When I taught primary children in classrooms, over 4 years ago, a method of pedagogy called VAK learning was encouraged to maximise the opportunities for all learners to access and engage with the curriculum.
What is VAK?
The acronym VAK stands for Visual Auditory Kinaesthetic.
In my role as an classroom educator, I asked myself:
- How can I use language, vocabulary and sounds to help this new material be remembered?
- How could physical movement help?
- Am I encouraging depth in the learner’s experiences, and encouraging questioning?
In my current role as a primary tutor I ask myself the same questions.
How do children learn?
Some children find the ability to learn comes easily. Some are able to concentrate for long periods, e.g. when reading. Some relish solving Maths problems. Some can hear and follow instructions efficiently; others need to fidget with something in their hands as they learn.
Children will not use one sensory approach to the exclusion of all others, yet they will learn more effectively if their needs are met.
How do adults learn?
By the time we are an adult, we have more of an idea which learning style suits the way our brains work.
For those of us continuing learning as an adult, we tweak our strategies to find the best way to study and to absorb new information.
If you understand which is your preferred learning style, then you’ll make it easier on yourself to study and learn.
Three main learning styles
What kind of learner are you?
Visual: If you lean towards this learning style, you will prefer to see and observe things. You’ll typically work best from lists, written directions, and instructions.
Auditory: If you lean towards this learning style, you will prefer the transfer of information to be through the spoken word, or through sounds, noises, or music.
Kinaesthetic: If you lean towards this learning style, you will prefer a practical, hands-on approach. You’ll prefer the physical experience, wanting to experiment first, rather than read the instructions.
Visual style of learning
If you are a visual learner, you learn by reading or seeing pictures. You understand and remember things by sight. You can picture what you are learning in your head, and you learn best by using methods that are visual. You like to see what you are learning. You often close your eyes to visualize or remember something. You may have difficulty with spoken directions and may be easily distracted by sounds.
Auditory style of learning
If you are an auditory learner, you learn by hearing and listening. You understand and remember things you have heard. You store information by the way it sounds, and you have an easier time understanding spoken instructions than written ones. You often learn by hearing it or speaking it, in order to take it in. You need to hear things, not just see things, in order to learn.
Kinaesthetic style of learning
If you are a kinaesthetic learner, you learn by touching and doing. You understand and remember things through physical movement. You are a ‘hands-on’ learner who prefers to touch or move while you learn. You tend to learn better when some type of physical activity is involved. You need to be active and take frequent breaks. You often speak with your hands and with gestures.
You learn best by doing, not just by reading, seeing, or hearing.
Ways to teach using VAK
The VAK approach engages different levels of cognitive challenge in every curriculum subject.
Once I taught a class who enjoyed using VAK to represent punctuation marks (Punctuation Karate!). Quite simply, they used their arms and hands to represent the marks, e.g. a full stop was a clenched fist thrust forward … Saying ‘full stop’ aloud along with the karate action helped them remember to insert a full stop at the end of a sentence.
The VAK tool is an effective way of ensuring that you balance and broaden your range when educating children (as a teacher or parent).
Teach children to see it, hear it, do it, and be curious about it!
Here is a link to a learning style questionnaire from the Open University: https://help.open.ac.uk/learning-style-activity
Another VAK website resource: https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/vak-learning-styles.htm
Bibliography: ‘The Alps Approach – accelerated learning in primary schools’ by Alistair Smith and Nicola Call. Published 1999; Revised 2002; Reprinted 2003.