Friday, October 23, 2009


What is VARK, is it the sound of a hair-lipped dog? VARK, VARK!

V.A.R.K. is actually an acronym; each letter represents a learning style: visual, auditory, reading and kinesthetic. VARK is very straight forward. You are asked a series of questions and you tally up the score at the end. You do some handy dandy math and presto! Your learning styles are known!

The VARK system is one of two in which we learned in Ministry of Teaching class what our primary learning styles are.

The Kolb system is the other. The Kolb system was created by David Kolb in the early nineteen eighties. It is based on the premise that we all have four learning styles and experience a four stage learning cycle.

The testing for this is more difficult than VARK. One rates their preferences on a list of statements. Then the scores are tallied not unlike filling out the stats of a baseball program at a Ranger game. The scores are placed in a column, graphed and voila! The Kolb system allows one to rate their learning styles in these categories; Concrete Experience - (CE), Reflective Observation - (RO), Abstract Conceptualization - (AC), and Active Experimentation - (AE). For the sake of this reflection, I will only concentrate on my learning styles.

The VARK questionnaire was easier to fill out than cooking canned biscuits, and tallying the results was just as simple. The following is a brief description of each learning style.

1. Visual – you learn best visually
2. Aural – you learn beast by hearing information
3. Read/write – you learn best by reading or writing information
4. Kinesthetic – you learn best by doing

As Joe Friday used to say, “just the facts ma’am, just the facts”.

The following numbers were my total on the learning scale.

Kinesthetic 8, read/write 5, auditory 4, and visual 1.

These numbers were as accurate as Annie Oakley on the shooting range. I learn best by doing. Like driving to an appointment in a new part of town, the driver never forgets where he was going, but whoever is in the passenger seat will generally not remember how to get there.

The second place finisher (here second place really does count) was reading/writing. This is not only listening and taking notes in class. This is literally writing out what I am supposed to be learning. Knowing these statistics has allowed me to load my learning arsenal with the proper ammunition.

For example, in my Greek class it helps me to recite my vocabulary words out loud in order to memorize them. Since I learn best by “doing and writing” I should be writing the Greek words many times, and actively translating on a daily basis. Oh, for the discipline of Erasmus!

David Kolb on the other hand is another kettle of fish entirely. At first, cynically, I felt Mr. Kolb had way too much time on his hands when he created his learning theory. However once I saw the fruits of the results, and was able to apply them, I made many pies!

Like VARK there is a questionnaire to fill out. It is a little more complicated but once finished you place the results on a graph, and your learning styles are known. Mine turned out to be concrete Experience (feeling), and active experimentation (doing).

This placed me in a category specified by Kolb as accommodating.

“The Accommodating learning style is 'hands-on', and relies on intuition rather than logic. These people use other people's analysis, and prefer to take a practical, experiential approach. They are attracted to new challenges and experiences, and to carrying out plans. They commonly act on 'gut' instinct rather than logical analysis. People with an Accommodating learning style will tend to rely on others for information than carry out their own analysis. This learning style is prevalent and useful in roles requiring action and initiative. People with an Accommodating learning style prefer to work in teams to complete tasks. They set targets and actively work in the field trying different ways to achieve an objective.” (class notes).

Unlike hieroglyphics out of Egypt these are not set in stone. This is not 100% how I learn, there are variations. However, it is fascinating how close it comes to being dead on.

Learning these "learning styles" has helped me in the following ways.

In intermediate Greek it has shown me a strategy in learning the language. Before I was like a rudderless ship, and had no plan for steering myself through the shoals of verbs, moods, and tenses.

Now, I understand, I need to be teaching what I know, writing over and over what I don’t know, and actively translating my Greek New Testament on a daily basis.

I have learned the way others learn as well. To be an effective teacher, pastor, and parent I must learn these variations and adapt them to each teaching environment.

I must be as flexible as an old car antenna, on the one hand not only receiving the signal, but on the other bending in the direction in order to pick it up and process it in a way my students and daughter can best understand.


1 comment:

DeadMule said...

Great post, Larry. Understanding learning style can help a person learn and teach more effectively. Just doing the same thing over and over is like butting your head against a wall. Variety in teaching methods reaches more people. Too bad more pastors don't know this.

Snap Shots

Get Free Shots from