Although there is much debate on this subject, some people believe that understanding your preferred learning style can help you to make better use of your time—your studying will be more effective, which will also make it more efficient. Although there is not a direct link between maximizing your learning style and achieving academic success, thinking about your learning preferences—as well as other learning strategies—may introduce you to different study techniques that you might not have otherwise thought about.
It is also important to understand that, regardless of your learning preferences, you will encounter circumstances during class and while you study when the information is not presented in the way that you prefer. In those circumstances, you will have to find the way past your own learning preferences to learn the material anyhow, and your understanding of various learning techniques may help you to do that.
One of the most popular learning preference assessments, the Vark assessment, identifies five key types of learning preferences: (1) visual; (2) aural; (3) reading and writing; (4) kinesthetic; and (5) multimodal.
Visual learners prefer to learn by seeing. They may prefer professors to use powerpoint slides in class, and they like to read books with diagrams, pictures, flow charts, and graphs. A visual learner may use different colored ink or type to label particular parts of their notes or case briefs, or may use highlighter markers when they read. They may also convert their notes into flow charts or mind maps to visualize how various concepts that they’ve studied relate to each other.
Aural learners prefer to learn by hearing information. They believe they remember more by listening to lectures, and may find it helpful to make audio recordings of information that they want to study. Some aural learners use text to audio software to convert reading assignments into aural information that they can listen to as they read. Because aural learners are focused on listening in class, their notes from class may not be as helpful, and it may require more work to expand their notes after class by incorporating other materials from readings. Aural learners may also find it helpful to talk through legal concepts aloud, either by themselves or in a study group.
Reading and writing learners prefer to learn through text. They may prefer reading information for themselves, whether through reading assignments or class powerpoints and handouts. This type of learner also tends to take extensive notes. They may study by reading and writing information from their notes over and over again, and they like to turn flow charts, diagrams, and charts into words instead of visual images.
Kinesthetic learners, sometimes referred to as tactile learners, may prefer role-play exercises or situations that allow them to act things out. They also like to practice doing things in order to learn them.
Finally, there are multimodal learners. Most students use a variety of study strategies, and their learning preferences depend on the situation. As a result, multimodal learners may use any of the strategies that I’ve described.
Regardless of what year you are in law school, thinking about how you learn and exploring other study techniques can contribute to your academic success. Your learning preferences are not key to your academic success, but they can inspire a variety of approaches to your studies. And don’t forget that sometimes doing something that feels less comfortable to you is a key way to reinforce memory. Just because a particular study approach feels right doesn’t mean that you are learning at your best.