I teach students who are Deaf and hard of hearing employing American Sign Language. Throughout my undergraduate work, I not only made my own study guides, wrote my exam answers out before the test, and had to have an understanding of the “big picture” before I could digest the details, I also quite successfully used American Sign Language as a tool in my studying. When I was doing straight memorization, I would sign what I was trying to remember. Then, during the test, all I had to do was close my eyes and “see” myself signing and I would remember the answer. In my masters degree work, I had several classes with another teacher who taught deaf students. We did the same things in studying together. I try to teach my deaf students this same technique. It works amazingly well. I am currently working on a project in tutoring deaf and hard of hearing secondary and post secondary students for Tulsa Community College.
Working in New Zealand, observing the great variety of learning styles exhibited by students, Fleming came to the same conclusion many faculty have reached: namely, that it seems unrealistic to hope to provide programs that can meet the needs of all these learning styles, to ask the teacher to forgo his strengths and become a presentational pretzel. Instead, Fleming thought, why not empower students by helping them identify their learning preferences, and offer them advice on how to utilize those in response to the different teaching styles they might encounter? If the responsibility for learning has really always lain with the student, the awareness derived from VARK merely highlights for students the tools they already like to use and how to use them better. An important feature of the VARK instrument (which Fleming likes to call a “catalyst” in contrast with an “inventory”) is the “study strategies” that accompany it.
Students have different learning styles and these can affect how they learn. PA programs can potentially improve student learning by administering an intervention such as learning style inventories. The VARK inventory is one such tool that is easy to use and can give students information on how to maximize their learning. First-year Emory University Physician Assistant students were asked to take the VARK inventory and then submit their results. This was followed with a presentation and discussion. In addition, these students were asked to respond to a questionnaire. The students had a positive response to the intervention, and found it to be helpful.
The main advantage of focusing on the VARK modal preferences is that both students and teachers can adjust their behaviours to use modal preferences positively in learning and teaching.
Ten weeks into this semester, 58 students have sought tutoring assistance. Only three students came for assistance on specific course content. The others wanted help learning how to study efficiently using their learning style. The majority of the students that came to see me were those that preferred learning in all four modes (VARK). They represented 48% of the total. Normally, approximately 30% of the population is VARK learners. The Kinesthetic (K) learners represented 13% and the trimodal learners who were missing the Read/Write preference (VAK) came in significant numbers, 14 %.
Fleming explains that those with all four preferences, (VARK), very often need all four preferences to learn. He states that they may feel anxious if they do not use all their learning styles. Many of these students came in with high frustration levels complaining that they were having difficulties learning from just the written and spoken word. Some were in classes that were primarily lecture oriented (A & R). There were few opportunities to use their V and K preferences- to see, touch, feel, act out, and do what they needed to learn. There is no retention data in this study to date because the semester is not over. But at this point there are multiple success stories. Students have verbalized how much better they are doing. The EMS program reported an improvement in the median score of one exam over last year after the class was instructed in how to condense information from the textbook and lecture notes.
One multimodal VARK student who had been placed on academic probation came into my office to thank me. She had received a 92% on her midterm and was no longer on probation, She said that she had done everything that I had suggested she do and she was now able to use her study and lecture time more efficiently. She was no longer anxious and therefore was more able to focus well.
A struggling student, barely getting by with a 71% average last semester, came to me saying that he had learning disabilities and ADD and that is was impossible for him to learn all this medical information. I rapidly discovered that this VK student had almost a photographic memory for diagrams. I taught him how to turn all pertinent information from text and lecture into pictures, symbols and stories. I received an email from this student the following week saying that he would have been happy to get a solid C on the test he just took, but that he received 100%. He told me to ” Keep up the good work.”
The stories go on and on, and if predictions hold, the data will show that this program is increasing the retention of our students in these demanding health technology programs.
I started using the VARK Learning Style Inventory (using the old Spanish questionnaire) about a year ago, for the specific purpose of increasing math proficiency in first year engineering students in a nonprofit environment. I managed to combine VARK test results with teaching strategies related to it. The results have been amazing: Student failure decreased by about 30%, teachers are happier and we’ve just been commissioned to design a project to support high schools in our community… For all of the above, many thanks.
Thank you so much for providing such a great tool for educators to use. I greatly appreciate it.
Hi Neil, A couple of years ago we purchased your books on VARK and we also used your website to assess our students learning preferences. We made this a mandatory part of our course to teach our students independent learning skills. Thought you may like to know that we were awarded an Excellence in Education Award from the Australian College of Educators in 2006. We try to encourage our students to understand how they learn and so go on to choose and plan their own learning .
We will be having a faculty retreat in March to discuss our new curriculum as well as how to best take advantage of our new (2009) education building. I thought you’d be interested in the first slide of my presentation… showing that VARK is serving as our jumping off point!
My LD students are learning what their preferences are for learning. They are pretty excited when what the survey says fits. It’s nice to have a document that shows that they learn differently and not that they are incapable of learning.