The brain uses the five senses of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell in processing new information. Smell and taste play a lesser role, while the three senses normally involved in learning are:
Sight – Visual
Sound – Hearing or Auditory
Touch – Movement or Kinesthetic
Concentrating on only one sense ignores development in other areas of the brain. Engaging as much of the brain as possible enhances its development. Even though the brain has over 100 million neurons, the number of cells is less significant than the number of connections between the cells. Involving different parts of the brain creates connections. Using all of our senses makes us smarter.
Despite the need to encourage all senses, we each have a way that is easiest for us to process new information. Auditory learners prefer spoken words. Visual learners prefer written material or images, and kinesthetic learners prefer ‘hands-on” experiences.
We each have one sense that tends to dominate. Knowing that dominant sense facilitates learning in any environment. Some people want to read first. Some want to hear first, and some prefer to do it first. While most of us use a combination, depending on the situation, one sense is usually strongest. In processing new information, or learning, do you usually prefer to:
Read, Listen or Act?
Below is a description of the three styles.
Visual: read, graphics, prefer written material
Auditory: listen, talk, remember what is said
Kinesthetic: move, can’t sit still, learn best by doing
The kinesthetic learner is often the one at the most disadvantage. Classes at school and work are dominated with words, with the emphasis on listening and reading. We rarely help the kinesthetic learner. Without training and practice, many kinesthetic learners do not have strong visual or auditory abilities. The brain of this learner needs movement to facilitate learning. This is not a learning disability any more than a visual learner may need printed material. Brains function differently. Reading and writing, however, are the skills that are usually stressed and honored today. Rarely are movement and activity emphasized as valid ways to learn except in lower elementary grades, sports and technical training.
We need to develop all senses. Auditory learners need to improve their reading. Visual learners need to listen better. Both need to further develop their coordination through activities. Kinesthetic people need to improve reading and listening. Many adults have naturally strengthened their weaker senses; many have not.
Helping our youth learn better requires that we provide the tools they need. Understanding the three types of learners: visual, auditory and kinesthetic is one of those tools.