VAK Learning Styles Model

The VAK learning styles model is a simple way to explain and understand various learning styles. The VAK Learning Styles Model categorizes individuals into three primary learning styles based on their preferred mode of processing information. Each style has distinct characteristics and preferences for how they learn best. These styles are visual learners, auditory learners, and kinesthetic learners.

Understanding the VAK learning styles model

The VAK learning styles model was developed by child psychologists such as Fernald, Keller, Orton, Gillingham, and Montessori beginning in the 1920s.

The model suggests every person’s learning style is a combination of auditory, visual, and kinesthetic (tactile) stimuli.

No single style is the better than the rest, with each individual incorporating multiple stimuli depending on their strengths, learning preferences, and the situation at hand.

However, the model does acknowledge that in general, learners gravitate toward a single and dominant style over time.

Classical thinking also suggests predominant learning styles change as the individual grows older.

During pre-school and early primary school, learning occurs via kinesthetic stimuli. In middle school, the style is more visual.

In high school, university, and adulthood, information is presented using auditory means.

The VAK learning styles model provides a simple framework for assessing someone’s preferred learning style.

Using this information, learning methods and experiences can be designed and tailored to the particular needs of the individual.

The three stimuli of the VAK learning styles model

ElementDescriptionAnalysisImplicationsBenefitsChallengesUse CasesExamples
Visual LearnersVisual learners prefer to process information through visual aids like charts, diagrams, and images. They rely on seeing information to understand and remember it.Visual learners benefit from visual stimuli and tend to be better at recalling information presented in a visual format.Presenting information visually can enhance their comprehension and retention of material.Improved understanding and retention of visual information.Limited effectiveness with purely auditory or kinesthetic teaching.Creating visual presentations, using diagrams in lectures.Using infographics to convey complex data.
Auditory LearnersAuditory learners learn best through listening and verbal communication. They grasp concepts by hearing explanations, discussions, and lectures.Auditory learners thrive in auditory learning environments and excel in tasks requiring active listening and discussion.Providing verbal explanations, discussions, and lectures can optimize their learning experience.Enhanced comprehension through verbal communication.Difficulty with purely visual or kinesthetic learning methods.Classroom lectures, group discussions.A teacher explaining a complex concept through spoken word.
Kinesthetic LearnersKinesthetic learners learn by doing and experiencing. They prefer hands-on activities and physical engagement to understand and retain information.Kinesthetic learners benefit from interactive experiences and learn best when they can apply concepts practically.Incorporating hands-on activities and interactive experiences can engage them more effectively in the learning process.Active participation and practical application of knowledge.Challenges in passive learning environments.Hands-on experiments, interactive workshops.A science teacher conducting a lab experiment.

Here is a look at the three learning styles and how they assist in learning:


These learners are the sort of people who talk to themselves by moving their lips and reading out loud.

With a preference for sound, they may have difficulty learning by reading or writing.

Instructors can cater to this learner by following the old adage of “tell them what they are going to learn, teach them, and then tell them what they have learned.

Auditory activities such as brainstorming, buzz groups, and quizzes can also be used.


For visual learners there exists two sub-categories – linguistic and spatial.

Visual-linguistic learners prefer reading and writing tasks and can memorise written information readily.

Visual-spatial learners have difficulty with written words, instead preferring videos, charts, live demonstrations, and other visual cues.

Learning for these types is facilitated by the individual visualising faces and places and concocting stories with their vivid imaginations.


These learners perform best when touching and moving.

Here, there are also two sub-categories: kinesthetic (movement) and tactile (touch). Kinesthetic learning is a little more difficult to describe and cater for.

When attending lectures, these individuals may take notes simply to get their hands moving.

Similar activities that encourage movement are picture drawing, doodling, and the highlighting of important passages.

While reading, they also like to scan the information first before delving into the finer details.

Given their preference for movement, kinesthetic learners also appreciate regular exercise breaks and intermissions.

Younger, more tactile learners can also be helped by offering them props such as coloured pens, play-dough, and soft or brightly-coloured rubber balls.

Case Studies

1. Primary School Teaching Methods:

  • Visual Learners: Elementary teachers use colorful charts, diagrams, and educational posters to help visual learners understand concepts like math, science, and language arts.
  • Auditory Learners: Teachers incorporate storytelling, group discussions, and interactive reading sessions to engage auditory learners.
  • Kinesthetic Learners: Hands-on activities, such as building models, conducting science experiments, and interactive games, cater to the kinesthetic learning style.

2. Language Learning Programs:

  • Visual Learners: Language apps and courses include visual aids like flashcards, images, and videos to assist visual learners in associating words with images and contexts.
  • Auditory Learners: Language learners benefit from listening to native speakers, engaging in pronunciation exercises, and participating in conversation practice with others.
  • Kinesthetic Learners: Language programs may integrate physical activities like role-playing, charades, and gestures to enhance vocabulary retention for kinesthetic learners.

3. Employee Training in Corporations:

  • Visual Learners: Training modules include infographics, flowcharts, and PowerPoint presentations to appeal to visual learners during onboarding and skill development.
  • Auditory Learners: Webinars, audio recordings, and virtual meetings offer auditory learners opportunities for active engagement and learning.
  • Kinesthetic Learners: Interactive simulations, scenario-based exercises, and group activities encourage hands-on participation for kinesthetic learners during employee training.

4. Art and Design Education:

  • Visual Learners: Art and design students benefit from visual demonstrations, art exhibitions, and the study of various visual art forms and styles.
  • Auditory Learners: Art history courses involve discussing the historical and cultural context of art movements and artists, catering to auditory learners.
  • Kinesthetic Learners: Hands-on studio sessions, where students create their own artwork, offer a kinesthetic approach to learning art and design.

5. Medical Training and Simulation:

  • Visual Learners: Medical students use anatomical charts, 3D models, and radiological images to visually understand the human body’s structure and function.
  • Auditory Learners: Lectures, medical podcasts, and discussions among peers provide auditory learners with opportunities to absorb medical knowledge.
  • Kinesthetic Learners: Medical training often involves practicing clinical skills on medical mannequins, conducting physical examinations, and performing surgical simulations to cater to kinesthetic learners.

6. Sports Coaching and Training:

  • Visual Learners: Coaches use video analysis and visual feedback to help athletes improve their techniques and strategies.
  • Auditory Learners: Team meetings and verbal instructions are crucial for auditory learners to understand game plans and strategies.
  • Kinesthetic Learners: Drills, physical practices, and repetitive exercises allow kinesthetic learners, such as athletes, to develop muscle memory and refine their skills.

7. Science Education and Labs:

  • Visual Learners: Science classes incorporate visual aids like diagrams, microscope slides, and chemical reactions to help students grasp scientific concepts.
  • Auditory Learners: Lectures, science discussions, and podcasts about scientific breakthroughs engage auditory learners.
  • Kinesthetic Learners: Laboratory experiments and hands-on activities provide kinesthetic learners with opportunities to apply scientific theories and principles.

Key takeaways

  • The VAK learning styles model is a simple way to explain and understand various learning styles. It was developed by several child psychologists in the 1920s.
  • The VAK learning styles model provides a simple framework for assessing someone’s preferred way of learning. Using these insights, tailored learning experiences can be designed to maximise information retention.
  • The VAK learning styles model is based on three categories of stimuli: auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. One individual can exhibit a preference for any style depending on the context. However, most people tend to gravitate to one dominant style over time.

Key Highlights

  • VAK Learning Styles Model: The VAK learning styles model was developed by child psychologists including Fernald, Keller, Orton, Gillingham, and Montessori in the 1920s. It suggests that each individual’s learning style is a combination of three stimuli: auditory, visual, and kinesthetic (tactile).
  • Individual Learning Styles: The model emphasizes that there is no single “best” learning style, and individuals incorporate various stimuli based on their strengths, preferences, and the situation. However, over time, learners tend to gravitate toward a dominant learning style.
  • Changes in Learning Styles: The model suggests that predominant learning styles may change as an individual grows older. In early stages, kinesthetic stimuli are prominent, while visual learning becomes more prevalent in middle school and auditory learning in high school, university, and adulthood.
  • Tailored Learning Experiences: The VAK learning styles model provides a framework to assess an individual’s preferred learning style. This insight enables educators to design and tailor learning methods and experiences to cater to the individual’s needs.
  • Auditory Learning Style: Auditory learners prefer sound and may read aloud or talk to themselves. They benefit from spoken explanations, lectures, and activities like brainstorming, group discussions, and quizzes.
  • Visual Learning Style: Visual learners can be divided into two sub-categories: visual-linguistic and visual-spatial. Visual-linguistic learners excel in reading and writing tasks, while visual-spatial learners prefer visual cues like videos, charts, and demonstrations.
  • Kinesthetic Learning Style: Kinesthetic learners excel when they can touch and move. This category also includes two sub-categories: kinesthetic (movement) and tactile (touch). Kinesthetic learners benefit from activities involving movement, like drawing, highlighting, and regular exercise breaks.
  • Tailoring Learning Experiences: The model underscores the importance of adapting teaching methods to suit an individual’s dominant learning style. By doing so, educators can optimize information retention and the learning experience.
  • Contextual Preference: Individuals may exhibit a preference for different learning styles depending on the context. The VAK model acknowledges this flexibility while highlighting the idea of a dominant style over time.

Connected Learning Frameworks

Growth vs. Fixed Mindset

fixed mindset believes their intelligence and talents are fixed traits that cannot be developed. The two mindsets were developed by American psychologist Carol Dweck while studying human motivation. Both mindsets are comprised of conscious and subconscious thought patterns established at a very young age. In adult life, they have profound implications for personal and professional success. Individuals with a growth mindset devote more time and effort to achieving difficult goals and by extension, are less concerned with the opinions or abilities of others. Individuals with a fixed mindset are sensitive to criticism and may be preoccupied with proving their talents to others.

Constructive Feedback

Constructive feedback is supportive in nature and designed to help employees improve or correct their performance or behavior. Note that the intention of such feedback is to achieve a positive outcome for the employee based on comments, advice, or suggestions.

High-Performance Coaching

High-performance coaches work with individuals in personal and professional contexts to enable them to reach their full potential. While these sorts of coaches are commonly associated with sports, it should be noted that the act of coaching is a specific type of behavior that is also useful in business and leadership

Training of Trainers

The training of trainers model seeks to engage master instructors in coaching new, less experienced instructors with a particular topic or skill. The training of trainers (ToT) model is a framework used by master instructors to train new instructors, enabling them to subsequently train other people in their organization.

Active Listening

Active listening is the process of listening attentively while someone speaks and displaying understanding through verbal and non-verbal techniques. Active listening is a fundamental part of good communication, fostering a positive connection and building trust between individuals.

Active Recall

Active recall enables the practitioner to remember information by moving it from short-term to long-term memory, where it can be easily retrieved. The technique is also known as active retrieval or practice testing. With active recall, the process is reversed since learning occurs when the student retrieves information from the brain.

Baptism by Fire

The phrase “baptism by fire” originates from the Bible in Matthew 3:11. In Christianity, the phrase was associated with personal trials and tribulations and was also used to describe the martyrdom of an individual. Many years later, it was associated with a soldier going to war for the first time. Here, the baptism was the battle itself.  “Baptism by fire” is a phrase used to describe the process of an employee learning something the hard way with great difficulty. 

Dreyfus Model

The Dreyfus model of skill acquisition was developed by brothers Hubert and Stuart Dreyfus at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1980. The Dreyfus model of skill acquisition is a learning progression framework. It argues that as one learns a new skill via external instruction, they pass through five stages of development: novice, advanced beginner, competent, proficient, and expert.

Kolb Learning Cycle

The Kolb reflective cycle was created by American educational theorist David Kolb. In 1984, Kolb created the Experiential Learning Theory (ELT) based on the premise that learning is facilitated by direct experience. In other words, the individual learns through action. The Kolb reflective cycle is a holistic learning and development process based on the reflection of active experiences.

Method of Loci

The Method of Loci is a mnemonic strategy for memorizing information. The Method of Loci gets its name from the word “loci”, which is the plural of locus – meaning location or place. It is a form of memorization where an individual places information they want to remember along with points of an imaginary journey. By retracing the same route through the journey, the individual can recall the information in a specific order. For this reason, many consider this memory tool a location-based mnemonic.

Experience Curve

The Experience Curve argues that the more experience a business has in manufacturing a product, the more it can lower costs. As a company gains un know-how, it also gains in terms of labor efficiency, technology-driven learning, product efficiency, and shared experience, to reduce the cost per unit as the cumulative volume of production increases.

Feynman Technique

The Feynman Technique is a mental model and strategy for learning something new and committing it to memory. It is often used in exam preparation and for understanding difficult concepts. Physicist Richard Feynman elaborated this method, and it’s a powerful technique to explain anything.

Learning Organization

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Forgetting Curve

The forgetting curve was first proposed in 1885 by Hermann Ebbinghaus, a German psychologist and pioneer of experimental research into memory.  The forgetting curve illustrates the rate at which information is lost over time if the individual does not make effort to retain it.

Instructor-Led Training

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5 Whys Method

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Single-Loop Learning

Single-loop learning was developed by Dr. Chris Argyris, a well-respected author and Harvard Business School professor in the area of metacognitive thinking. He defined single-loop learning as “learning that changes strategies of action (i.e. the how) in ways that leave the values of a theory of action unchanged (i.e. the why).”  Single-loop learning is a learning process where people, groups, or organizations modify their actions based on the difference between expected and actual outcomes.

Spaced Repetition

Spaced repetition is a technique where individuals review lessons at increasing intervals to memorize information. Spaced repetition is based on the premise that the brain learns more effectively when the individual “spaces out” the learning process. Thus, it can be used as a mnemonic technique to transform short-term memory into long-term memory.

Blended Learning

Blended learning is a broad and imprecise field that makes it difficult to define. However, in most cases, it is considered to be a form of hybrid learning that combines online and offline instructional methods.

VAK Learning


Lessons Learned

The term lessons learned refers to the various experiences project team members have while participating in a project. Lessons are shared in a review session which usually occurs once the project has been completed, with any improvements or best practices incorporated into subsequent projects. 

Post-Mortem Analysis

Post-mortem analyses review projects from start to finish to determine process improvements and ensure that inefficiencies are not repeated in the future. In the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK), this process is referred to as “lessons learned”.

Instructor-Led Training

Instructor-led training is a more traditional, top-down, teacher-oriented approach to learning that occurs in online or offline classroom environments. The approach connects instructors with students to encourage discussion and interaction in a group or individual context, with many enjoying ILT over other methods as they can seek direct clarification on a topic from the source.  Instructor-led training (ILT), therefore, encompasses any form of training provided by an instructor in an online or offline classroom setting.

5E Instructional Model

The 5E Instructional Model is a framework for improving teaching practices through discussion, observation, critique, and reflection. Teachers and students move through each phase linearly, but some may need to be repeated or cycled through several times to ensure effective learning. This is a form of inquiry-based learning where students are encouraged to discover information and formulate new insights themselves.

Related Strategy Concepts: Read Next: Mental ModelsBiasesBounded RationalityMandela EffectDunning-Kruger EffectLindy EffectCrowding Out EffectBandwagon EffectDecision-Making Matrix.

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