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Oct 14, 2020 By Fiore Barbini
Implementing Multimodal Learning Styles
Appealing to different learning styles can better engage your audience and create a more lasting impact for your distance learning programs.
By Fiore Barbini Oct 14, 2020
Published in Articles

Learning styles are the many ways we as humans take in, process, accumulate, and recall information. Teaching methodologies often cater to these different styles—by seeing and hearing, reflecting and acting, reasoning logically and outwardly, analyzing and visualizing, steadily and in starts and stops. Understanding that people with different learning styles will take part in your educational event is the first step in knowing how to cater and adapt programming to suit their various needs.

A great place to start is with the VARK model, a system that suggests that there are four main types of learners: visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic. This methodology, developed in 1987 by Neil Fleming in Christchurch, New Zealand, was the first to present a series of questions for learners and educators to identify types of learners or learning modalities. Although there is some overlap between the modalities, they are defined as follows:

Visual (V):


• Receptive to pictures and diagrams
• Easily understands maps and charts
• Creates mental pictures while reading
• Prefers bright colors
• Requires time to process a speech or lecture

Examples: Photographs, diagrams, graphs, charts, videos, 3D models

Aural (A):


• Easily remembers conversations
• Enjoys listening to music, podcasts, and audiobooks
• Responsive to discussions
• May have difficulty reading and/or takes poor quality notes
• Prefers classroom vs. online courses

Examples: Lectures, face-to-face discussions, group discussions

Read/write (R):


• Enjoys reading and studying alone
• Takes detailed notes
• Works best in a quiet setting
• Looks up definitions in a dictionary
• Prefers detail-oriented instructors
Examples: Booklets, pamphlets, manuals, journal articles, libraries

Kinesthetic (K):


• Moves around often
• Enjoys hands-on tasks
• Prefers physical interaction
• Often has difficulty learning abstract symbols
• May exhibit a short attention span

Examples: Interactive activities, hands-on tasks, physical activities

I myself am a multimodality learner. This means I do not have one single standout learning modality, but rather am a mix of several learning styles. Seldom are there instances where only one mode is used in education or is even enough to properly demonstrate a point, so there is a four-part VARK profile. The VARK questionnaire provides four individual scores, one for each of the four learning modes, and then assigns your learning type

You can take the VARK questionnaire for free here. I highly recommend you complete the questionnaire and share your results with your chapter colleagues or coworkers. It is a great moment of self-discovery, as well as one of learning more about your team.

When developing an educational program, it is important to understand the theory of learning preferences—the idea that individuals have a preferred way to acquire knowledge and skills. Understanding how to incorporate all four learning modalities into your educational programs is imperative to ensure participants feel the program has been personalized for them. An optimal learning experience means better, faster, more comprehensive learning that adjusts to a learner’s preference without them needing alternative or additional information.

The VARK model can assist you in developing effective educational programming with the goal of impacting your audience and maximizing effectiveness through targeting individual learning preferences. VARK is usually free for use by individual teachers and students in colleges, high schools, and universities and for student or faculty development, as well as by most non-profit organizations (additional information can be found here).

IIDA Headquarters wants to know what educational programming you’re presenting. As there are no geographic boundaries with virtual learning, you can open your audience to include the entire IIDA membership base. We are here to support your efforts and can help promote your distance program.

Submit your educational programs, events, and other programming to be featured in the IIDA Headquarters event calendar by emailing websupport@iida.org.

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