Using VARK with a group

The VARK questionnaire indicates the variety of approaches that support learning. It supports those who have been having difficulties with their learning and has particular applications in business, sport, training and education. Mentors, trainers, teachers and coaches who would like to develop additional learning strategies can also benefit from using VARK. It can be used with a business group, a team or a class or with one-to-one training and counseling, but it does require some explanation to avoid leaping to inappropriate conclusions.

Before you start

Those wanting to use our copyright materials for enhancing their business or adding value to their performance need to visit the Copyright page and expect to budget for the inexpensive cost.

We have a VARK Training Package available – as well as annotated PowerPoint slides and workshop plans and follow-up exercises there are the useful Helpsheets that should enhance learning and communication. 

Before presenting VARK to a group, you may like to check your understanding of some of the complexities of VARK. You can do so using our online VARK Quiz. Correct answers to these 25 True/False Questions will indicate your understanding of some of the key principles involved in using VARK.

Administering the questionnaire

Your options when asking a group to fill in the VARK questionnaire are to use any of the following:

  • the online VARK questionnaire – participants will fill in the questionnaire online and get their VARK result immediately.
  • paper copies of the questionnaire – participants will fill in the questionnaire on paper and use the scoring chart to work out their scores for V, A, R and K. The standard questionnaire is available here and the version for younger people is available here.
    You will need to collect their scores and analyse them either by:
    a) purchasing a VARK Result Analysis to find out what their VARK results are, or
    b) purchasing a VARK Subscription and using the included online VARK calculator to find out what their VARK results are.
    Note: a majority of people have a multimodal preference, so it is not appropriate to just use their highest score without finding out what their VARK result is. The VARK algorithm needs to be applied to their scores to determine what their resulting learning preference is.
  • a VARK Subscription Site – participants will fill in the questionnaire online, get their VARK result immediately, and their results will be automatically stored for you to access.

When you are instructing others to fill in the questionnaire they should be told to make a selection for each question. They may omit a question or they may choose more than one option.

Before they complete the questionnaire it may be helpful to tell them that they are to answer the questions for themselves; not for others. Too much empathy will lead to muddled results.

Some may contest the meaning of words in the questionnaire and others may ask for additional contextual or situational information before they choose their answers. Avoid giving that information, as it may bias responses. Tell them to avoid that question if they persist or encourage them to choose more than one response if they think the context is unclear.

Some may want to discuss the purpose of the questionnaire or its validity or reliability. Ask them to hold such questions till later when they can be more appropriately answered.

Discussing the results

Please emphasize, in whatever ways you can, that the results indicate their preferences but are not their strengths. This reduces the anxiety for respondents who may express a view that their results indicate they are not good readers or not visually strong.

Major changes in work and life experiences may blur differences between preferences as people learn to use Visual, Aural, Read/write and Kinesthetic modes in new situations.  Preferences may also be masked by experiences.  Note that the results of the questionnaire are four scores not one and even when one score dominates the total the other three scores can obviously be used as well. Even a zero score indicates that that mode is not preferred – it does not indicate that it is not available as a learning strategy.

No one mode is superior and there is no superior set for VARK’s four-score results. Although business, government and academic institutions may appear to be biased towards using Read/write (print) resources, life is much more varied. And you can be successful with almost any combination. “You may be different but you are not dumb.” VARK believes that every learner can improve their learning strategies and there is no magic set of scores. People can use their VARK results to explore their own views about whether their VARK preference fits them. For example, a person with a strong Visual preference could be asked:

  • “How important is colour in your life?”
  • “Do you consider yourself a Visual person?”
  • “Are there aspects of your life where your visual preference is obvious?”
  • “Do you think you have a strong sense of space or shape or position or location?”
  • “Do the study strategies fit with what you do now?”

Finally, some may ask questions about output preferences rather than input preferences. “How is it that I like reading but I hate writing?” Research indicates that those who have a strong preference for “taking in the world” in any particular mode ( V, A, R, or K) will want to output in the same mode.

Visit the page on understanding the results, and on VARK categories/modalities.

Remember PREFERENCES ARE NOT THE SAME AS STRENGTHS

and

VARK IS ABOUT STRATEGIES FOR LEARNING.  IT MAY NOT APPLY TO LEISURE OR RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES.

In any group, 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.

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.

Check your Understanding of VARK

Before using VARK with a group, you may like to check your understanding of some of the intricacies of VARK, by completing the VARK Quiz.