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Study Skills

Determine Your Learning Style

Reflect on your learning experiences.

  • Do you tend to gather and process information in a specific way?
  • What usually helps you understand a new or challenging topic?
  • When you’re “stuck,” what helps you grasp the topic?

While you may have a specific preference (or preferences) for learning about your field – and it may even differ from how you prefer to learn about other topics – it is important to note that you are not limited to just your preferred mode of learning. Many times when you are struggling with a topic, you will find that simply switching to a different learning mode will help. Remember to use your strengths to help you master new topics or challenging content. Identify different strategies that you’ve found helpful in your past experiences and consider how they can be applied in various ways to learn in new situations.

Learning Style Discovery Exercise Idea:

You are assigned to read a scholarly article that is particularly difficult to understand. Rather than simply slogging through the article from beginning to end, consider the following strategies based on learning style:

  • Visual: Find a graphic or chart that has the same information. You may see new relationships or connections that you were having trouble with in the reading. If there are not some in the article, try talking to your instructor or searching for related concepts (or even the same author) via the library and the Internet.
  • Auditory: If you are having trouble paying attention to a single reading, read portions of it aloud to yourself. If you are reading it online, the Adobe Reader software and some other software packages can read it aloud to you.
  • Auditory: Set up a phone call (or even an instant message conversation) where you can talk to your instructor or one or more classmates about the reading.
  • Kinesthetic: Take a walk by yourself (or a jog, or a weight training session, etc.) to mull over the major points and ideas in your head.
  • Kinesthetic: Identify the major concepts and ideas covered in the original article and write each at the top of a sheet of paper. Draw a line down the middle of the paper. On the right side, summarize what the article says about the topic or idea (or at least, what you think the article says – you don’t have to get it right the first time). Then, use the Internet and/or the library to search for information on each of the major topics. You might even search for information on responses to the author or look for his or her other articles. Look especially for short articles and summaries on each of the ideas. Record what you find on the left-hand side of the paper. Once you are done, review the original article and make sure you didn’t miss anything.
  • Visual-Kinesthetic: Turn the information into a diagram, timeline, tree, or flowchart. For instance, if you are reading a case study, create a timeline showing what solutions have been tried and outlining reasons that each did not work. Let a classmate, your instructor, or another person review your work and give you feedback.

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