Picture the scene. It is early Summer 1987. I am holed away in my plush student accommodation (with a lovely family) in Keele, Staffordshire busily trying to prepare for my final exams. My goal is to qualify as a Graduate of the Royal Society of Chemistry in just a month’s time.

I am revising as I have always done. Reading my (considerable) notes, I jot down the key points then summarize the key point until eventually I get down to about ten sheets of A4 for each of the branches of industrial chemistry – organic, inorganic, physical and analytical. Whilst this is going on, I play my much loved hard rock albums (mainly seventies and eighties stuff) which helps me relax and helps the revision process – or so I think!! I am finding it difficult to remember what I need to take in although I seem to know all the lyrics to several complete albums by many bands including Iron Maiden, Whitesnake and Ozzy Osbourne.

In July 1987, it was confirmed that I had indeed graduated. Happy days and ready to begin earning a living in the scary world of work. However, I know I could have qualified with a better grade than I did. Why had I struggled with my revision process?

When I was forty, I completed a VAK Learning Style Questionnaire provided by Pete Stevens (my coaching supervisor) from The Agile Group. The simple questionnaire, a set of twenty questions, identified my preferred learning style as Auditory (A). What did this mean?

What Is the VAK Learning Styles Model?

The VAK Learning Styles Model was developed by psychologists in the 1920s to classify the most common ways people learn. According to the model, most of us prefer to learn in one of three ways: visual, auditory or kinesthetic (although, in practice, we generally “mix and match” these three styles):

Visual (V): a visually-dominant learner absorbs and retains information better when it is presented in, for example, pictures, diagrams and charts;

Auditory (A): an auditory-dominant learner prefers listening to what is being presented. He or she responds best to voices, for example, in a lecture or group discussion. Hearing his own voice repeating something back to a tutor or trainer is also helpful;

Kinesthetic (K): a kinesthetic-dominant learner prefers a physical experience. She likes a “hands-on” approach and responds well to being able to touch or feel an object or learning prop.


Understanding Learning Preferences

You may already have a good sense of what your learning preference is. For example, is your default response to a problem or challenge to sketch something out on a piece of paper (visual), talk about it (auditory), or build a model or tangible representation of the problem (kinesthetic)?
If you are still unsure of your learning style, I can provide you with a simple questionnaire that will allow you to identify your preferred learning style.

Strategies for Improving Learning

As a manager, there may be occasions when you have to deliver basic training or coaching sessions, brief your people, or do team-building exercises. Understanding the three VAK learning styles for the members of your team will help you do all these things more effectively.

The table below offers some strategies you can employ to appeal to people’s different learning styles:


These learners will respond to and use phrases such as:

  • I see what you mean.
  • I get the picture.
  • What’s your view?

Engage visual learners by using diagrams, charts and pictures.



These learners will respond to and use phrases such as:

  • That rings a bell.
  • I hear what you’re saying.
  • That sounds OK to me.

Engage auditory learners by stressing key words, and telling stories and anecdotes.



These learners will respond to and use phrases such as:

  • That feels right.
  • How does that grab you?
  • Let me try.

Engage kinesthetic learners by including physical activities and “hands-on” tasks.


We have numerous tools and resources to help you provide training sessions or prepare briefs for your team, which take into account the VAK learning styles.

Visual learners respond to visual stimulus. They may find it easier to take notes if they use mind maps. Mind Mapping breaks down complex subjects into manageable chunks, making it easier to digest and remember information. They can be increasingly effective with color and additional images. The phrase “a picture paints a thousand words” is very true for visual learners.

Auditory learners enjoy group discussion and verbal explanation, so it can be useful to include brainstorming , debates and storytelling in training sessions.

Kinesthetic learners thrive on ‘doing’, so a good technique is to incorporate group work into learning. Getting team members out of the training room and into an environment where they can try things out can be helpful too.

Key Points

Understanding your own learning preferences, and those of your team, can help you develop more effective strategies for delivering learning and training at work, and embedding knowledge.

You can use the VAK Learning Styles model to classify some of the most common ways people learn:

Visual: learners respond to images and graphics.
Auditory: learners prefer verbal presentations.
Kinesthetic: learners prefer a physical, hands-on approach.

While understanding these preferences can give you a valuable insight into how to plan and deliver training and learning, people employ all three learning styles to some degree, so it is sensible to present material in a variety of formats.

So reflecting on my experience in 1987, I realized that I would have been better off reading notes into a cassette recorder (remember them ☺) and playing it back. It would have sunk in better for me and would have helped me get a better grade. I wish I’d had the opportunity to complete the VAK questionnaire back then!

Since completing the questionnaire for the first time in 2006, I have recently completed it again and discovered that although I am still predominantly auditory, I have increased both my visual and kinesthetic learning styles, both consciously and subconsciously. I am particularly proud of developing my kinesthetic style as I used to be terrified of learning by doing. This has rounded me as an individual and means I am more likely to learn in any situation now than when compared to my hard rocking days of the late eighties!!

If you want to find out more or you think I can help, please get in touch.

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Email: info@up4coaching.co.uk