Chapter 2. The Learning Process

Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic Learners (VAK)

One of the most popular learning styles is based on the three main sensory receptors: vision, hearing, and touch. These are called visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning styles (VAK). [Figure 2-16] Research in this area dates back to the early 20th century and the concepts were developed over many years by psychologists and teaching specialists. Others have augmented the VAK model with the addition of R for “reading” (VARK), or the addition of T for “tactile” (VAKT), or even a combination of the terms for VARKT.

Learners generally use all three styles to receive information, but one of these three ways of receiving information is dominant. Once again, the dominant style of receiving information is the best way for a person to learn new information, but this style may not be the same for every task. The learner may use one style of learning or a combination of styles depending on the learning task.

Visual learners rely on seeing to learn. They learn best if a major component of the lesson is something they can see, and work best with printed and graphic materials, and visual displays including diagrams, illustrated text books, overhead transparencies, videos, flip charts, and hand-outs. They store information in their brains as pictures or images. They like to take extensive notes. Statistically, most people are visual learners.

Auditory learners transfer knowledge through listening and speaking. These learners need an oral component to the lesson such as verbal instructions. These learners have excellent listening skills and remember what was discussed over what was seen. They are better at verbally explaining than at writing. Since auditory learners prefer to listen to material, they are not good note takers.

Kinesthetic learners process and store information through physical experience such as touching, manipulating, using, or doing. They like to move around while trying to solve a problem and learn best when the material being taught involves hands-on practical experiences. Their concentration tends to wander when there is no external stimulation. They also learn from demonstration by watching carefully, then imagining or mirroring the demonstrator’s movements.

Learners may prefer one of these three learning styles over another, but most learners employ all three depending on the material being learned. For example, when Beverly makes her first landing with Bill guiding her attempt, she employs visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning. As the aircraft enters downwind, Beverly uses visual cues to recognize the airport and landing strip as she lines the aircraft up to land. As Bill talks her through the procedures, Beverly is using her auditory learning skills to learn how to land the aircraft. Finally, she needs to use kinesthetic skills to perform the actual landing.

Remember, good learners are capable of processing information in a variety of ways. The key to meeting individual student needs is to ensure a variety of learning styles are addressed in every lesson.


In a theory proposed by Ricki Linksman, the learning style ideas discussed in the preceding paragraphs have been melded into a concept based on the VAKT learning styles plus brain hemisphere preference. This “superlink,” as she calls it, is the easiest way for a learner to process information in order to understand, remember, and retain it. Matching visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile with right- and left-brain research, Linksman created eight superlinks: visual left-brain, visual right-brain, auditory left-brain, auditory right-brain, tactile left-brain, tactile right-brain, kinesthetic left-brain, and kinesthetic right-brain. These superlinks accelerate learning by targeting the best way a person learns.


As mentioned earlier, there are many models of how people learn. Some models identify styles or approaches that are easily recognized such as collaborative, sharing students who enjoy working with others, versus competitive students who are grade conscious and feel they must do better than their peers. Participant students normally have a desire to learn and enjoy attending class, and avoidant students do not take part in class activities and have little interest in learning.

The learning environment also influences learning style. In real life, most students find it necessary to adapt to a traditional style-learning environment provided by a school, university, or other educational/training establishment. Sometimes, the student’s way of learning may or may not be compatible with his or her environment.

Instructors who recognize either the learning style or learning approach of students and problems associated with them are more effective teachers than those who do not. Also, these instructors are prepared to develop appropriate lesson plans and provide guidance, counseling, or other advisory services, as required.

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