Hundreds of returning adults have enrolled in a Mississippi community college or university this term, thanks to the C2C program. Most are seeking any help they can get to complete the classes that will take them closer to their degrees.
If you are back to college too, you might be tired of the same-old, same-old advice about how to get better grades… take notes, attend class, study all night! Maybe it’s time to explore your hidden “studying superpowers” by discovering and tapping into your learning style!
A learning style is the way that a person best learns and retains information. Learning styles were categorized by Neil Fleming in his VARK model of Student Learning. We now understand that they are really preferences, not something you can scientifically identify.
However, many students find that paying attention to their learning styles/preferences can help them hone their personal “studying superpower.” Understanding how you learn best can truly help you optimize your college experience.
When you learn in YOUR style, er, superpower, you can set yourself up to:
- Retain information better
- Spend less time studying
- Get better grades!
When you recognize your learning style, you can use your time in the BEST way possible and you learn the information efficiently. Saving time might even mean that you can take more classes each semester and finish your degree sooner so you can start putting your degree to use faster.
Understanding your learning style should help you feel MORE satisfied and LESS frustrated as you finish up college.
So what are the learning styles?
There are 4 main learning styles or preferences that educators and learners tend to recognize:
- Visual learners learn and retain information from what they see.
- Auditory learners learn and retain information from what they hear.
- Kinesthetic learners learn and retain best when they are being active.
- Read/write learners prefer to organize and interact with information to retain it well.
As you read this list you might know instantly where you fall, or you might have no clue. We’ll explore the differences more below so you can understand YOUR style.
Your learning style matters because it changes the way you interact with information. For instance, auditory learners know that it’s not helpful for them to silently review flashcards when they’re studying for a test. They’ll get a friend to quiz them or say the terms and definitions out loud when they review.
Visual learners will attend classes and listen, but they’ll read the textbook chapters ahead of time, make colorful highlights and underlines, and take some notes to review after the lecture. They’ll turn the captions on for educational videos so that they can READ the words while they hear them.
So what’s YOUR learning style?
Take a minute and ask some questions:
Are you a VISUAL learner?
- When someone spells a word out loud do you find yourself visualizing the letters in your head?
- During lectures or classes, is it difficult to follow along with what is said but you “get it” if you see the words written out?
- Do you have trouble remembering verbal instructions?
Do you tend to be an AUDITORY learner?
- Do you have a knack for remembering lines from movies and shows you’ve seen?
- Are you musical?
- Do you read things in your textbook that don’t really make sense until your professor teaches on the topic?
Could you be a KINESTHETIC learner?
- Do you find yourself always fidgeting with stuff (pens, your fingers, whatever is handy…) even when you’re supposed to be still during classes?
- Are you a fairly active person? Do you tap your feet or shake your knees when you’re supposed to sit still?
- Does your mind wander easily when you’re reading or listening in classes? (Ok most of us say YES to this but maybe you feel impossibly distracted most of the time…)
Are you a READ/WRITE learner?
- Does information make more sense when you’ve organized it yourself so you can see how concepts fit together?
- Do you remember the things that you’ve MADE, like when you’ve organized information for a presentation?
- Do you like to take lots of notes when listening in class?
If you’re feeling confused or wondering if ALL of the styles apply to you, you might want to take a more formal test. Here is an easy online questionnaire that goes a little deeper and can help you figure out your style more specifically.
Adults returning to college have a special advantage…
When you hear these options, you might automatically know your style: “I’m a visual learner!”
Or, you might be like a lot of us and you’ll need to pay attention to your habits to recognize your learning style. It can take time and observation to figure out your learning style.
However, if you’re going back to college after being out for a few years, you have a special advantage: you know more about YOU. Most people over 25 or 30 feel like they understand themselves better than they did when they were fresh out of high school and waltzing into their first college class.
You have MORE experience and have gotten to observe yourself in more situations, so it might be even easier for you to think about your learning style.
Use Your Superpower!
As you start to understand your learning style, you can start to use it as your “Studying Superpower.” If one style (or a combo) seems to work really well for you, explore it: can you get even better at learning and retaining information by learning in your style?
Here are practical ways you can optimize your college experience and maximize your time, depending on your learning style:
- Sit up front in class so you’re not distracted by people watching.
- Use a lot of color in your notes and highlight or underline in your textbooks.
- Watch videos about concepts, but turn on the captions so you can SEE the words while you’re hearing them.
- Prioritize reading your assigned class materials.
- During classes, listen to take NOTES and spend time reading these notes after class.
- Ask professors to write out difficult terms or to draw a quick diagram of a concept so that you can see it.
- If allowed, take pictures of class notes on the whiteboard so you can review them later.
- Spend a little time learning practicing speed-reading techniques. If you still have a few semesters of classes to finish before graduating, it will probably save you time in the long run if you take a little time to practice reading faster.
- Read your textbooks and material out loud to yourself.
- Use apps (on your phone or Kindle) to read your textbooks and class materials aloud to you.
- Play music in the background while you study and do assignments.
- Have friends quiz you on flashcards or have them read through your notes and ask you questions.
- Take voice memos on your phone to record class notes, and then listen to them while doing chores or driving.
- Attend all of your classes and focus on LISTENING instead of on taking perfect notes
- Make up songs (or find study-term songs) about the information you’re trying to remember.
- Discuss your assignments with others.
- Watch videos if you’re having trouble understanding a concept in a book.
- Listen to recorded online classes a few times (even on 1.5x speed)
- Stand up (in the back!) during classes and even walk back and forth slowly.
- When possible, be active while you’re studying and learning. If you’re taking online classes and need to watch lectures, watch them while you are on the treadmill or exercise bike. Review notes or flashcards while taking a walk.
- When you’re writing assignments, set a timer for 15 minutes. Write like crazy for that time, and then get up and do jumping jacks or have a quick dance party before going back to another 15-minute segment.
- Intentionally “fidget” with something during classes or even while you are reading your textbooks. Stress balls, fidget spinners, silly putty…
- Make notes in your textbook, use colorful highlighters, diagram small pictures next to concepts… anything to get your hands moving.
- Take notes by hand instead of typing them.
- When possible, opt for hands-on classes and labs that involve more activity.
- When memorizing terms, make flashcards and lay them on the floor. Organize them into different categories. Look at them and see how different terms connect.
- Try to involve both listening/note-taking and reading as much as possible.
- Write or type out information you need to remember.
- Pretend to “teach” a concept to someone (or grab a friend and pretend that you are the professor teaching a class).
- Use Google Images to search for pictures of things that you are learning about. You can even search for “abstract” things to find diagrams or illustrations. (i.e. you can search for “Maslow’s pyramid” or “cognitive dissonance” along with more concrete things like photosynthesis).
- Diagram out information on a huge marker board, or even write on your windows or glass doors with dry-erase markers so you spend time looking the notes and making connections between different pieces.
So… how do you learn best?
Discovering the way YOU learn best is an art rather than an exact science. It’s all about listening to yourself and uncovering what helps you retain information best. It takes asking questions and watching your patterns and seeing how you succeed.
It IS true that we remember best when we interact with information in multiple, varied ways. So, don’t be surprised if you say that you learn best if you hear, see, and interact with facts before they stick. This is normal learning behavior but understand that most of us have a preference for one or two of the learning styles.
Explore each of the learning styles, pay attention to what works best for you … before you know it, you might be a study superhero! If nothing else, understanding your learning style might help you become a reigning champ at the next trivia night!
Pro Tip: If you have kids, you can help THEM discover their learning styles early on! What if they could go through middle school and high school understanding their “study superpowers” at an early age?
Get the most out of college (and get out of college faster)
Understanding your learning style can help you save time and make the most of your college experience. We have another option to help you too: Take a minute to learn more about the Complete 2 Compete (C2C) program that helps adults go back to college and graduate.
The C2C program exists to save you time and help you FINISH. Adults who want to go back to school can benefit from support from a C2C Coach, tailored degree programs for returning adults, and other resources. The C2C program is FREE to qualifying students and even offers a $1,000 renewable grant to many Mississippi college students.
To learn more, complete the easy C2C survey app to see how the program might be able to help YOU go back to college and finish.
Wherever you’re at in your college journey, you CAN do it! The world needs you, and your degree could help you create a better future for yourself and your community. Let us know if we can help.