During my undergraduate days, I had a classmate who often requested for my “jotter” a few days to our exams. According to him, I knew how to summarize and simplify my notes in such a way that anyone reading would understand. And I believe he had a point.
The first I heard of a learning model was from a friend, a couple of years back. He enlightened me on the difference between VISUAL and AURAL learners, and encouraged me to apply that to how I studied. Unfortunately, I didn’t give it much attention at that time.
Many years later, I would come across the V.A.R.K model of learning and found it quite enlightening.
In any classroom setting, from elementary level to postgraduate level, students receive, retain and retrieve information in different ways. And I believe medical students especially, would benefit from knowing how the learning models work since there’s so much to cover and so little time.
According to the VARK model, there are four types of learners:
I call them “The Scanners.”
These are the model students, especially in a traditional school setting. They don’t just read to comprehend, but seem to possess the so-called “Photographic Memory” and can reproduce the pages of their lecture notes or textbooks, word for word (sometimes with particular page numbers, no kidding!).
They enjoy studying long and hard, retaining most of the information they come across. They especially do well with Charts, Graphs and other Pictorial aids.
One morning while in medical school, we were having a discussion on the ward, and one of my colleagues was asked a question. When he started talking, it was as though an encyclopedia had been opened inside his brain. He just kept stating all the facts and figures while the rest of us gaped…lol.
Afterwards, our consultant looked at him and smiled, stating that he had a photographic memory and she knew he could actually picture the things he was saying. Needless to say, that colleague of mine was one of the smartest students in medical school.
2. AURAL Learners.
Aural learners are also known as AUDIO learners but I prefer to call them “The Crammers.”
These are the students who simply pay attention during classes (with/without taking notes) and retain most of the information long afterwards. Some simply “Memorize and Recite” (i.e. CRAM) their notes and they are good to go.
Unlike the VISUAL learners, they don’t really need to study for long, although having group discussions are of great benefit. Still, a lot of them do well with last minute studying.
I had a roommate who would memorize several pages of her notes on the morning of an exam, and her results usually came out so well.
Another friend of mine who is now a doctor, said she only needed to attend (and listen well) in class, and without further reading, she would be able to sit for any exam. When I heard that, my respect for her grew by several inches…haha.
If I’m being honest I doze off or day-dream during classes more times than I’d like to admit. Long lectures are like music to my ears, and I often start drifting off before I catch myself.
3. READ & WRITE Learners.
I call them “The Stenographers.”
This kind of learners love to copy everything that is said during a lecture. They afterwards go home to “READ and DIGEST” their notes, often breaking the notes into simpler and condensed versions to understand them better.
Such learners also appreciate Highlights, Mnemonics, Power Points and Summaries. Their goal is to be able to comprehend the material in its simplest form.
I happen to belong to this category of learners. I’m a COPIER by default and the only way I remember things (from class and especially in church) is by taking down notes. Even when there’s nothing to write, I doodle in my notebook, else my mind wanders off.
I remember one time a lecturer gave an impromptu test, immediately after his lecture, and I barely passed though I was sitting right there in the class. The reason was simple, I did not have enough time to “process” the information he had given before the test. In such scenarios, I rely more on residual knowledge.
For me, reading, then writing down notes, enhances comprehension. And if I’m reading something I don’t understand, I try to look it up, otherwise, I skip it.
4. KINESTHETIC Learners
I call them “The Demonstrators.”
When it comes to learning, they are more practical than theoretically-inclined. These are the so-called Hands-on-Students.
In medical school they find most lectures boring, but rush off to dissect every cadaver that comes into the anatomy lab. When they start their clerkships, they can’t wait to examine every patient, set lines and insert urinary catheters. Ask them to state the differentials for a neck swelling and they draw a blank, but ask them to scrub in for a Thyroidectomy and they jump right in!
What about HYBRIDS?
I believe most students learn by a combination of two or more of the learning models.
Personally, I learn the most by Association i.e. connecting multiple dots together. So it’s a little bit of what I see, what I hear and most of what I read. I’m not much of a hands-on-learner though. And it usually takes me twice the time my contemporaries take to learn a skill, whether it’s cooking Jollofrice or inserting a Urinary catheter! 😂
Do you know what learning model (or combination) you use the most?