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Why Every Nursing Student Should Know Their Learning Style

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Published October 24, 2022

Every student has a preferred learning style that improves their retention. Identify yours and the study habits that can support your learning style.
Why Every Nursing Student Should Know Their Learning Style
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  • Discovering and understanding your learning style can help improve retention and guide your study habits.
  • There are well over 70 different learning styles, sometimes called learning preferences, but most fit into one of eight categories.
  • Nurses are lifelong learners and often must complete continuing education credits to maintain their license.

Nursing school is a big commitment of time and energy. Knowing and understanding your personal learning style can help you identify study methods that make the most of your time. According to some experts, there are well over 70 different learning styles, which are sometimes called preferences.

Students learn best and quickest with information in their preferred style. Discover what are the different types of learning styles and what study habits best fit each style.

The Importance of Identifying Your Learning Style as a Nurse

It is crucial for nursing students and practicing nurses to know and understand their preferred learning styles. Nurses are lifelong learners. Many states require continuing education credits to maintain a nursing license.

This requirement ensures that healthcare professionals stay up to date on the latest medical advancements that affect patient care. Nursing students and nurses who understand how they best learn can make the most of their time.

When information is presented in a way that makes sense to the learner, the information is incorporated more quickly and retained longer. While some experts believe the basic theory is conceptually flawed, international data show that Turkish students who prefer one style over another may also demonstrate better academic performance.

One study examined the learning styles of practicing nurses and found that preferred learning styles do exist and are correlated with job satisfaction and years of experience. The researchers recommended professional development opportunities take advantage of these learning styles.

Nursing programs are rigorous and challenging, as they should be for healthcare professionals responsible for patient care. Programs have a demanding credit load and in many cases, critical exams fall within the same week. It is crucial that student nurses identify learning styles to support study habits in school and as they enter the workforce.

What Are the Different Learning Styles?

Although there are many different nursing school learning styles, most fall into one of these eight categories. As you determine which categories best fit your style, it's important to note that most people show a preference for at least one and sometimes two of these learning styles.

Let's explore what the different types of learning styles are.

The VARK Learning Styles

One of the most prominent theories of learning styles was developed by Neil Fleming and published in 1987. The acronym VARK stands for:

Fleming identified these as the four main learning styles. These learning styles fall under the larger umbrella of neurolinguistic programming, which is a way of using perceptual, communication, and behavioral techniques to change thoughts and actions.

Honey and Mumford Learning Styles

Peter Honey and Alan Mumford published their learning styles in 1986, which were heavily based on Kolb's Learning Cycle published in 1984. These learning styles are not limited to classroom learning but encompass any time you encounter a new situation or challenge.

According to the Honey and Mumford, the following are also learning styles:

Tips for Studying Based on Your Learning Style

Once you have identified the styles that best describe your preferred way of learning, it's important to take the next step and understand the study methods that support your learning. By making small tweaks to your study habits based on your learning style, you may spend less time learning and retain more information.

Some students also find that they work best alone or in groups. The preference isn't about how information is processed but rather how the student prefers to work. These styles are called social or solitary learning.

Social learners prefer to collaborate or engage with others. They enjoy group discussions, team activities, group projects, or other collaborations. When remote learning, social learners do best when they can engage with other students on video conference calls.

Solitary learners prefer to study on their own. They may get frustrated with group projects or collaborative activities. They prefer being assigned tasks individually and may find it uncomfortable to present information in class.

Social and solitary learners also fall into one or two of the following categories of learners. By using study habits that play to your nursing school learning style strengths, you may improve your retention and academic performance.

Study Tips for Visual Learners

Visual learners are more engaged and focused when the material can be seen. They retain information best when it is in a visual format, like charts, videos, demonstrations, and images.

Students who find themselves drawn to watching demonstrations, retaining more information from video, or easily distracted by lectures may be primarily visual learners.

These students retain more knowledge when they can see the information. Consider the following study habits to support your learning style:

  • Flashcards

  • Note-taking with colored highlighters to color code information

  • Charts, graphs, and diagrams

  • Memory tools, such as mnemonic devices or visual chains

  • Animated videos or learning shows

  • Demonstrations

Study Tips for Auditory Learners

Students who remember lecture material without writing a lot of notes or can easily remember everyone's names and birthdays may prefer learning by hearing. Students who are auditory learners may find reading out loud to themself increases their retention and recall.

Students who learn best by hearing have many different study habits that can support their learning style, including:

  • Reading aloud

  • Recording lectures

  • Listening to music or other forms of sound

  • Summarizing out loud what they just read

  • Using jingles, songs, and poems to help with remembering dates and information

  • Debating out loud in a study or discussion group

  • Reading handwritten notes to recordings and listening

  • Listening to podcasts and audiobooks

  • Discussing topics in one-on-one tutoring

  • Creating songs about new content

Study Tips for Reading/Writing Learners

These students tend to learn and retain the most information when they read or write it down. Students with a reading/writing preferred learning style enjoy creating lists and summarizing information in ways that make sense to them.

Reading and writing learners absorb new information best when it's presented in text or displayed as words. There are many study habits that support this learning style, including:

  • Summarizing information they have read or learned

  • Outlining notes or textbook information

  • Reading textbooks out loud

  • Using crossword puzzles, anagrams, and word searches

  • Following information in the book during lectures

  • Discussing in small group

  • Writing notes and using colored highlighters

  • Creating presentations

  • Story writing or creative note-taking

Study Tips for Kinesthetic Learners

Also called tactile learners, people who prefer tactile learning enjoy manipulating objects and learning material. They learn best by touching and doing things to make sense of the material.

Students who learn best by touch or hands-on activities may have limited ways of learning specific topics. Tactile learners may consider the following study habits to improve their performance:

  • Moving around while reading or discussing material

  • Moving hands or tapping feet when sitting

  • Using computer modules to help with a sense of touch

  • Sitting where there are limited distractions, often at the front of the classroom

  • Pointing things out as they learn

  • Studying in short bursts of time with breaks to keep the student engaged

  • Having regular breaks that include physical activity

  • Conducting experiments or constructing projects

  • Creating flashcards

Study Tips for Activist Learners

These people learn best by doing, getting their hands dirty, and are enthusiastic about learning new things. They tackle a problem head-on, learn through experiences, and may get bored easily. They enjoy tackling a problem as part of a group.

These individuals enjoy tackling new challenges. They are often social learners and enjoy brainstorming with others. Study habits that increase retention include:

  • Working in groups or group activities

  • Trying new experiences

  • Doing puzzles

  • Role-playing

  • Having more hands-on experiences

Study Tips for Reflector Learners

This learning style prefers observing others and analyzing what they see. They like to collect data first and think about it before reaching a conclusion. They get flustered if they don't have time to prepare or complete a task.

These nursing students enjoy reflecting on the information and data they have gathered. They retain more information when they:

  • Have time to investigate and think before taking action

  • Work without aggressive deadlines

  • Are not the leader

  • Work collaboratively with others

  • Receive feedback

  • Are coached

Study Tips for Theorist Learners

These students learn best by understanding the foundation behind why something is the way it is. They learn best using concepts and facts to assimilate the information and form their own theory. They enjoy applying rational thinking. They might struggle with a lack of structure.

The theorist values logical and rational thinking. They are adept at linking complex ideas and study best when they:

  • Have the opportunity to ask questions

  • Are presented with the theory behind the idea

  • See the purpose in what they are learning in everyday life

  • Are not confronted with emotions and feelings

  • Work with models, facts, and figures

  • Can apply a theory

  • Have a sense of structure

  • Have the opportunity to explore ideas

Study Tips for Pragmatist Learners

These learners are practical and learn best when they see how the information can be used in the real world. They have down-to-earth personalities and are frustrated when there is no obvious benefit or payback for what they are learning.

These students like to take what they've learned and immediately put it into practice. They do best when they can get things done. Study habits that support a pragmatist include:

  • Showing the student how what they are learning is better than the current way of doing things

  • Connecting what's learned and how it's put into practice

  • Getting feedback from an expert on what they are doing

  • Having a practical example the student can build on or copy

  • Using case studies

  • Problem-solving in groups

  • Discussing how to translate theory to practice

  • Using guidance and structure

  • Demonstrating payback for learning

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