So what is your learning style? Are you a auditory, visual, or kinesthetic (tactile). How do you know which one works best for you? There are plenty of tests you can take online, however from a creative standpoint which one will work best to identify what is the most effective learning style for you?
First my disclaimer: I am not an expert on learning! My intent is to show you “a way” of figuring out the most effective mediums for you to learn what ever it is that you want to learn. Obviously, in some cases you are going to need an qualified instructor to take you from theory to practical application but that’s another topic.
So I was looking at a book called, “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain”, by Betty Edwards. This is a popular book from the 70′s that is mainly used as a drawing instruction guide. I was interested in this book to gain insight on sketching and how that could help with application design (I used to draw a lot when I was in high school too ;-)).
I was intrigued by the title – Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. I’ve known that certain motor functions are controlled by either the right or left part of the brain, but I never really looked into what functions operated on which side specifically beyond any thing I learned in school. So I did a little research and came across this article called “Left Brain Right Brain”, which did a great job in summarizing left brain/right brain functions using computers as a metaphor :-D
Soooo, the question remained: What was my dominant brain – right or left? I’ve always been artistic, so I assumed that I was right brained. Surely, there was a way to find out right? – a simple search online and WHALLA! I came across the Right Brain vs Left Brain Creativity Test from the Art Institute of Vancouver.
The test was short (took me about 3 minutes to finish it). It does an excellent job (I think) of determining your brain dominance and breaking down brain function by score and then giving you an explanation for each function and what your score means. I felt that this was pretty accurate as compared to previous personality tests (Briggs-Myers, The Personality Page) I’ve taken that were consistent from a personality perspective.
As I thought, my brain dominance is 48% left brain and 52% right brain Pretty close \– pretty even split (no wonder I can be indecisive at times!). My wife guessed that I was actually left brained, but the test showed otherwise – Ha!
Anyway, the true value of the test came in the explanations for how I process information and how it relates to learning. I was able to confirm that I favor visual interpretations over verbal interpretations and that its usually better for me to see the big picture first and then work my way down (top-down). The preference for visual interpretations also explained why I am sometimes can seem to find the right word for what I’m trying to say. I was also able to understand, why I feel that I am “slow” at times, its not that I’m intellectually inferior or dumb (really–I’m not :-)) its just that I have to package information in a certain way before I can understand it. Overall, it was pretty insightful.
Ultimately, what this means for me is that videos, i.e. programming videos, documentaries, etc., are more effective than just lecture or reading. I also understand now, why I usually have difficulties learning a small task first without knowing/understanding the big picture, i.e. learning how to build components for distributed applications without knowing how they all fit together and how they will communicate.
Going back to the introduction – I have a visual-kinesthetic learning style. This is good to know, however, knowing how I process the information really helps to understand why those learning styles are effective for me and helps me find more suitable material to maximize the learning potential.