The VARK results indicate a ‘rule of thumb’ and should not be rigidly applied. Remember that the questionnaire is not intended to ‘box’ respondents into a mindset that they have been ‘diagnosed’. Rather, it is designed to initiate discussion about, and reflection upon, learning preferences- metacognition.
It is not expected that any one preference will be dominant or that all participants will be multimodal. In the business world there will be huge diversity and only when we sample a particular industry group might we find something biassed or skewed towards a modality. For example elite athletes have higher Kinesthetic scores; designers and architects have higher scores for the Visual mode; journalists for Read/write… Approximately 50% of faculty are multi-modal, although they usually show preferences for Read/write as one of their many preferred modes. Correspondingly, there will be some students or faculty that have a strong or very strong preference that stands out from others. The most consistent finding from VARK questionnaire results is that our classrooms are very diverse. Faculty members cannot assume that students learn in the way that they learned.
Pay particular attention to zero scores on any mode and even more attention to them if the total number of responses is high. Zero scores in a profile are unusual and the person will often have an interesting story to tell. Zero does not mean they cannot use the strategies associated with that mode, only that it is not their preferred method of study.
The power of VARK is that people understand it intuitively and it fits practice. In VARK workshops participants say, “Yes! That’s me.”
Emphasize that the results indicate preferences not strengths in whatever way you can. This reduces the participant’s anxiety, sometimes expressed as “But I am good visually!” or “But I like reading!” Some people with a zero score in their VARK profile for Visual, enjoy relaxing by drawing or painting or visiting art galleries!
THESE CAUTIONS ARE IMPORTANT!
- Preferences are not the same as strengths.
- VARK is about learning not leisure.
- If you have completed the questionnaire with empathy you will have indicated the preferences of others – not your own learning preferences. Go back and do it for yourself.
- Your VARK scores indicate how you prefer to learn. The four scores may not indicate how you teach, train, or work with others!
- Preferences may be masked by life and work experiences.
Work and life experiences may blur the boundaries as people learn new ways to use Aural, Visual, Read/write and Kinesthetic modes equally well.
People should take advantage of their preferences and use the learning strategies listed in the VARK Helpsheets provided on this website. These can be used to investigate preferences and to explore their own views about whether the preference is accurate and helpful. For example, a person with a strong Aural preference could be asked:
- How important is discussion in your life?
- Are listening, speaking and asking questions important ways for you to learn?
- Do you consider yourself an Aural person?
- Are there aspects of your life where your Aural preference is obvious?
- Are there aspects of your life where your Aural preference is less important?
- Are there aspects of your life where your Aural preference is really important?
Some of those with a multimodal set of VARK preferences may need to process information in more than one mode in order to get a thorough and satisfying understanding. They should be encouraged to try new study strategies listed under their multiple preferences in the Helpsheets. Our experience is that many people become much more successful if they develop a range of learning strategies based upon their preferences. It is clearly not helpful to use strategies that are outside your preferences (e.g. using mind-maps may not help if you are strongly Kinesthetic. Mnemonics may not help if you have a low Read/write score and PowerPoints may not be at all Visual if it places only words on the screen.) A westernized education system places heavy emphasis upon the Read/write mode. In both instruction and the assessment of learning this mode is the dominant one. Most teachers, coaches and trainers express a Read/write preference, which may disadvantage learners with other preferences; to assist with learning they should use a variety of modes if they expect to reach every learner.
“Teach me my most difficult concepts in my preferred style.
Let me explore my easiest concepts in a different style.
Just don’t teach me all the time in your preferred style,
and think I’m not capable of learning.”
A story and a comment from Virleen M. Carlson, Center for Learning and Teaching, Cornell University, USA.