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Learning Style

In the end, we have little evidence that trying to tag or label a student as a specific type of learner is beneficial. Rather, a teacher who understands the current state of the art and the research related to learning preferences is likely to say 'How can I create a classroom that supports multiple ways to learn?' 'How can I add variety to my teaching?' Sousa and Tomlinson 

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.

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.

Do students:

  • 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 to solve problems 



Things to Consider

  • Do not pigeon-hole or label students. A learning style is not set in stone.
  • Remember that people learn differently in different contexts.
  • Offer a variety of ways for students to learn new concepts, ideas, information.
  • Try 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.
  • Don’t assume deficits. Find out more about the lives of your students outside of school in order to discover their strengths and talents.

Classroom Corner

Heather Morrison


A colleague says to our students, at the beginning of every year : "you’ve won the battle." Because that’s what school is for these kids : a battle. It sounds cliched but it’s true. That said, when they come to EMSB’s Perpectives 2 they can start over. That’s the beauty of our school : The student who has been struggling all his/her life, can become the star pupil. While my students struggle in school, their academic performance is not the only thing that defines them... I have a student with a black belt in karate, a student who is patenting inventions, an origami Master, a student who is in the studio recording raps, 2 DJs, and students with trophies and medals who have been playing in sports teams, like hockey and soccer, since they were 5 years old!




Learning Style Surveys

The following two fun online interactive websites can help students discover their learning strengths and challenges

Faces of Learning

What’s Your Learning Style?


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