What does Multimodal mean?

Being Multimodal means that when learning, you prefer to use two or more of the four VARK modalities – VISUAL (V), AURAL (A), READ/WRITE (R), and KINESTHETIC (K) – rather than preferring a single modality.

According to the data collected from our VARK® research (September 2022 – August 2023), MULTIMODAL preferences are most common (66%), where individuals have a mixture of preferences. VARK® MULTIMODAL preferences may be bimodal (AK, AR, RK, etc), trimodal (ARK, VAK, etc), or include all four modalities (VARK). There are, in fact, 13 different MULTIMODAL preferences.

How do MULTIMODAL learners use their preferred modalities?

Thinking about being multimodal
  • MULTIMODAL learners are flexible in their learning and communication preferences and can switch from modality to modality depending on what they are working on.
  • Learners choose between modalities determined by the nature of the content provided, the topic they are learning about, and the context they are in.

MULTIMODAL learners may find a single mode suits a particular occasion or situation. Or they may prefer to gather or process information in additional modes to reinforce the concept. Using multiple modalities may take longer than focusing on just one, but leads to a deeper understanding.

An example of this is from a case study of a Canadian student who received scores of 9 for each of the VISUAL, AURAL, READ/WRITE and KINESTHETIC modalities after completing the VARK® questionnaire. Although she had a wide range of strategies to use in her study, she said that she needed at least two modes to get a good understanding of a topic or idea. In a lecture she could listen effectively (A) and take very good notes (R). She could use her practical skills (K) to experience her laboratory-based subjects and she could draw diagrams and flow charts (V) to help her remember and use the new concepts she was learning. But no single mode was sufficient for her understanding.

Benefits of being a MULTIMODAL learner

As a MULTIMODAL learner, using your preferred modalities leads to more enjoyable and effective learning experiences. It promotes critical thinking skills and a more thorough understanding of the subject matter.

A key benefit of being a MULTIMODAL learner is the ability to adapt to various teaching styles and instructional materials. Learners who can effectively switch between VISUAL, AURAL, READ/WRITE, and KINESTHETIC modalities are better equipped to navigate diverse learning environments. This adaptability not only enhances their academic performance but also prepares them for the dynamic demands of the real world, where information is often presented through a mix of formats.

multimodal representations of chemistry concepts

MULTIMODAL learning contributes to the development of well-rounded cognitive skills, including critical thinking. Exposure to multiple modalities fosters a more comprehensive understanding of complex concepts as learners make connections between different pieces of information. 
For example, in chemistry, concepts can be described in words, symbols, and diagrams and investigated using experiments. Each way highlights certain aspects of the topic, so using multiple modalities when learning leads to a more comprehensive understanding. Similarly, many mathematical concepts can be explored through both writing and graphical representations.

Effective communication skills can also be developed through the practice of MULTIMODAL learning. Individuals who can process and convey information through VISUAL, AURAL, WRITTEN, and KINESTHETIC means are better positioned to understand the nuances of information presented in different ways, and to articulate their thoughts to different audiences.

What Next?

To make the most of their multimodal preferences, learners can:

  1. find out which modalities they prefer by filling in the VARK® Questionnaire,
  2. make sure they understand what each of their preferred VARK® modalities means, and
  3. try applying some suggested strategies for those modalities in their next learning situations.

For guidance on how to make the most of your multimodal learning preference, see our article I’m a Multimodal Learner. Now What?

  1. Roberta said:

    I am a professional tutor in a two-year community college with a focus on learning styles. I am also a trained Orton-Gillingham Multisensory tutor having worked privately with dyslexic students the last 20+ years. When the college introduced me to VARK I knew immediately that it would dovetail nicely with my Orton-Gillingham Multisensory skills as I began working with college students. It has been a true pleasure working with students of all ages and raising their awareness to their preferred learning style. Learning about VARK has empowered many once they; understand how they personally learn best, have embraced the fact that we each learn differently from one another, and that this truth is okay!

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