The VARK questionnaire: How do I learn best? Helps to identify the specific learning style of an individual. This can aid the student or teacher in improving the learning process. The questionnaire asks the user to answer the questions by indicating their preference to certain scenarios. This information is then used to formulate a learning style. There is a caution to this survey that reiterates to the user that results indicate preferences not strengths (Flemming & Bonwell, 2015). This is important as the user may have a preference for visual formats but art may not be their strength. The author of this paper took this survey prior to reading the aforementioned caution and the results puzzled him. The results were not as expected, but once reviewed and compared to the most effective instruction platforms for the author it was clear that the author was truly multimodal in his learning style. By exploring the multimodal learning style and the accompanying learning strategies coupled with an individual’s learning strategies one can be more aware of the benefits of learning styles and preferences and their impact on learning.
Within the VARK profile there are four categories which are: visual, aural, read/write, and kinesthetic. When the user of the survey shows a higher preference for one of the categories they are given that particular category for their learning style. Many times there isn’t a category or mode that stands out, this is where one is given the learning style of multimodal. The user that is multimodal may be able to change their preference according to what they are learning. They are more adaptable to their individual learning situation and are known as a VARK type I within the multimodal style. The VARK type IIs are those that need more time to process the information (Flemming & Bonwell, 2015). This is because they need to process it through all their preferred modes which results in a more extensive comprehension of material. The author sees himself as a type I because of his flexibility in adapting to the learning environment and material being presented.
With regard to learning preferences the author sees himself as a converger or decision maker. According to Kolb’s learning model of learning styles; a converger is a problem solver, uses practical ideas, and makes decisions quickly (Willemsen-McBride, 2010, p. 18). As with all multimodal learning styles there isn’t one style that dominates the other. In addition to being a decision maker the author also sees himself as an accommodator, one who enjoys the experiential, trial and error approach to learning. The accommodator is a “do-er” that seeks out risk taking opportunities. Included with theses preferences are the VARK preferences of kinesthetic and aural which refer to senses, examples, questioning, and listening.
The kinesthetic and aural strategies for the author make up the “doing and thinking” aspect of learning. These were the highest scoring portions of the questionnaire for the author. In terms of finding the correct learning style and appropriate learning preference the VARK questionnaire highlighted the author’s tendency for trial and error and experiential learning or hands on education. Also depending on the subject the author will flex to an aural preference discussing and listening to facilitate learning. There has always been a draw to the more difficult educational and professional goals for the author. Examples of this are learning a second language, pursuing a career in the highly competitive Fire service, and a second career as a RN in the emergency room. The strategies of the accommodator and converger certainly fit the author.
The learning environment can be radically changed if the learning styles and preferences of the student are known to both the instructor and student. The instructor can tailor the education to the specific preferences of the student and even pair the student with a mentor that shares the same learning style. By having a mentor or instructor that shares the same learning style of the student the depth of knowledge will be greater. This principle can be applied to a new graduate nurse and his or her preceptor. If a new nurse whose learning style is that of diverger (creator) and the preceptor’s style is that of a converger there could many obstacles to effective learning and teaching. For example the diverger may need more time understand a task and the converger who moves quickly and makes rapid decisions may quickly become frustrated with the new nurse. This can lead to a breakdown in the confidence of the new nurse and jeopardize the transition from school to practice for the new nurse. According to a study that was conducted at the College of Nursing and Allied Medical Sciences in Saudi Arabia if students are taught according to their learning ability their critical thinking disposition will be nourished, and will increase their ability to process information, and enhance academic performance (Suliman, 2006, p. 78).
It is imperative that any student and instructor or educator become familiar with the different learning styles and preferences. Just as we are all different and unique in our appearance so is our preferred learning style. When we leverage this knowledge and implement it in the education of nurses and their subsequent training we will see safety improve for patients and the satisfaction of nurse’s increase.
Flemming, N. D., & Bonwell, C. C. (2015). The VARK Modalities | VARK. Retrieved from http://vark-learn.com/introduction-to-vark/the-vark-modalities/ Suliman, W. A. (2006). Critical thinking and learning styles of students in conventional and accelerated programmes. International Nursing Review, 53(1), 73-79. doi:10.1111/j.1466-7657.2006.00445.x Willemsen-McBride, T. (2010). Preceptorship planning is essential to perioperative nursing retention: matching teaching and learning styles. Canadian Operating Room Nursing Journal, 28(1), 8-8, 10-1, 16 passim.