HOMEMastering Learning Styles

Successful instructional design uses the ADDIE process to develop successful training courses.

Mastering Learning Styles

One of the first principles of instructional design is to know your audience. Understanding the various learning styles is critical in getting to know your audience. While there are many factors that impact how a person learns, there are basically three major categories of acquiring knowledge. These include auditory, visual, and kinesthetic.

It is important to note that most people will gravitate to a mixture of these components in learning something new. Many will find a dominant learning style as they progress in life, but their preferences may change. For example, most children are more prone to the kinesthetic learning style. As they grow older, they tend to gravitate to the other two styles as well.

As an instructional designer, it is extremely important to understand your audience and how they learn. A safe place to navigate in designing a course is to find balance among the three styles for your audience. Let's explore these three styles to help you better understand how people learn.


Some studies have stated that approximately 30% of individuals are auditory learners. An auditory learner can retain information better when listening to instructions, hearing dialog, or conversing with another person. The auditory learner provides the following opportunities for the instructional designer.

The Auditory Learner:

  • Excels in learning through the use of music, jingles, or other auditory activities or methods
  • Prefers discussions over written exercises
  • Requires more time to digest visual aids such as graphs, maps, and diagrams
  • Gravitates to scenario or story-based exercises (They love to hear a good story or joke)
  • Finds it difficult to stay quiet in class
  • Benefits more from reading out loud
  • Displays excellent memorization skills
  • Reads slowly
  • Prefers to study in groups
  • Likes to role-play or act out situations
  • Displays excellent skills in speaking
  • Enjoys interacting with others
  • Reacts well to media that includes narration or similar audio presentations
  • Displays a lack of interest in text-related instructions and often skims over the text
  • Displays excellent grammar skills and good command of language (They can learn foreign languages more quickly than other learners.)
  • Is more sensitive to the tone of voice by the person speaking
  • Talks out loud and often talks to him/herself
  • Requires to hear it in order to learn it


Approximately 65% of the population are visual learners. These learners depend on pictures, graphs, or other imagery to help them understand concepts or topics. Another attribute of this type of learner is their ability to picture a concept in their mind first in order to explore a concept or to understand a principle or concept. They will often look up to the right or left to attempt to visualize a concept. The visual learner offers the following opportunities for instructional designers.

The Visual Learner:

  • Relates well to written instructions and can quickly understand graphs, maps, and diagrams
  • Displays the potential for photographic memory
  • Prefers written instructions over oral instructions
  • Enjoys taking notes
  • Focuses more on body language and facial expressions
  • Finds it difficult to remember names
  • Enjoys a quiet environment for studying
  • Gravitates to structure and organization
  • Avoids long lectures and discussions
  • Enjoys reading
  • Relates well to observation exercises and similar visual activities
  • Tends to be more detail oriented
  • Finds it difficult to remember names or lists of items
  • Responds well to visual aids such as blackboards and flip charts
  • Prefers independent learning versus group learning activities
  • Requires constant visual stimulation
  • Learns better when activities involve writing and drawing
  • Requires to see it in order to learn it


Approximately 5% of the population are kinesthetic learners. These learners require hands-on learning and often struggle in paying attention to lectures or long presentations. This learner enjoys to solve things on his or her own. They also have a sense of instinct for what they want or need to know and attempt to be independent in solving a problem. This type of learner offers the following opportunities.

The Kinesthetic. Learner:

  • Gravitates to the feeling, touching, and exploring aspects of learning
  • Enjoys imitating demonstrations or hypothetical concepts
  • Remembers more about what happened versus what was said or seen
  • Displays a possible lack of grammar and spelling skills
  • Excels when abstract concepts are applied to practical experiences
  • Enjoys background music when studying or working on a problem
  • Tends to be very active in sports
  • Reacts well to simulations or role-playing
  • Avoids sitting for long periods of time
  • Uses hand gestures more often to communicate ideas
  • Depends more on the environment of learning, including comfortable chairs, ability to move around, and the freedom to stand and walk
  • Requires the opportunity to take breaks when studying
  • Enjoys field trips and excursions
  • Gravitates to constructive games, creating physical objects, and experiments
  • Requires to do it in order to learn

Understanding these three components of learning will help you in finding the solutions to training issues or to create a successful course. As mentioned earlier, no one gravitates to only one of the three styles. Therefore, as you begin to know your audience, keep these learning styles in mind. You should always be asking yourself and your subject matter expert on how your audience likes to learn. This one simple question will open the doors to many opportunities to build a very successful course. Mastering the Learning Styles of how people learn is one of the first principles of the ADDIE process.

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