What is your visual/audio/kinesthetic learning preference? And how this relates to going solopro

Awhile back I attended a presentation on goal setting or something like that. I hate writing formulaic objectives and plans, but on the other hand, I’m always making notes on what I plan to do and achieve.

Anyhow, the speaker gave an assignment and we sat working individually. At the end he made an interesting observation that has stuck with me much more than the lesson on planning.

As he started to provide feedback on the exercise, he asked if anyone had trouble completing it because they would normally walk around while thinking about this. A sizable percentage of the room raised their hands, including me.

“That’s because you have a kinesthetic learning style,” he said.

An important revelation for me, though I still don’t remember anything he said about the intended point of the exercise.

Anyhoo, his remark was the door to research I’ve since conducted on the VAK (visual, auditory and kinesthetic) preferred learning styles.

To summarize, visual learners have two subchannels. Visual-linguistics prefer learning through written language (this is my second preferred style), and visual-spatials prefer charts and other visual aids. Auditory learners prefer audio learning (obviously), and kinesthetic learners favor learning that involves touching and moving.

I love to pace and walk as I think and prepare to write, plus there are three other important clues to my kinesthetic orientation: First, I am not good at reading or listening to directions; I prefer to dig into the task at hand and refer back to the directions as needed. Second, I take notes and doodle but rarely go back to review the notes. Third, I’m crazy about colored pens, pencils and markers and love desk supplies like other women love shoes.

On the other hand, auditory learning is the worst of the three styles for me. I hated learning French in elementary school because it was all auditory, but I did much better in high school when I saw the words printed and could make more sense out of the mush I had been hearing.

If you’d like to determine your own preferred learning style, here is an excellent free survey you can try.

Now, what does this mean for the solopro (freelancer or consultant)?

It means we can create a work environment and style that plays to our strengths in the privacy of our own office.

For me, this means:

I can pace and walk and write in purple.

I can sharpen pencils incessantly and go to the kitchen frequently to pour two ounces of coffee at a time just for the pleasure of movement.

I can take notes on speeches without being called upon after the fact to prepare minutes from notes that were intended to keep me awake, not to create accurate proceedings for official distribution.

I can formulate copy in my head while I do other stuff and then quickly spill it out onto paper and edit it by deadline.

In other words, I don’t have to justify to others how I can get great work done by deadline even though I don’t stay seated at my desk, fingers on keyboard, so others see me “working.”

I can start projects before reading all the background explanation and instructions without feeling like I am lazy and cheating.

I can go outside when I want.

Understanding how you learn and perform most effectively clearly benefits your work. This is especially true for solopros because you have the freedom to structure your work schedule and processes optimally for your style.

What is your preferred learning style? How do you apply this to your work? I invite your comments!

Source: Clark, D. R. (2000, 2008), Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic Learning Styles (VAK). Retrieved September 2, 2009 from http://www.nwlink.com/~Donclark/hrd/styles/vakt.html


11 responses to “What is your visual/audio/kinesthetic learning preference? And how this relates to going solopro

  1. VAK is an interesting concept and one that many of us learn about much too late. I’m primarily an auditory learner for theory and kinesthetic for practical issues. This served me well in school where I could listen to lectures, process the information, and spout it back to the teacher in an exam. But there are a lot of very smart people who are not auditory learners. Hence they tend to not do as well in school and don’t generally test as well. Of course, I’m dating myself since it’s been more than 35 years since high school.

    Today I do training for teams and leaders and I am careful to blend in all 3 types of learning into my sessions. That way all can benefit.


  2. Lisa (lablady)

    Very interesting presentation you went to, Diana. I absolutely believe that we all learn slightly differently and that everyone learns best when all the types or styles of learning are presented to them. No one is left out and it benefits all.

    Teachers and the entire school system would do well to acknowledge this fact instead of trying to teach (and these days I use that word hesitantly) one way and one way only. Giving orders: “Read these pages, write an essay.” or “Do these math problems.” – without discussing what is in the pages first to get the students’ brains motivated, or how to do a math/calculus problem so when the student goes home he doesn’t get completely frustrated. How can he do the homework if no one has taught him how to do those kinds of problems?? If children have to teach themselves, then the teachers aren’t doing their jobs.

    Dave, I think you’re smart in blending all three types of learning into your sessions. Very, very smart! As a parent, I do that as well, and as a manager, it is imperative.

    I’m off to see what type of learning suits me best. I believe I know…but we’ll see what the survey says. 🙂

  3. Hi, Diana,
    I guess we have a lot in common!

    I’ve known for a long time that I’m primarily a kinesthetic learner. (I took the test anyway.) Unfortunately, schooling is (or was!) not generally adapted to those of us who are. I used to get into a lot of trouble for “doodling” instead of “listening”. Who knew that doodling was my way of listening?

    So I developed a back-up style of visual learning, which I also knew, but I had to think about the 2 styles of visual learning. I think I use both at different times. I love words, and that serves me well when I need to think and communicate in a linear way. But I think my mind works more like a “mind map”, where I see the interconnectedness and the big picture. I HATE working without a big picture!

    Also, I dislike and find it painful to sit in a chair for long periods.

    As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been more able to learn by listening, especially if I’m able to do something else at the same time, like driving or something creative. Interestingly, as a musician, I am able to learn both by reading music and by listening, but I think I still partially internalize the actual playing by my fingers just knowing or remembering where to be – kinesthetic memory.

    Being kind of a jack-of-all-trades has stood me in good stead in my phone consultations – the “connection” is more important than seeing the person – and as a flight instructor. By the way, I ask most of my students about their learning preferences. By far, most of them are kinesthetic learners.

    thanks for bringing up this interesting topic.

  4. I just had a thought: As an adult I learned about the concept of adult ADD and went to a psychiatrist to discuss if this applies to me. He said I have adopted so many of the coping techniques used by ADDers that he couldn’t be sure about me either way. I tried a little Ritalin and it made no difference for me so I quit using it. But I wonder if I am not at all ADD and simply have a kinesthetic preference. Now I’m getting into an area way beyond my expertise–has anyone read anything relevant about this? Thanks, Diana

  5. Hey, Diana – Do you know your Meyers-Briggs type? (4 letters, e.g. INFP). Someone told me that certain types can appear to be ADD, but they are really just intuitive and see lots of connections (like me). And I think the kinesthetic part factors in there, too.

  6. Hi Diana, very interesting article.

    When I was in school, I was one of those that could listen to the lecture and spout it back. I’m also a good test taker (I often say I test “above my pay grade”!)

    Now, though I don’t have the patience to listen to audios or watch videos. I’d much rather get the pdf and scan through it. Not quite sure what kind of learner that makes me!

  7. I’m loving this conversation. You guys have given such thought-provoking ideas and I really appreciate it.

    I’m no expert in learning styles but I suspect there’s lots of subsets to visual, auditory and kinesthetic styles. Last night I was listening to a marketing research MP3 while driving and though it was on a totally different subject, the speaker alluded to these styles–she’s actually worked with people with taste or smell orientations!

    Still gotta find out my Meyers-Briggs.

    I got into this whole ADD thing over 10 years ago when the school evaluated my son. They thought he was ADD so we tried him on Ritalin and Adderol. They upset his stomach so much that I took him off both.

    Anyway, I was invited to this huge school intervention session with the teacher, principal, hearing specialist, psychologist, etc. I valued so much expensive input for free (they determined he also had a hearing problem from so many ear infections) that the real issue never occurred to me: maybe school is just too damned boring no matter what your learning style.

    By the way, the number of kids on Ritalin at this suburban school was huge! At lunchtime the line at the office for meds stretched down the hallway.

    One of my problems in school was that the parts of the textbooks that were interesting also were whatever wasn’t being taught that day. Something about the school routine and the tedious pace made everything boring. My mind was always wandering, but a little corner of my brain remembered the last thing said so I could get back on track when called upon.

    In other words, rather than make school more interesting and flexible to adapt to the student, the answer is to convince parents that something dire is wrong with the kids and then drug them so the kids adapt to the school system.

    By the way, Cindy, I’m like you. PDFs are so much faster than audio or video and print is ever faster when you’ve printed it off. I only listed to audios in the car (when the special offers have long expired) and I rarely watch instructional videos–just the funny or recreational ones.


  8. And, flip this around and think about your ideal prospects & clients – What is their ideal learning style? This information is a great tool to understanding how to better communicate to our audience. We may need to create several different tools to turn prospects into clients. Often I see coaches present their information in their own personal preferred learning style rather than offering more than one choice to make sure all learning styles are appealed to.

  9. Melody, That’s an interesting concept. Have you done any writing or teaching on how you accomplish this? It has great commercial potential (and I mean “commercial” in the best sense of the word! As in, something people would pay money for.)

    At my desk, I am aware that I should observe the orientation of others by listening to the words they choose, but I never remember to do this during actual conversation!


  10. Great details about learning styles and as Dave said, in training I use exercises that appeal to visual, auditory and kinesthetic.
    I learn first thru K, then V, and only when forced A. Yet, using a GPS is tricky b/c I am the map person who likes to feel the road and unless I want to wander off the road need to remember to focus on the spoken commands.
    And, I’ve amped my learning auditorially thru telephone coaching. I am convinced my whole body hears rather than only my ears. My intake questionnaire asks clients about preferred learning style.

  11. Wonderful, thought-provoking article that I bet your clients love. I’ve found VAK to create FREEDOM for my clients. So many can now understand how to communicate with so-called difficult people and watch resistance and defensiveness melt. They become enthralled with curiosity instead of judgment. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s