Learning Styles

Learning Styles And How To Maximize Your Success In School

 


Introduction

College is different from high school. Graduate school is unlike college. Entering any new environment brings novel challenges and distractions. Moreover, each step of the learning process is usually accompanied by more and harder work. Though you obviously learned to negotiate and succeed at your last educational stop, you may find there is some readjusting to do now. This is especially true for adult returning students and students beginning a new, more advanced, or more specialized field of study. By expanding on your current learning skills, you will better meet the challenges ahead. We hope that the following will provide useful information and tools to make this next educational step a success.


Learning styles: What are they?

How do they match with teaching styles?

There are many types of learning styles. Often, these types coincide with our personality style. Each of us has a different style or combination of styles. Though the majority of us have the capacity to use most modes, we tend to rely on or prefer certain styles. Hopefully, these are the styles that have brought us success in the past. If this is not the case, it may be helpful to reassess one's approach. We all learn differently but we can all learn effectively. It is important to understand your own learning style and use it to your best advantage in the classroom.

There are also many teaching styles. We do best when our learning styles match with an instructor's teaching style. Below is some information about learning styles, teaching styles, and how to bridge the two.


Eyes or ears

Do you remember best what is said to you or what you read?

Do you prefer television, newspapers, or on-line sites as your source of news?

Some people learn best by reading. They need to see something to remember it. Others learn best by listening. Information sticks once they hear it.

If you have a visual style, you may have difficulty with an instructor who believes telling people what to learn and know is enough. Instructors who rely heavily on class discussion will also cause you some angst. Handouts, reading assignments, and writing information on the blackboard are most helpful to you.

On the other hand, if you have an auditory style, you may be in trouble with an instructor who writes a lot and assigns reading that is not discussed in class. Class discussions and study groups are a better way for you to learn.


Movement

Does it help you to rewrite your notes or take notes as you read?

Some people's learning is enhanced by motoric movement. In other words, they learn as they write notes in class. Or when they are reading an assignment, they remember the content best if they take notes as they read. Sometimes the act of highlighting important information that is read works in the same way.


Group or solitary

Do you find you remember more when you study in a group or alone?

Some people draw their energy from the outside world, that is, interacting with other people, activities, or things. This is often called extraversion. Others prefer to gain their energy from their own internal ideas, emotions, or impressions. Some people call this introversion.

If you tend to be more extroverted, you communicate freely and like to have other people around. Thus, working in groups and talking material over with others helps you understand and process new ideas more fully and completely. You may be impatient and distracted working on your own. A class that is less varied and not as action-oriented may be a particular challenge. You like instructors who are active, energetic, and enthusiastic. You also prefer a more friendly and personal approach. In addition, you probably find larger classes exciting.

If you are more introverted, you probably work contentedly alone and don't mind working on one project for a long time without interruption. As such, you may be quiet in the classroom and dislike classes with a lot of oral presentations and group interaction and work. Sometimes having to communicate with others is hard. You work best if you read lessons over or write them out before discussion, think before participating, and ask questions before completing tasks or exercises. You like classes that require being thoughtful and introspective. You may dislike a professor with a more personal style of attention and closeness. A quiet and tactful style works best for you. Smaller classes are your preference.


Practical or innovative

Do you like to follow an established way of doing things?

Or would you rather follow your inspirations?

Some people prefer to take information in through their five senses, taking note of what is actually there. They want, remember, and trust facts. They are sometimes called practical types. Others prefer to take information in through a "sixth sense", focusing on what might be. These people like to daydream and think about what might be in the future. One could call them innovative.

If you are a practical type, you probably like an established, routine way of doing things. You prefer using skills you already know rather than new ones. Taking note of details, memorizing facts, and reaching a conclusion step by step is your ideal. You learn best if you have clear directions to follow. Films, audiovisuals, hands-on exercises, and envisioning practical examples are most helpful. You learn best when instructors are factual and thorough, working out details in advance and showing you why things make sense.

If you are more innovative, you probably like to solve new problems. You may dislike doing the same thing repeatedly and may be impatient with routine details. You may also find yourself daydreaming during factual lectures. You work best when you can see the big picture, have independence and autonomy, and incorporate new approaches into your work. You like enthusiastic instructors who indicate challenges, point out future benefits, and let you figure out your own way.


Thinking or feeling

Do you respond more to people's thoughts or feelings?

Some people prefer to organize information in a logical, objective way. They respond more easily to people's thoughts and are more analytical. If you are such a person, emotions play less of a part in your life, decisions, and interactions with others. You work best if you can organize and outline a subject, know your objectives and goals, get to the task, and receive rapid feedback. You are most motivated when you can see a logical rationale for studying certain material or working on a particular project. You probably prefer teachers who are task-focused, logical, well-organized, less emotional, and who offer feedback.

Other people prefer to organize and structure information in a personal, value-oriented way. If this sounds familiar, you are likely to be very aware of other people and their feelings. You prefer harmony. You probably learn best if you can identify with what you are doing and have an emotional connection to it. You like an environment with little competition and with opportunity to respond more personally. You probably prefer teachers who are personable, friendly, and easy to work with. You also like a teaching style that is positive, tells you why what you are doing is valuable, and supports your personal goals.


Open-ended or closure-driven

Do you like to get things settled and finished?

Or would you rather leave things open for alterations?

Some people prefer to live a planned and organized life. They go on vacation and plan out all of their activities before they go. Other people like to be more open-ended, living more spontaneously and flexibly.

If you need closure, you probably work best when you can plan your work and follow that plan. You like to get things finished and do not like to be interrupted. In an effort to complete a task, however, you may make decisions too quickly. You learn best if you can stick to a routine and follow a specific time frame and precise guidelines. You probably prefer instructors who are structured, timely, precise, and organized. You also like specific performance guidelines.

For those who are more open-ended, you probably like change and undertaking many projects at once. You may have trouble making decisions and may postpone unpleasant jobs. You probably learn best if you can be original, physically active, and spontaneous. You gravitate toward instructors who are more open, creative, spontaneous, and informal. You dislike deadlines and too much direction, wanting to follow your own path.


What if your learning style and a teaching style are mismatched?

It is tempting to respond to this dilemma with the outlook- "If people would only change their approach, my life would be much easier." However, this doesn't get anyone very far and there are better solutions.

  • Try to get as much as you can out of every course.
  • Try to "translate" the material into a form you understand.
  • Practice approaching the class in another way. Be open to a new way of learning. Adapt to the instructor's style and see what you can learn. You may be surprised. If you are successful, you will add a new dimension to your skills without giving up what you already do well.
  • Ask questions. Talk to the instructor. Ask for what you need (i.e. more structure, more freedom, additional readings, clarification of course goals). A clear, direct, respectful, and responsible communication is optimal. Also remember that communication is both verbal and nonverbal.
  • The other piece of this puzzle is studying. We all have to study. No one likes doing it.

Minimize the Pain of Studying

Training to study

You need to be in the right state of mind and body to study. Training to study is like training for a sport. To maximize your potential, you should eat regular, balanced meals and be on a reasonable sleep schedule. The more physically active you are, the more heightened your powers of concentration will be. Most importantly, drinking or using other drugs will impinge significantly on your performance.

In addition to physical training, you have to do some mental training as well. Be sure to clearly separate your study and your free time. Next, be aware of what you are saying and thinking about studying or your success in the course. Thoughts of failing, boredom, frustration, and other negative themes will negatively impact on your performance. Rather, think positively and hopefully about your abilities and performance.

The best place to do it

It is important to find a good place to study. The best place to study is at a table or desk that is clear of other items. The library is usually preferable to the dorm. There should be as few distractions or interruptions as possible. Lighting and ventilation should be good. In addition, you should have all you will need right there with you. Make a habit of studying in the same place every day.

Know your stuff

It sounds simple but it's true. Most people do not set aside enough quality time to study. Also remember to study with regularity. Discover which times of day are best for you to study. Try to be as relaxed as possible when you study. Make a schedule for yourself that includes everything you realistically plan to do on a particular day. When you input your study time, make specific times for each subject. Make sure your schedule and time allotted to different activities reflect the priorities you have laid out for yourself. Include long and short term assignments and goals. A schedule should be flexible, but not too flexible. Be prepared to adjust it as needed but within reason. Balance work and play. Remember to look at past quizzes and tests you have taken. Also, make sure you know the purpose of the test and its format.

Make the most of your stuff

While taking the test, relax. Work hard throughout the time allotted. Put aside any anger or resentment you may have at the professor or the test. Try to appreciate the usefulness of the test. Concentrate and avoid distractions.

Use your time optimally. Know how long you have to take the test. Read over the entire test before beginning so you know what is in store for you. Read the directions and questions carefully. If there is something you do not understand, ask for clarification. Tackle the easier questions first and make sure your work is rapid and accurate. If you do not know something, guess and come back to it. If you have time remaining at the end, go over your test and answers.


Troubleshooting

Beyond learning styles, teaching styles, and study skills, the following are some reasons why people may not do as well as they could in classes.

Difficulty with certain types of tests

Some people have particular difficulty with certain forms that tests may take. Here are some helpful hints, though you should also ask your professors about their expectations on a given test.

Sentence completion items

- Consider the number and length of the blanks to be filled in.
- There is never a penalty for guessing so always write in some answer.
- The presented portion of the question places restrictions on what can logically follow or precede it. Be logical.
- Use grammar cues from the presented portion of the question.
- Make sure your answer is as specific as possible.

Short answer essay
- Answers can be in brief sentences or lists that show you understand the main points.
- Try to highlight terms and concepts.
- Make your answer clear and legible.
- Write something for every essay question, even if you are not completely certain of the content. It is rare that a question about which you know absolutely nothing will be asked. Try to get partial credit this way.

Long answer essay
- Read the question carefully to make sure you include what is wanted in the answer. It is easy to get off track.
- Outline your answer before writing it.
- Write an introduction that lays out the important questions or the main ideas in your answer.
- Define the terms used in your answer.
- Use subheadings to break down and organize the information.
- Use examples and facts to support your main points.
- Summarize and draw conclusions.
- Write legibly.
- Allow time to polish your answers.
- Write in outline form if time does not permit a complete answer.

Multiple choice questions
- Consider all options. Don't select the first one that sounds good.
- Eliminate incorrect answers first.
- Pick out the one that is most nearly true. Sometimes, no answer seems perfect.
- If the answer is not readily apparent, reread the question and answer it independently of the choices. Then, look back at the options to see if one is more readily apparent.
- If you are still stumped, read the question and then the first answer. Read the question again followed by each of the other answers. See which one sounds best.
- Be careful with "all of the above" and "none of the above" answers.
Show caution around the following words: every, always, and never.

Matching questions
- Read the directions carefully. Some instructors ask to match those that are different and some ask to match those that are the same.
- Answer easy questions first to reduce the chance of guessing incorrectly on more difficult matches.

True-false questions
- Most people spend too much time on these questions. If an answer isn't readily apparent, guess and move on. The answer may be triggered in later questions.
- Mark statements true only if they are true without exception.
- Beware of words like all, most, some, few, none, no, always, usually, sometimes, rarely, and never.

When anxiety interferes

Anxiety is a real and natural interference to studying and learning. The bright side of anxiety is that, at a particular level, it can motivate us. At other levels, it is a roadblock. There are ways to cope with anxiety however.

  • Be as prepared as possible.
  • Banish from your mind any thought that increase anxiety.
  • Don't rush or do anything to promote anxiety before a test.
  • It is important to be relaxed when you study and while taking a test. Learn some relaxation techniques. Using imagery that promotes relaxation also helps (i.e. imagine yourself on a beach or somewhere else restful). Take slow, deep breaths and learn other breathing exercises. Consider taking up meditation or yoga. You can find more information about any of these techniques in books and tapes available at your local bookstore.
  • What's most important is monitoring your own anxiety and finding effective ways to control it.

Procrastination

Procrastination may be triggered by anxiety, dislike of a particular subject, or countless other reasons. But how do you deal with it?

  • Recognize procrastination.
  • Do something small. Break down your work into manageable pieces.
  • Create little goals for yourself that are reachable.
  • Reward yourself as you make your way through your work. Enjoy these times of freedom and pleasure without guilt, knowing hat you will return to your work.

Watch what you think

  • Sometimes our own thoughts can defeat us.
  • Monitor your thoughts.
  • Replace negative thoughts and feelings with more hopeful positive ones, as discussed above.
  • If you are having some personal problems that are interfering with your work, try talking to someone who may be able to help pr ease your pain. This may be a friend, family member, or professional.

Learning and other disabilities

Some students' success in school is hampered by learning and other disabilities. Pace University strives to meet the special needs of disabled students and to ensure they have access to educational and other programs and facilities that are available to all Pace students.

The procedure to obtain necessary learning accommodations is simple:

- Identify yourself to the Coordinator of Services for Disabled Students.
- Provide documentation about the nature and history of the disability.
- Meet with the Coordinator to further discuss your disability and accommodations.
- Once documented, accommodations are available throughout your career at the University.
- It is important to provide this information at the earliest possible time to ensure sufficient time to meet and process your requests.
- The Coordinator can also inform students about other helpful resources at Pace and in the community (e.g. tutoring, remediation).


Please contact Elisse Geberth at (914) 773-3710 in Westchester or Jenna Cler at (212) 346-1526 in New York City, or go to Resources and Support Services for Students with Disabilities if you have any questions or need any further information.


University Services to Assist You

In addition to discussing your academic concerns and difficulties with your professors, you may also consider contacting other services on campus.

Your academic advisor can provide both general information about degree requirements and specific advisement around selecting or changing a major, transferring credits, or withdrawing from a course.
Tutorial Services offers professional and peer assistance to help students improve their proficiency in many subject areas.
Career Services helps students understand their varied career choices and provides many career development and placement services to help students experience career-related job opportunities and prepare to effectively compete in the job market.
The Health Care Unit provides health care, health education (e.g. stress management, nutrition), and help in the management of chronic health problems.

Finally, we wish you success in meeting the goals that have brought you to Pace University!