Written by Sarah Mill and Susan H. Christiansen

“What’s Learning Style Got to do With It?” sounds like the refrain of a pop song. If only we could relax, sit back, and sing the chorus without a worry in the world.

As parents, we want to help our kids learn so they will progress through school. We all have our strengths and weaknesses and, yes, this holds true when it comes to how we learn.

Everyone has a preferred learning style that highlights how we best process, retain, and recall information.

So, if your child has struggled with particular subjects or teachers in the past, it may have had more to do with the way the material was presented than the information itself.

If distanced learning is proving to be an uphill battle and you’re already feeling the stress and frustration of the new school year, understanding your child’s preferred learning style just might crack the code to your child’s engagement and success.

Once you identify your child’s learning style you can better tailor the curriculum to meet their needs.

The SparkNotes of Children’s Learning Styles Theory

Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase multiple intelligences. Professor Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences identified different categories of intelligence to explain range of strengths people have.

He felt that one general idea of intelligence did not do the human experience justice.

 Similarly, each differnet learning style represents a way in which people process Information The theory behind learning styles recognizes that the way we learn best is dependent on strengths and interests we have.

Understanding your child’s preferred learning style(s) will help find the best ways to approach the curriculum to support engagement and foster success while your child learns from home.

Recommended Books on Learning Styles

Make It Stick, written by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark A. McDaniel, introduce cognitive psychology (how we think) into educational settings. They detail strategies for using mental processes such as focus, attention, memory, perception, creativity, and problem solving to improve understanding and retention of new information. A must read!

Mindset, written by Carol Dweck, PhD, set the educational landscape on fire when her book was published. A Stanford researcher for decades, Dweck demonstrates how our success in life in nearly all areas, including education and career, is dramatically influenced by how we think about our talents and abilities. She identifies fixed and growth mindsets and helps readers to identify their own mindset.

Brain Tools for Teens, written by Malin Gutestam, a secondary teacher for over 20 years, presents evidenced-based research on how the brain learns and provides over 160 tips to help teens not only learn better, but function better in all aspects of their lives. Teens and parents will finally have an instruction manual for not only surviving, but thriving, during the teen years.

Discovery Your Child’s Learning Style, written by Mariaemma Willia and Victoria Kindle Hodson, shines a light on how your child learns, when they learn best, and how to use your child’s personality and temperament to foster a love of learning. She shows parents how to take into account their child’s interests, personality, talents, and disposition for creating a success plan for school and life.

So, What are the 7 Different Learning Styles 

There are seven different learning styles referenced in modern education. Your child may prefer one or more when it comes to their educational experience. Most students have two they like.

1) Visual (Spatial) Learners

Visual learners process information best when it can be seen. These students ttypically learn best when thinking in pictures over words. From graphs and tables to maps and diagrams, these students like to “see” ideas, details, or instructions over simply having them said aloud.

While the students who prefer this learning style tend to have an easier time seeing the big picture, visual stimulation creates easy distractions.

If your child has a well-developed imagination or strong artistic talents, they might have a strength as a visual learner.

2) Auditory (Musical) Learners

Auditory learners have the most success when they are listening. Whether it be a lecture or sounding unknown-words aloud while reading by themselves, these students shine when they can process auditory information.

On the other hand, auditory learners can become easily distracted by background noise.

If your child is musically minded or prefers audiobooks to flipping pages, the auditory learning style might just be their preference.

3) Kinesthetic (Physical) Learners

Kinesthetic learners find success with hands-on opportunities. This learning style is perfect for the doers and movers who prefer a more tactile experience over sitting still and listening quietly. From building models to conducting experiments, these learners enjoy having an active role in educational experiences.

With that said, children who prefer kinesthetic opportunities tend to have difficulty sitting still for longer periods of time.

If your child often fidgets or is highly active, they may prefer a kinesthetic approach to their learning.

 If your child has struggled in the traditional classroom is diagnosed with ADHA, I highly suggest exploring kinesthetic learning opportunities.

4) Verbal (Linguistic) Learners

Verbal learners are all about words, both spoken and written. Verbal learners process information best when they are writing notes down, reading about the topic at hand, or talking through the material.

Children who prefer a verbal learning style might shy away from — or even struggle with — more number-based activities and interpreting abstract visuals like graphs.

If your child flourishes when it comes to reading and writing, they likely lean toward a verbal learning style.

5) Logical (Mathematical) Learner

Logical learners thrive when the material is supported by logical reasoning. These students process information best when it involves systems, order, or facts. While these learners often take an organized and methodical approach to information, they might struggle with more creative activities and big-picture ideas.

 If your child finds enjoyment in logic puzzles and enjoys activities that involve reasoning and problem solving, they likely prefer a logical learning style.

6) Social (Interpersonal) Learner

Social learners soar when other people are involved. They learn best when they can communicate with others and receive feedback on their ideas. From group projects to group discussions, students who prefer this learning style process information as they engage with people. On the other hand, social learners may lack confidence when it comes to individual activities.

If you would describe your child as a people-person or social butterfly, consider incorporating a social approach to the material when possible.

Students who prefer this learning style have been hit particularly hard with the onset of distanced learning.

7) Solitary (Intrapersonal Learner)

Solitary learners prefer independent learning opportunities whenever possible. Children who prefer a solitary approach to learning function well when they have their own quiet space to engage with the material at hand. These students can struggle in noisier environments that require working closely with others. 

If your child tends to keep to themself and engages in self-reflection and self-regulation,  they will likely lean toward a solitary learning style.

While this learning style may be easy to accommodate during distance learning, it is important to foster opportunities for social interaction when possible to help encourage the development of interpersonal skills.

Click the image below to download the “7 Learning Styles” Infographic for easy reference.

How To Identify Your Child’s Learning Style

Now that you know a little bit about what the learning styles are, the next step is being able to identify how your child learns best. Consider these tips to help:

  • Observe what they do. Pay attention to their patterns of actions, interests, and preferences to better understand how they process information.
  • There’s no shame in asking for the teacher’s help when it comes to identifying your child’s learning preferences. Reaching out to current or former teachers who have worked closely with your child can help you understand what subjects and activities your child excelled in or struggled with in the past.
  • Engage your child in the process of understanding how they learn best. Ask them questions: Why was that difficult? What did you like about that lesson? Would you prefer to do A or B? Not only will this help you understand their preferences, but it will also allow them to take some ownership of their educational experience.
  • Trial and error! Pay attention to what works and what doesn’t work. Make adjustments as needed. Your child may express new preferences as they are exposed to different experiences and develop new skills.

Resources for Discovering Your Child’s Learning Style

As you pay more attention to how your child interacts with the world around them, it will be easier to identify their strengths and preferences that can point to a preferred learning style. Perhaps, after simply reading this, you already know what theirs may be.

If you’re looking for a little extra guidance or an interactive activity to get your child involved in this process, there are a variety of free online resources you can turn to. I’ve rounded up a few below:

  • Check out this 20-question learning style quiz for kids. This series of multiple-choice questions will help identify your child’s learning preferences.
  • This 12-question children’s learning style questionnaire is great. While it is relatively short in length, the ability to select multiple options for each answer paints a more holistic picture.
  • This classic kid’s learning style survey asks a series of 10 multiple-choice questions suitable for younger learners. This quiz is printer friendly!
  • While there is a small fee to receive the results for this test, it provides a more complete and comprehensive report, including a detailed explanation of your child’s multiple intelligences as well as their learning style. Don’t want to spend the money? You will receive a snapshot of the results for free.

Criticism On the Validity of Learning Styles

The idea of learning styles was developed in the 1970s. It quickly gained popularity and began to be taught to aspiring teachers in college.

However, there is a growing body of professionals who believe that categorizing students into learning styles are an oversimplification.

There have been numerous studies that indicate a person’s preferred mode of learning does not translate into actual improved learning or performance.

Three such articles are found in this higher education academic journal, this educational psychology journal, and this report .

In the widely lauded book, Make It Stick,  the authors proclaim,

“The popular notion that you learn better when you receive instruction in a form consistent with your preferred learning style, for example as an auditory or visual learner, is not supported by the empiral research. People do have multiple forms of intelligence to bring to bear on learning, and you learn better when you “go wide,” drawing on all of your aptitudes and resourcefulness, than when you limit instruction or experience to the style you find most amenable.”

The authors are suggesting that people may have preferred methods for learning, but those methods are not correlated with an increase in learning ability or retention of knowledge.

The American Psychological Association recently published a press release suggesting that the belief in learning styles has a negative effect on teacher preparation and presentation in the classroom.

Teachers may spend a great deal of time and money creating lessons that cater to specific learning styles when students learn best through exposure to a variety of learning experiences.

Supporting Learning Styles at Home

Take into account the way your child thinks and moves. Offering options for where to learn, whether that’s at the kitchen table or upside down off the side of the couch, may help to sync their preferences to the current school mode of learning. 

If your child is having a hard time understanding a concept or completing an activity, try reframing it to match up with their preferred learning style.

Say your child is having a hard time learning vocabulary. Would it help if they drew pictures to represent each definition? Could they come up with a song to help them remember the spelling?  

Maybe they need to write each word and definition down or read them aloud over and over again until it clicks. Sometimes a new perspective and a change in approach are all that is needed to ignite an understanding, spark an interest, and build confidence.

While it is important to understand and play to your child’s strengths, it is equally as important to understand their weaknesses. It’s good to step outside of our comfort zones now and again, especially since overcoming challenges helps us learn and grow.

By offering a variety of experiences that weave in different learning styles, your child will be able to improve their skills across the board, and perhaps develop a new interest or two along the way.

Celebrating what makes your child unique shouldn’t end when it comes to their education.I encourage you to embrace this chance for your child to embark on a journey of self-discovery. Chances are, success will follow.