a learning style – the preference that learners have for their communication modes – Visual, Auditory, Read/write and Kinesthetic. VARK is copyright to Neil Fleming as he added Read/write to the usual V, A and K categories.
Comments on Some Research Questions
- Can learning be measured? When we learn something, a mental process occurs and that is not observable. The closest we can get to a measure of learning is to ask for some demonstration by the learner to indicate that learning has occurred – a test, demonstration, writing, speaking, running, jumping, analysing… Most assessment methods are a proxy for learning. The most powerful way is to ask the learner to teach somebody else. If that is done succesfully we know a great deal about the learner and what is learned. As Proubert said, “To teach is to learn- twice.”
- Does knowing your preferences affect learning? It may or it may not. Merely knowing that you learn best by writing does not mean that you will use only that mode for your learning. Many learners copy the learning modes of successful peers instead of using their own preferences. Knowing your weight does not make you take action to reduce (or increase) it. It is the action after “knowing” that determines whether there is a useful link between learning and VARK’s modal preferences.
- What preferences help learners for distance or online learning? All the VARK preferences can be used for all delivery methods. Learners have four preferences not one. They differ in strength and usage but they are not discrete. A researcher will not find that those who succeed with lectures are Auditory learners or that all sportsmen and women are Kinesthetic. Regardless of our VARK scores we use our four modes in combination so a unimodal presentation or unimodal research design is neither possible nor helpful. Learners are adept at using their preferred modes to adapt incoming messages to suit their strategies. They translate/transform the less-desired input. When they have a zero VARK preference for Auditory they can still attend lectures, talks, debates and discussions and get some learning from those delivery methods. It is just not their preference! In the same way that they can eat pineapples but prefer kiwifruit.
- Do some VARK categories align with particular delivery methods? They may do so but it is a pointless research exercise as learners are multimodal. One researcher found no connection between VARK categories and interactive learning methods. It is not surprising that interactive teaching involves all four VARK modes.
- Should we use the VARK categories for research? We use the VARK categories (Mild Auditory, Strong Kinesthetic, Visual/Read/write (VA) etc.) only as useful shorthand codes to describe a set of preferences. VARK has four scores and that is intentional. Researchers would be best advised to use all four scores rather than the VARK categories. For some people the differences in their VARK scores are minimal and we should not assign them into rigid research-based categories for analysis. Of course, using four scores makes research more complicated.
- If I use all four modes in my training or teaching will that improve learning for all? Not necessarily! It may confuse some learners who might have a strong preference for just one mode, say Read/write. They may want that mode to be used more often. Learners like variety to prevent boredom but using all four modes in a teaching session can be counter-productive.
SO WHAT ARE SOME GOOD RESEARCH QUESTS?
- Do those who know their VARK scores make changes to their learning?
- What are those changes?
- Are they successful?
- How do learners adapt to learn from modes that they do not prefer?
- What strategies do learners use that align with their VARK scores?
- Which common strategies do not align with learners’ VARK scores?
- What are the differences in strategies between learners who have a very strong preference and those who are multimodal?
- Do learners who prefer two modes use them interchangeably or together, but in some order or to suit some circumstances?
- What are the learning characteristics of those who have a zero score for a mode?
- Do teachers teach use the same modes for teaching that they prefer for their own learning?
In January 2009 Neil Fleming, the VARK designer, facilitated his first set of workshops in the USA. These covered a range of topics (see Workshops on the “More Information” page). There was an increased interest in applying VARK and learning preferences in both academic environments, businesses and sport. If you are interested in a workshop or workshops on your site please email Neil and indicate your interest. There is no commitment in asking and he can provide you with email addreses of previous clients to get independent feedback about the effectiveness of his particpatory workshops. These are not PowerPoint driven lectures! That would be anathema for someone who designed VARK!!
In 2008 Neil Fleming, the VARK designer, will be running workshops in the USA and the UK. These will cover a range of topics (See Workshops page on this website ) and there is increased interest in applying VARK and learning preferences in both academic environments and sports. If you are interested in a workshop or workshops on your site please email Neil and indicate your interest. There is no commitment in asking and he can provide you with email addreses of previous clients to get independent feedback about the practicality and effectiveness of his particpatory workshops. These are not PowerPoint driven lectures! That would be anathema for someone who designed VARK!!
We welcome offers to translate the VARK questionnaire into other languages. If you can help, please contact us.
When respondents complete the questionnaire online about one-third of them also provide us with some useful demographic details about themslves. We are expanding the list of options for the section on “Disciplines”. If you belong to a discipline that is not listed and you believe it would attract a large portion from our “Other” listing please let us know.
The younger version of VARK for those aged 12-18 has been revised (September 2007). It now has 16 questions, each with four options and it uses language more suited to that age group than the main questionnaire. My apologies to those who want to make time-based, comparisons using the previous version.
In 2007 Neil Fleming, the VARK designer, ran workshops in the USA, the UK and Ireland. These covered a range of topics (See Workshop on this website ) and there was increased interest in applying VARK and learning preferences in business and sports. If you are interested this year in a workshop or workshops on your site please email Neil and ask. He is still keen to facilitate interactive learning sessions for groups in business, sport and education.
Avoid the hassle of putting software on your web. Use ours! We can host your VARK results and you have special and confidential access to the VARK scores for your class, your classes, or for your whole college, school or university. This service is available now and there is demonstration version for you to try it before you buy it. The price is designed to suit a teacher’s budget so you don’t have to ask for additional money. You also don’t need approval from your IT people as we host the site for you. We will provide you with a password and you can access the results for yourself, your department, or your school or college whenever you want. The subscription period is for six months and for each subscription you may collect the VARK data for up to five separate classes. Enquire now.
During September 2006 a team of VARK experts (Abby Hassler, Charles Bonwell, Carol Cadigan, Heather Lander and Faye and Neil Fleming) completed a five-yearly review of the VARK questionnaire. There were some questions identified by Arne Norborg, a Norwegian educational psychologist, that were not performing well and some language and examples needed revising. The team devised several new questions and these were tested on the website during September. We finally settled on 16 questions each with four options. The incorrect use of pronouns which upset some grammarians was removed and the language shoud now be consistent. (There was a good reason to switch from “You” to “I’ in the midst of the old question stems – it increased the likelihood that respondents would reflect on real and remembered situations rather than create imaginary ones.) Now we have the task of re-translating the new questionanire into our other languages and we need help with that please. We will also be offering upgrades to those who have purchased software based on the older VARK versions. The Helpsheets were not affected and remain a strong part of what VARK offers. New statistics based on VARK 7.0 will appear soon. Some are already below. Much of VARK will look and be the same. We want to preserve the percentage of respondents who report (online) that their VARK scores match their perception of their learning preferences. That is consistently around 60%. Expect more news as our new database grows.
The database collects the VARK data for respondents other than those who have English as their first language. Some of those collections are small but the Spanish data is interesting as is the total database for those using languages other than English. Here is a table with some comparative data received during 2005.
Languages other than English
Spanish (included above)
VARK Database (English)