I’m a Multimodal Learner. Now What?

According to our VARK® statistics, you are not alone! Of individuals who complete the questionnaire, our statistics show that:

  • 20% are BIMODAL – two preferences e.g. AK: Aural and Kinesthetic
  • 15% are TRIMODAL – three preferences e.g. VAK: Visual, Aural, and Kinesthetic
  • 31% have all four preferences i.e. VARK: Visual, Aural, Read/write, and Kinesthetic

MULTIMODAL learners like to select from multiple VARK® modalities – VISUAL, AURAL, READ/WRITE, and KINESTHETIC – when learning and communicating. They might select one of their preferred modalities based on the context, or they may use strategies from a combination of modalities to get a better understanding.

To make the most of being a Multimodal learner, you need to understand:

  1. what each of your preferred modalities means.
  2. what your VARK® preferences are.
  3. how to best use your VARK® preferences in learning situations.

Understanding and improving your learning using your preferred modalities is an ongoing process.

Understanding the four VARK® Modalities

The first thing to do, when you have found out that you are a MULTIMODAL learner, is to clarify what each of the VARK® modalities included in your preference means. The following table summarizes each of the modalities:

Visual Symbol

VISUAL

design, layout & graphics – the BIG PICTURE

Aural Symbol

AURAL

listening, talking, discussing & questioning

Read/write icon

READ/WRITE

lists, notes & text in all formats, both on paper & screen

Kinesthetic Icon

KINESTHETIC

practical experiences, real-life examples, case studies & trial and error

Take special note of the Visual and Kinesthetic modalities as they are often misunderstood:

  • VISUAL is better thought of as “graphic” as it does not include everything that is seen. It encompasses drawings, diagrams, charts, and maps – but not photos and videos. Because photos show real life, they are categorized as Kinesthetic, and videos might be Kinesthetic if they are focused on showing real life, or Aural if they predominantly show someone talking.
  • KINESTHETIC encompasses anything that is focused on the experience of the real world, particularly your own experience. In VARK® terms, “Kinesthetic” does not mean moving around while you learn.

Better understanding your preferences

VARK® founder, Neil Fleming often stated that “Life is MULTIMODAL”. Learning is not just limited to the classroom or education – in life, we are learning all the time. Be aware of your and others’ learning preferences when you are out and about in the community, learning something new, or interacting with other people.

Let’s look at ordering food at a restaurant for example. Can you discover the different VARK® modalities you may use when deciding what to order?  You may be influenced by the:

  • format, colour, layout of the menu (V)
  • waiter’s comments (A)
  • description of the food on the menu (R)
  • food going past you to the next table, or what you had last time you dined there (K).

You can explore more examples of VARK® in everyday life below:

VARK in Action
  • What do you tend to do in each of these situations?
  • What does that tell you about your learning preferences?
  • Do your results from the VARK® Questionnaire accurately reflect how you tend to learn in everyday situations?

As you explore the ways that you tend to use VARK® modalities in everyday situations, you will gain a better understanding of your modality preferences.

It is also helpful to be aware of your friends’, colleagues’, or staff members’ learning preferences and notice how their preferences influence your choice of communication mode!

Applying your MULTIMODAL preference in learning situations

Once you are clear about the modalities that you prefer, it is time to look for opportunities to better use your preferences in more formal learning situations – whether that be in education, training, or when researching a topic for work or recreation.

First, have a look at the VARK® Helpsheets for recommended strategies for each VARK® modality:

In more challenging learning situations, make the most of your MULTIMODAL preference by processing new information in more than one of your preferred modalities. This will take longer than focussing on just one modality but will give you a more comprehensive understanding.

These VARK® MULTIMODAL tables provide some suggestions of the ways that each modality might be used in specific contexts:

Secondly, use our Current Strategies Questionnaire to find out which modalities you use when studying. You can then compare this with your VARK® preferences, to find out whether you might be wasting effort on strategies that you don’t prefer, and whether you are under-utilizing some modalities. You might find that, because of the ways you have been taught to study, your current efforts are focused on Read/write strategies, even though your preferences indicate Aural and Kinesthetic strategies might work better for you.

Lastly, keep in mind that VARK® isn’t just about how you take in information; how you process that information is more important.

  • Make the most of your VISUAL preference by summarizing what you have learned in a diagram.
  • To use your AURAL preference effectively, discuss what you are learning with others.
  • Don’t just limit your use of your READ/WRITE preference to reading – to really learn the information, you will benefit from writing about what you have found out, in your own words.
  • For a KINESTHETIC preference: you need to practice, practice, practice!

For a better understanding of how to actively use your preferences for better learning, see our article on Active Learning.

And remember that thinking about how you learn and improving your learning strategies is an ongoing process. (More about that in a future article on Metacognition.)

Having an awareness of the different learning preferences is a great start! Now it is up to the learner to make the changes. There is always more to learn!

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