Learning Styles

Let’s get straight into the discussion first, as I predict many nurse educators will be reading this topic and wanting to say ‘what a waste of time’ as learning styles don’t exist. They may well be correct, but you can decide for yourself if learning styles exist and are appropriate to form part of your teaching strategy. The overall aim for education is to tailor teaching style to improve learning. Learner related performance may be dependent on the subject, motivation, learning space and personality of the learner. Maybe we move around the styles depending on the topic being learnt or maybe it’s all an educational myth and we need to move onto other evidence based learning theories (see reference list for more discussion on the evidence base for learning styles).

Kolb’s Experiential Learning

Kolb (2007) describes learning as an experiential learning concept forming concrete and abstract conceptualisations. Kolb and Kolb (2005) provide a discussion on the learning process in higher education and the concepts of learning styles and learning cycle.

Learning Styles

Different students have different modes of learning, and so to improve their learning could be matching one’s teaching with that to the preferred learning mode.

  • Visual learners who prefer images, pictures, diagrams, videos and demonstrations- See It.
  • Auditory learners who learn best through the process of listening and talking- Hear It.
  • Kinesthetic learners who learn by doing and hands on tasks- Do It.

Learning Styles Questionnaire

One of the popular ways to find a preferred learning style is to use a questionnaire, such as Honey and Mumford (2006).

Adapted from Kolb’s experiential learning model, below are the learning styles classifications from Honey and Mumford.

  1. Activist
  2. Reflector
  3. Theorist
  4. Pragmatist

VARK Model

The four sensory modalities in Fleming’s VARK model are:

  1. Visual learning
  2. Auditory learning
  3. Read/write learning
  4. Kinesthetic learning


Cassidy, S. (2004). Learning styles: An overview of theories, models, and measures. Educational psychology, 24(4), 419-444.

Kirschner, P. A., & van Merriënboer, J. J. (2013). Do learners really know best? Urban legends in education. Educational psychologist, 48(3), 169-183.

Kolb, D. A. (2007). The Kolb learning style inventory. Boston, MA: Hay Resources Direct.

Kolb, A. Y., & Kolb, D. A. (2005). Learning styles and learning spaces: Enhancing experiential learning in higher education. Academy of management learning & education, 4(2), 193-212.

Learning Theories. (2017). Multiple Intelligence Theories.

Pashler, H., McDaniel, M., Rohrer, D., & Bjork, R. (2008). Learning styles concepts and evidence. Psychological science in the public interest, 9(3), 105-119.

Wikipedia (2016) Neil Fleming’s VARK Model