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VAK Learning styles model as a tool for teaching EFL

Itzel Anglica Gonzlez Santiago


Introduction
According to Garza (2000) it is well known that learning styles take a significant role inside
classrooms since every person has different ways of learning. It is important for students to
know their own learning style so they can improve and strength their academic
performance. In addition, it is important for teachers to know their students learning styles
to develop materials regarding their preferences. Thus, by using the VAK learning styles
model, EFL learners can enhance their learning process. That is because through this
insight students can learn which study techniques may work best for them and which
methods may be the least effective.
This essay comprises four sections. First, a general view of learning styles definitions and
existing models are shown. Secondly, the VAK learning styles model is presented as an
alternative model in order to enhance learning. This is followed by the explanation of some
myths people might think on the subject of learning styles definition. In the forth section,
how can be immerge the VAK learning styles model in the EFL classroom is described
along with the link between learning and teaching.
1. Learning Styles
There has been a need for trying to understand how people learn more efficiently, so that
here have been several researches that focus on language learners. Dunn and Dunn (1979 as
cited in Ghaedi, Z. and Jam, B. 2014) defines learning styles as a term that describes the
variations among learners in using one or more senses to understand, organize, and retain
experience''(p.89). It must be granted that the use of the senses to gain information could
enhance learners learning. Moreover, the senses commonly used for learning are tactile,
sight and hearing. Given that, nowadays there are different models for learning styles, each
one focuses on different aspects.
1.1. Learning styles models
It is essential to realize that all the most recognized models regarding learning styles
can be classified into: cognitive, sensory and personality models. But, in this paper I
focus only on sensory models.

It is necessary to explain the models proposed by Reid and Dunn & Dunn in order to
have a wide idea since they are the pioneers of this classification.
1.1.1. Reids Learning Style Model
1.1.2. As Reid suggests, learning styles are personal, usual and preferred ways of
attracting, handling and preserving new information and skills. She claimed
that people learn differently and she divided this model in six channels.
According to Reid (1995 as cited in Vaseghi, R. 2012):
Perceptual learning style preference refers to the perceptual channels
through which students like to learn. These are divided into auditory
(listening to lectures and tapes), visual (reading and studying diagram),
kinesthetic (physical activity and movement), tactile (hands-on, doing
lab experiments), group (studying with others or in group), and
individual learning (studying alone)
1.1.3. Dunn and Dunn model
Dunn defined learning style as the way in which individuals begin to concentrate
on, process, internalize and retain new and difficult information (1995 as cited in
Vaseghi, R. 2012). Its meant that by using the preferred learning style learners
may be able to ease the process of learning.
Moreover, Dunn classified into environmental, emotional, sociological, physical
and psychological subjects to analyze while referring to learning styles. Inside of
the physical subject they suggested that the students could learn by different styles
such as auditory, visual, tactile, and kinesthetic styles.
1.2. An alternative model
The VAK Learning Styles model is perhaps the most widely used, largely because of its
simplicity. That is, having in mind only three types of learners in the classroom is
easier for the teacher to know how best to assist learners to acquire the knowledge,
understanding and skills they need.

2. VAK Learning styles model


The Vak learning styles model is considered to be one of the most used models in the EFL
learning context. Fleming (2011) stated that VAK is a questionnaire that provides users

with a profile of their learning preferences. It means that students can know their strengths
at learning and it was initially developed by Fleming (1987). According to Neil Fleming
(2011) VAK is about having a single preference - a preference for receiving and producing
information if there is an intention for learning. However, Fleming states that students may
prefer several learning styles at once. This means that students may have more than one
single learning style. In addition, the VAK learning styles model is divided into three
learning channels such as visual, auditory and kinesthetic.
2.1 Visual Learners
Students who have a preference for using diagrams, illustrated text books, videos, charts
and illustrated hand-outs in order to learn a topic are called visual learners. Also, this type
of learner may want to visualize the teacher well in front of the class and might try to
interpret teachers language body language and facial expression. There other students who
prefer to use their hearing system.
2.2 Auditory learners
When learners express a preference for listening activities and explications in form of
speech they are likely to be auditory learners. Moreover, verbal lessons are an important
feature in the class for these learners. Lastly, they may like talking to a classmate or
using a tape recorder to hear what was said.
2.3 Kinesthetic learners
Kinesthetic learners could like learning while touching, doing and moving. These learners
dont like being sit down all the time and they may be interested in activities outdoors. In
addition they may also like physical activities, such as moving their hands, jumping,
running or simply walking.
2.4 Multimodality
When students answer the VAK test some may discover that they dont have a preferred
learning style therefore they have many because they are multimodal. Research has shown
that the majority of people are like this. Fleming (2012) claimed that A single preference

is indicative of the strength of one of the modalities not an indication that the other three
VARK modalities do not exist. This means that students can have a preference for none in
particular.
2.5 Pros of the VAK learning styles model
In the first place, VAK questionnaires may be a useful tool for students in developing self
awareness and in taking control of their own learning processes. Self-awareness involves
understanding our individual character and how we are likely to learn more effectively. In
the second place, the use of the VAK learning styles model may encourage teachers to be
more conscious and responsive in their teaching practices. Finally, this consciousness of the
teacher and the effort he puts for the inclusion of all types of learners in his classes can
develop positive motivation in the students. In addition to explain this, Garca, Scholes and
Lpez (2013) claim that In order to sustain students motivation, a teacher needs to accept
that inside the classroom different kinds of students exist who have different styles of
learning.
3. Myths concerning Learning styles
Throughout the years there have been common misunderstandings regarding learning
styles. Learning skills have been used as a synonym for learning styles. However, these
terms have differences that are significant for this study.
3.1. Learning Skills
A skill is the ability to do something effectively. Students can have learning skills
which may be easy or hard for them but theres a possibility that they dont like or
enjoy this skill. For example, an EFL student may learn successfully about
American culture while reading American literature, however, he or she does not
enjoy doing it. Fleming (2012) stated that it is possible to be very skilled at using
strategies aligned with one of the VAK modalities but not use that for learning, it
is meant that there is a difference regarding skills and styles. Learning styles can be
used by students according to their preferences and they cannot be necessarily
skilled at.
4. Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic (VAK) learning styles in the EFL classroom
It is known that the VAK learning styles model can be used in all kinds of subjects: from
the medicine area to the English language learning, for example. Clearly, teachers can find

a variety of their students learning styles with the application of the VAK learning styles
test. Due to this variety, a responsible teacher should care about these differences in the
classroom. Regarding the English language area, teachers need to know in what kind of
context they are working. They may also be aware of their students learning styles.
Moreover, there are different branches while learning English. That is, English can be
taught as a Second Language (ESL) or as a Foreign Language (EFL). In this paper I focus
on learning EFL, it is meant that learners have no contact with the language outside the
class, except for the Internet or auto access centers.
4.1. Link between teaching and learning
Having no context where to practice the target language, students in spite of knowing their
VAK style, they find assessment a more difficult task. The VAK learning styles test is
designed for students only, but teachers can use it as a tool for knowing their students
better. abatov (2008) affirms that It is evident that teachers cannot conform to all pupils
but they can find out learning styles in a particular group of pupils and prepare the lessons
which will suit to a majority of pupils. For instance, class preparation -taking into account
the learners styles- can make a great difference in effective learning. So that, teachers need
to design their materials, teaching techniques and lesson plans according to their students
learning styles.
4.2. Teaching techniques
No matter what teaching approach is used, teachers can implement some of these teaching
techniques in their classes depending on students learning style. For instance, for visual
learners it is necessary to use color codes in the teaching materials as well as pictures,
maps, diagrams and comparative charts. Also, for auditory learners the basic concepts of
music need to be involved in the class. Therefore, using rhythms, beats or songs are good
techniques for these types of learners. Repeating vocabulary or grammar structures aloud is
also effective. When working with kinesthetic students it is important to make them feel
active in the classroom. Then, trying to make activities on the floor, outside or inside the
class might make them feel comfortable. Finally, physical movement is required for these
types of learners.
4.3. Multimodality

Even though a person can express an evident preference for only one learning style, it must
be remembered that some students use several learning styles in the same proportion and
for them it is difficult to identify their preferred learning style. Fleming (2012) claimed that
two thirds of learners have this multimodality. In consequence, it is important to vary the
techniques and try to please all kinds of students.
5. Conclusion
In any EFL class there will be students with a preferred learning style or multiple of
them. Even though, the VAK questionnaire is made for students only, it can serve as
a tool for teaching EFL since teachers can meet the needs of the different learning
styles in the classroom. So that, by using the VAK learning styles model, EFL
learners can enhance their learning process too.
As mentioned in this paper there are advantages regarding the use of the VAK
model. For example, it develops self awareness and autonomy in learners, it
enhances class preparation from teachers and it augments positive motivation in
learners.
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