A to Z of Teaching


The VARK model posits four learning styles, and claims that students can identify which they prefer, and maximise the learning by focusing on that mode of learning.

The model was developed by Neil Fleming. It expands upon earlier notions of sensory modalities such as the VAK model of Barbe and colleagues and the representational systems (VAKOG) in neuro-linguistic programming.

The four sensory modalities in Fleming’s model are:

Visual learning

Auditory learning

Physical learning

Social learning

Fleming claimed that visual learners have a preference for seeing (visual aids that represent ideas using methods other than words, such as graphs, charts, diagrams, symbols, etc.). Subsequent neuroimaging research has suggested that visual learners convert words into images in the brain and vice versa, but some psychologists have argued that this “is not an instance of learning styles, rather, it is an instance of ability appearing as a style”.

Fleming claimed that auditory learners best learn through listening (lectures, discussions, tapes, etc.), and physical learners prefer to learn via experience—moving, touching, and doing (active exploration of the world, science projects, experiments, etc).

The concept of learning styles is not supported by significant evidence, and has become increasingly controversial.

Categories: Learning theory

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