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Learning Style

The best way to learn depends on a person. Recognizing and understanding one's learning style can help improve the quality of learning. Several studies have developed different categories of learning styles.

Below is a learning style model developed and used by North Carolina State University. The model assesses four dimensions (active/ reflective, sensing/ intuitive, visual/ verbal, and sequential/ global) of learning styles.


Active Learnersvs.Reflective Learners
Active Learners
  • Active learners learn by doing something active - discussion, application, or teaching materials to others.
  • Like to do group work.
  • Sitting through lectures without any activity but taking notes is hard.
  • If class does not allow for discussion, study in a group where members take turns explaining different topics to each other.
  • Work with others to study for exams.
Reflective Learners
  • Reflective learners prefer to think about course materials first before discussing the information.
  • Like to work alone.
  • Study by stopping periodically and review/ think what you have read.
  • Think of possible questions or applications.
  • Summarize readings or class notes in own words.
Sensing Learnersvs.Intuitive Learners Sensing Learners
  • Sensing learners like to learn facts.
  • Prefer to solve problems by using well-established methods and dislikes complications and surprises. Do not like to be tested on materials not explicitly covered in class.
  • Patient with details and good at memorization of facts and doing hands on work.
  • Practical and careful.
  • Do not like courses that have no connection to the real world.
  • If class material is abstract and theoretical, ask questions and specific examples of concepts and procedures.
  • Find out how concepts apply to the real world - ask instructor, look at references, or brainstorm with classmates.
Intuitive Learners
  • Intuitive learners prefer to discover possibilities and relationships.
  • Like innovations BUT not repetition.
  • Can grasp new concepts and are comfortable with abstractions and mathematical formulations.
  • Innovative.
  • Do not like courses that involve a lot of memorization and routine classes.
  • If in a class that deals primarily with memorization, may have trouble with boredom - ask instructor for interpretations or theories that link the facts, or try to find the connections yourself.
  • May also be prone to careless mistakes on test because you are impatient with details and do not like repetition (as in checking your completed solutions) - take time to read the entire question before you start answering and check your results.

Visual Learnersvs.Verbal Learners
Visual Learners
  • Visual learners learn by seeing images, diagrams, flow charts, timelines, and demonstrations.
  • Find images, diagrams, sketches, schematics, photographs, flow charts or any visual representation of the course materials.
  • If cannot find any visual materials, prepare own flowcharts, concept maps or any visual representation.
  • Color-code notes with highlighter so that everything relating to one concept is the same color.
Verbal Learners
  • Verbal learners prefer the use of words - written and spoken explanations.
  • Write summaries or outlines of course materials in own words.
  • Work in groups - take turns explaining different topics to each other.
Sequential Learnersvs.Global Learners Sequential Learners
  • Sequential learners gain understanding in linear steps, with each step following logically from the previous step.
  • Prefer to follow logical stepwise paths in finding solutions.
  • If in a class where instructor jump from topic to topic or skips steps, ask instructor to fill in the skipped steps or fill them in by consulting references.
  • Create outlines of the material in logical order.
Global Learners
  • Global learners tend to learn in large larges - absorbing the materials without seeing the connections BUT eventually seeing the complete picture.
  • May solve complex problems quickly or put thing together once they have the big picture.
  • Realize that you need the big picture of the material before you can master the material.
  • Skim through the course materials/ text to get an overview of the material.
  • Instead of spending short time on every subject every night, study one subject for large blocks of time.
  • Ask instructor to help you see connections.