Not everyone learns the same way. What got you into or through medical school may or may not be serving you particularly well at this moment. Through understanding your unique learning style, you will maximize the learning strategies that will be most effective and efficient for you, which is essential given the tremendous amount of knowledge you are expected to assimilate.
N.D. Fleming & C. Mills (1992) coined the word VARK as an acronym for four typical learning styles that affect the way one prefers to take in, process, and output information:
V – Visual
A – Aural/Auditory
R – Read/write
K – Kinesthetic
You can take an online questionnaire to discover which are your preferences, what they likely look like concretely in your life, and their relevance for your own learning on the VARK website: www.vark-learn.com/english/page.asp?p=introduction
Kolb Learning Styles
David Kolb (1984) published a more complex learning styles model that takes into account how people process information/experience as well as how people perceive that same information/experience. While you can take a costly, standardized questionnaire, the very simplified questions below will help you to identify your
preferred learning style.
When you are approaching a task, do you jump right in and try it (Active Experimentation) or do you sit back and watch (Reflective Observation)?
When you are experiencing something new, do you like to see how you feel about it (Concrete Experience) or do you prefer to think about it (Abstract Conceptualization)?
Putting it Together:
Depending on how you answered the above questions, you can plot yourself on the two axes below, and identify the dominant learning style quadrant into which you fall:
You are a(n)…
Characteristics: Action-oriented, preference for doing rather than thinking and for creative risk-taking rather than routine
Strengths: Action, carrying out plans
Accommodators have the most hands-on approach, with a strong preference for doing rather than thinking. They like to ask 'what if?' and 'why not?' to support their action-first approach. They do not like routine and will take creative risks to see what happens. They like to explore complexity by direct interaction and learn better by themselves than with other people. As might be expected, they like hands-on and practical learning rather than lectures.
Strengths: Imagination and innovation
Divergers take experiences and think deeply about them, thus diverging from a single experience to multiple possibilities in terms of what this might mean. They like to ask 'why', and will start from detail to constructively work up to the big picture.
They enjoy participating and working with others but they like a calm ship and fret over conflicts. They are generally influenced by other people and like to receive constructive feedback.
They like to learn via logical instruction or hands-one exploration with conversations that lead to discovery.
Strengths: Practical application of ideas
Convergers think about things and then try out their ideas to see if they work in practice. They like to ask 'how' about a situation, understanding how things work in practice. They like facts and will seek to make things efficient by making small and careful changes.
They prefer to work by themselves, thinking carefully and acting independently. They learn through interaction and computer-based learning is more effective with them than other methods.
Strengths: Creation of theoretical models
Assimilators have the most cognitive approach, preferring to think than to act. They ask 'What is there I can know?' and like organized and structured understanding.
They prefer lectures for learning, with demonstrations where possible, and will respect the knowledge of experts. They will also learn through conversation that takes a logical and thoughtful approach.
They often have a strong control need and prefer the clean and simple predictability of internal models to external messiness.