Learning Part 5: Modalities

Hey guys!  It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything about learning, so I’d like to get back to it.

Today I’d like to talk about something called “learning modalities”.

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So what the heck are those?

Well, consider how you take in information.  How does it get from the outside world into your mind?  A lot of it is visual.  We see people’s faces and we remember them (and things about them).  We use diagrams or pictures to learn and understand things.   We read books.  A lot of it is auditory.  People tell us information.   We communicate with others.  We listen to the radio or audio files.  A lot of it is kinesthetic.  We practice doing things we want to get good at.  We imitate others.  We try out new things.  We draw pictures for ourselves.  We role play.

These are the three modalities:

  1. Visual

  2. Audio

  3. Kinesthetic

Some people adding a fourth one: reading.  Others consider reading to be part of the visual (since you have to see the book to read it!).

The point is that learning can happen through many “channels” or modalities.  It’s not just “teacher outputs information and students all take it in the same way.”

In fact, one reason that I wanted to write this post is that I think this is one of the biggest problems teachers and students face: they don’t take modalities into consideration at all!

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Think about this as a student: have you ever had a teacher who just seemed to “get it” with you?  They just knew how to teach you in a way that you could understand easily?  They made it seem like the topic wasn’t that hard, and that you could actually understand it?

Have you ever had a teacher who just didn’t seem to get it at all?  No matter how many times they explained or showed you something, you just couldn’t understand?  You probably felt like it must have been your fault, like you just weren’t smart enough to understand it, or the topic was just too difficult for you.

There’s a very good chance that, with that first teacher, she just used the same modality to teach as you do to learn (but it’s also possible she was just a really good teacher!) and with the second teacher, you just used very different modalities.

If we understand our modalities, it can help us figure out the easiest and most effective ways to learn things that seem very difficult for us.

For example, if you are a visual learner and you are having trouble understanding something, you can just ask your teacher a question like:

“Could you draw a picture of that for me?”

“Could you show me?”

“Can you describe a situation when you would use that?”

This type of information will present the information to you in a way that’s easy for you to figure out.

If you are an auditory learner, you could ask:

“Could you explain that for me?”

“Could you write that down?”

“Could I ask you some questions about that?”

Auditory learners like communicating, so getting verbal feedback is really helpful!

If you are a kinesthetic learner, you could ask:

“Could you give me some examples of that?”

“Could I try using/practicing that?”

“Could you give me some exercises/homework to do so I can practice that?”

“Could you make a role-play for me so I can practice using that?”

Kinesthetic learners need to use and practice the information that they get so they can really understand it.

So how do you determine your strongest modalities?

There are lots of free online tests (in English) that you can take.  This is one of the simpler ones: http://www.brainboxx.co.uk/a3_aspects/pages/vak_quest.htm

So give it a try and see if you agree with the results!

One important thing though!

Remember, knowing your strongest modality is only helpful when you are having trouble learning something.  In many situations, you will have to use other modalities, so you should be exercising and improving all of your modalities as much as possible!

If you are looking for more information on learning modalities, Ms. Dillard’s Classroom has some great and easy-to-understand information (in English) on the four modalities.  Check it out!

I hope this was helpful, and I can’t wait to talk more about learning again in the future!

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