How do we learn?

How do we learn?

People learn and absorb information in a number of different ways. Some find learning online suits them and promotes them retaining knowledge while others need the one-on-one interaction that comes with classroom learning.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution that will work for everyone. Some people may find that aspects of a particular learning style appeal to them as well as bits of another learning style. However, to find the best way in which you learn and take in information requires that you experiment with different learning techniques so that you can find one that works for you.

The V.A.R.K Modalities Theory

In 1992, Neil Fleming and Colleen Mills coined the term ‘V.A.R.K’ to refer to the manner in which students learn:

  • V = Visual
  • A = Auditory
  • R = Read/Write
  • K = Kinaesthetic

Fleming and Mills say that visual learners absorb information best when they are able to see visual representations of this material. An example of a visual learner would be someone who learns best by making mind maps or summarising their textbook into notes.

Auditory learners prefer to learn by listening to the information being presented to them. You’ll be able to recognise the auditory learner as the person who sits in a lecture and merely listens without taking notes. In fact, they may display a slower reading speed than others.

Read/write learners learn through words. While there is an overlap between these types of learners and visual learners, read/write learners retain information best when they read, for example, an article on the Internet and make notes on the subject themselves.

Kinaesthetic or tactile learners learn through experience and doing. A good example of such a learner is someone who watches a how-to video and copies what the person is doing. The world of information technology (IT) appeals to many tactile learners as the method of teaching involves students being demonstrated how to fix a particular process and then them recreating the steps in order to arrive at the same outcome.

Additional learning styles

Other experts in the education field add on three additional learning styles to those set out by Fleming and Mills. These are:

  • Logical (Mathematical)
  • Social (Interpersonal)
  • Solitary (Intrapersonal)

Students who are logical learners learn best when they can categorise information and see the logical connections between these. An example of a logical learner would be someone who retains information best by using patterns or diagrams.

Social learners learn best through interactions with their colleagues and teachers. Good examples of a social learning style is seen in business schools where students are put into groups and are required to work on a project or assignment together. People who are also social learners learn best when they shadow a more experienced person in their field and learn from what they do.

A solitary learner learns best when they learn by themselves. These types of learners flourish in correspondence learning environments as here they are required to go through the material themselves and absorb the knowledge that way.

The best time of the day to learn

Just as is the case with learning styles, the times of the day when people learn the best are different for different people. Factors which influence optimal times of the day for learning are people’s ages in addition to biorhythms.

According to Wikipedia, the theory of biorhythms says that our bodies are regulated according to unique cycles. Wilhelm Fliess developed this theory in the late 19th century and it became popular in the 1970s.


Researchers from the University of Nevada conducted a study in 2017 and concluded that young students should avoid studying in the early morning as their brainpower is at its optimum during the hours of 11.30am and 9.30pm.

How Future Self Academy uses V.A.R.K

At Future Self Academy (FSA), we make use of all methods of learning as proposed by the V.A.R.K Model, in other words visual learning, auditory learning, read/write learning in addition to kinaesthetic learning:

  • The aspect of visual learning is demonstrated with our author-led videos at the beginning of each module. Learners are able to watch the videos, see the author’s body language and realise how they want the learner to absorb the wisdom that they have to impart.
  • We make use of auditory learning again through the videos as not only is the student able to see the author they are also able hear what the author is saying and is able to gain an understanding of what the author wants the student to take away.
  • Read/write learning is displayed in the 10-page modules that each course contains where students are able to grasp the learnings through the written medium.
  • Finally, students are able to exercise kinaesthetic learning through doing the assessments as here they are practising the knowledge that they’ve gathered.

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