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. If you are not doing the research as part of your work or study at a school, college or university, there may be a fee for using VARK.

If you are interested in using VARK in your research but haven’t yet decided on a research topic, have a look at our suggestions.

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.

Publishing

Our criteria for approving research that is to be published is considerably more strict than for other research proposals. So if there is any possibility that you may want to publish your results in the future, be sure to indicate this in your application. Otherwise you risk us declining permission when it is too late for your to modify your research to meet our requirements.

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.

VARK and “academic performance”: while we are not adverse to the idea of research that involves studying academic performance in relation to VARK, it is important that:
a) You are clear about why you are attempting to make links between VARK preferences and academic performance.
b) Your hypothesis is compatible with VARK.
c) Your research design takes into account various complexities such as how academic success is  measured and how closely that relates to learning, whether students are actually using strategies that match their preference, what part other factors such as motivation play in academic performance, and so on.

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 VARK learning preference results?

Collecting Data

Your options for collecting data about the learning preferences of your participants are:

  1. Send participants to fill in the VARK Questionnaire online at our website. Participants will find out what their learning preference is, but their results will not be automatically saved for you. You will need to ask them to report their result to you.
  2. Purchase a VARK Subscription. Participants will fill in the Questionnaire online, they will find out what their learning preference is, and their results will be automatically saved for you to access.
  3. Use paper copies of the questionnaire. Participants will be able to find out their raw VARK scores using the scoring chart, and you will then need to collect those scores into a spreadsheet to send to us for analysis so that you can find out the participants’ learning preferences.

Note that we do not allow the VARK Questionnaire to be replicated in an electronic format, so you may not create your own online copy of the VARK Questionnaire, or include the questions from the VARK Questionnaire in some other survey instrument. It is usual for research to involve participants answering demographic questions in addition to the VARK Questionnaire – if this is the case in your study, you will need to include a common identifier when collecting the demographic data and the VARK data, so that you can match up responses. This might be the participants’ names, student IDs, email addresses, or a random identifier if the data is to be anonymous.

Analysing the VARK Results

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.
Conversely, two people can have the same score for a particular modality, but have completely different VARK learning preferences.
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 (e.g. “mild Visual”, “VRK”…) rather than the raw scores (e.g. V=10, A= 5, R=6, K=4).

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). 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.  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.
Valid grouping of VARK learning preferences, for the purpose of analysis include:

  • comparing those with a single preference with those with a multimodal preference,
  • comparing those who have a particular modality included in their set of preferences with those who don’t e.g. those who have some sort of Visual preference (single Visual, VA, VR, VK, VAR, VRK, VAK, VARK) and those who do not (single Aural, single Read/write, single Kinesthetic, AR, RK, ARK).