Using VARK in Research

VARK is copyright to VARK Learn Ltd, a registered New Zealand company and VARK is also trademarked. If you are using VARK in your research, you must first apply for permission to do so, using our Copyright Permission Form.

When filling in your application:

VARK is a very active topic for researchers and this statement is an attempt to assist researchers by following helpful pathways and avoiding common pitfalls, as well as providing guidance about the sort of information we need to see in your application.

Please note that we receive many applications to use VARK in research every week, and it is not uncommon for us to decline a request either because insufficient information is provided or because the research design is not robust and/or is not compatible with VARK.

Your Hypothesis

If the scope of your study is limited to describing the distribution of VARK preferences with a specific group of people, without attempting to prove or disprove any further hypothesis, make this clear in your application.

For other cases, when describing your hypothesis, explain the idea(s) that you are intending to prove/disprove. Be sure that your hypothesis or intention is compatible with VARK. VARK has been designed to help people learn better by prompting them to think about how they learn best (meta-cognition) and by suggesting the study strategies that are more likely to work for them. VARK is NOT intended to be used to enable teachers to “match” learning materials to the students’ learning preferences. Nor is it intended to be used to identify those who are more likely to have better academic success. We are unlikely to approve any proposals that attempt to use VARK in ways that it is not intended to be used.

When designing your research, please ensure that you first understand the definitions of the VARK modalities (Visual, Aural, Read/write and Kinesthetic). Your research will not be valid if you use the VARK questionnaire to find out VARK preferences of your participants but then interpret those preferences in some other way. It would be helpful to include your definitions of the modalities in your application, so that we can be sure that VARK is the appropriate questionnaire for your purpose.

VARK is only part of a learning style. A complete learning style should have information on some 20-plus preferences that affect learning. If your study is limited to VARK learning preferences, we would prefer you use the term “learning preferences” rather than “learning styles”.

Your Methodology

When describing your methodology, we are interested in things such as:

  • how participants are selected, and whether there will be a control group
  • what data you will collect about participants
  • what VARK-related information you will provide to participants
  • how you will obtain and analyse data related to VARK
  • what correlations will you be looking for, if any
  • what steps you will take to prove/disprove your hypothesis

In particular:

  • “Learning” is difficult to measure – if you are intending to measure it, please explain how you will do so.
  • Learning content cannot always be readily assigned to one VARK modality. If you intend to do so, please provide examples of the learning content and modalities you are assigning it to.
  • Merely answering the questionnaire is unlikely benefit students. Finding out what their VARK learning preference is only likely to benefit students if they act on that information. If your research involves looking at the benefits in using VARK, you will need to detail the information students will receive about VARK, and whether/how you will measure the actions students take as a result of finding out their VARK preference.
  • What statistical measures will you use to compare the results? You need to recognise that the use of multiple choices for the VARK questions means that participants could have significantly different VARK scores but maintain the same VARK Preference. For example, Participant A has scores of V=10, A= 5, R=6, K=4. Participant B has these scores V=6, A= 4, R=3, K=3. Both participants have a Mild Visual Preference. For this reason, unless we give permission for you to do otherwise, you must analyse VARK learning preferences in terms of the resulting VARK preferences rather than the raw scores, and you must not “simplify” multimodal results by just using the highest score and treating it as a single preference, or any other such manipulation of the data. In any group, you are likely to have participants with a wide range of VARK learning preferences (mild, strong and very strong Visual, Aural, Read/Write and Kinesthetic, as well as the multimodal preferences: VA, VR, VK, AR, AK, RK, VAR, VAK, VRK, ARK, VARK Type One, VARK Transitional, VARK Type Two). If you intend to group or simplify this range of 25 different preferences in any way for the purpose of your analysis, please describe how you will do so.