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Learning Style

Learning styles are the different ways that students go about learning. The term refers to preferences in regard to environmental or personal factors that might affect student learning. Carol-Ann Tomlinson, 2001


When we think about different learning styles we usually think about visual, auditory or kinesthetic learners. We might also talk about whether someone approaches learning in an analytical or more creative fashion.

Keeping in mind that the same student may learn differently in different learning contexts, observation and conversation are often the simplest ways to discover how your students approach learning. 


Does a student:

  • prefer to work independently or with others ?
  • work from whole-to-part or part-to- whole ?
  • work on more passive tasks for large chunks of time, or need a more active, hands-on approach ?
  • function best with a busy desk or prefer to have a more organized work space ?
  • remember things mentally or by writing them down ?
  • make sense of information better through the use of graphs, charts, and diagrams or through discussions ?
  • organize information and materials easily or not ?
  • work in a linear or a non-linear fashion ?
  • tend to use creativity or logic more often to solve problems ?

When looking at learning style it is important to remember that students learn differently in different contexts. 

  • Offer a variety of ways for students to learn new concepts, ideas, information.
  • Consider using multi-modal approaches to teaching.
  • Help students understand themselves as learners so that they will be able to make effective decisions about how best to approach a learning task.

(adapted from Tomlinson)

Learning Style Survey

Older elementary students can complete a Learning Styles survey such as the one found here.

Check out this fun website called Faces of Learning.

What’s your Learning Syle is another interactive website that can help students become more aware of their learning strengths.


Information for this page was adapted from Tomlinson, Carol Ann (2004). How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms (2nd edition). ASCD.


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