No matter how many times someone tells me how to spell a word, I can’t seem to process it. They might as well be the teacher on Charlie Brown, saying, “Wah wah wah wah wah.” If I’m ever going to have a chance of understanding what they’re saying, I need them to write it out. I need to see how it’s spelled and how it looks on the page. Only then will I be able to process the information. In other words, I’m definitely not what you’d call an auditory or aural learner (a person who prefers to hear things to be able to process information better).
Only a Preference
It’s important to keep in mind that learning styles are nothing but preferences.
The idea that some people are visual, aural, kinesthetic, or read/write learners began in the 1990s in New Zealand when Neil Fleming developed a questionnaire to measure how people preferred to process information. Known as VARK, this questionnaire is still used up to this day to categorize people’s learning style preferences.((Verywell Mind: Overview of VARK Learning Styles))
Though Fleming’s learning style gained popularity, Polly Hussman and Valerie Dean O’Loughlin found no link between people’s preferred learning style and actual learning outcomes.((American Association for Anatomy: Another Nail in the Coffin for Learning Styles? Disparities among Undergraduate Anatomy Students’ Study Strategies, Class Performance, and Reported VARK Learning Styles)) Meanwhile, Abby R. Knoll, Hajime Otani, Reid L. Skeel, and K. Roger Van Horn confirmed these findings in another study.
Preferred learning styles had no impact on how well participants could recall information.((PubMed: Learning Style, Judgements of Learning, and Learning of Verbal and Visual Information)) It may be true that people like to gain information in various ways, but it’s not true that using a chosen learning style improves learning outcomes.
Nevertheless, it’s still clear that people (myself included) have preferred ways to receive new information. I definitely like to see things in writing. So, it’s still a worthwhile pursuit to unpack what the characteristics of an aural learner are and how someone who prefers aural input can take advantage of that preference.
7 Characteristics of an Aural Learner
Let’s look at the 7 characteristics of an aural learner:
1. Aural Learners Prefer to Hear Information
This might seem obvious, but aural learners prefer to hear things aloud. If you find yourself asking for auditory information, you just might be one.
If this sounds like you, download audiobooks and listen to podcasts. Try these 16 Best Podcasts on Motivation to Help You Reach Your Goals. You might also enjoy attending lectures and reading things out loud to better understand the content.
2. Aural Learners Gravitate Towards Audiobooks
Aural learners might also gravitate towards audiobooks, which are sources of auditory information at their finest. There are no words to read or pictures to look at, after all. If you enjoy audiobooks and podcasts and easily follow along, you could be an aural learner.
Don’t feel ashamed if people say that listening to an audiobook isn’t “real reading.” Learning is learning, whether you’re listening or reading.
3. Aural Learners Close Their Eyes to Focus on Auditory Information
When someone closes their eyes to better understand something, they might be an aural learner. They do it mostly to block out other learning methods and focus on auditory inputs.
If you think that’s you, try it out. Close your eyes to get rid of visual stimuli and see how it affects your learning.
4. Aural Learners Talk and Move Lips to Process Information
You might also be able to spot an aural learner when they talk to themselves or mouthing the words as they read since aural learners prefer hearing new information.
If you think you’re an aural learner, crack a book and read along. That way, you’ll turn reading and studying into an auditory experience.
5. Aural Learners Remember People’s Names
Unlike me, aural learners tend to be good at learning people’s names. We usually hear instead of seeing them, so aural learners are at an advantage when it comes to learning new names.
You may boost your name-learning skills by repeating people’s names five times to make sure that you remember them well.
6. Aural Learners Do Not Like Noisy Learning Environments
It might seem counterintuitive, but being an aural learner doesn’t mean that they like a noisy environment. If someone prefers to hear information, they don’t appreciate listening to competing noises.
It’s the same for a visual learner. Just because I appreciate a chart or graph, it’s false to think that I like to be bombarded by visuals.
If people prefer aural learning, they might be attracted to clear, audible sounds and struggle with auditory distractions.
Aim to reduce distractions in your environment, regardless of your preferred learning style. Find a quiet place to study without the sound of traffic, phones, and televisions disturbing you.
7. Aural Learners Might Ignore Visual Representations of Information
Lastly, an aural learner might not even notice or pay attention to visual information. If charts and graphs don’t make things clearer for you, it is highly possible that audible information serves you better.
And that’s okay! Go ahead and listen to as much information as you can. Still, don’t completely ignore the visuals. After that, go back and use the other learning styles to reinforce what you’re learning. Know your blind spot and make sure to access all methods since people do learn better and retain more data when they use multiple learning styles, regardless of their preference.
How Does an Aural Learner Learn?
Because learning styles are only a matter of choice and not actually a way to improve learning outcomes, aural learners learn like everyone else. Once you realize that, it’s okay to start with that preference, whether it’s aural, visual, kinesthetic, or read/write. I know I still always ask people to write things down for me, and I prefer reading over anything else. It’s not a problem — it feels more natural for me to do so.
If you’re an aural learner, you may try listening to audiobooks and podcasts first. You can even turn on an audiobook while reading the same book, considering combining learning styles helps people retain new information.
People should try to match the learning task with the learning style. Read: context matters. In case you learn by listening, but you need to analyze graphs, auditory information is probably not the best way to go. If you prefer visuals to learn your lines in a play, though, aural inputs might actually be more helpful for you. And if you favor a read/write learning style but are practicing a new TikTok dance, you can read all the books in the world and still not be able to learn the moves. Hence, always think of what you’re learning about before you decide on your learning method.
Furthermore, it’s important to limit distractions, regardless of your preferred learning style. Whether you’re an aural, visual, kinesthetic, or read/write learner, you need to turn off your gadgets and study in a quiet environment. I’d even suggest getting noise-canceling headphones to block external noises. The more conducive to learning your environment is, the better your chances of learning will be.
Self-reflection is an essential part of the learning process. After trying out a learning style, reflect on what worked and what didn’t. What are the results? Is there room for improvement? Did the learning style fit what you’re trying to learn?
It’s a lifelong process to figure out how your brain processes new information best, so make sure to reflect on yourself. Don’t just keep doing the same thing repeatedly because you’re an aural learner. Try new learning styles or combinations of styles to see what works in different scenarios.
Self-reflection builds self-awareness, which is crucial for improving learning outcomes over time. Unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet for that.
But if you prefer aural learning, start with auditory information, mix things up with other learning styles, consider which ones are suitable for what you’re trying to learn, reduce distractions, and become as reflective about your learning as possible. This way, you’ll be starting with your preferences and creating a learning system that will continue to improve over time.
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