Major Themes


Related Resources

Learning Environment Design Framework
Instructional Design Toolkit

ISD Concept Map
ISD Concept Map


Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic Learning Styles (VAK)

The VAK learning style uses the three main sensory receivers: Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic (movement) to determine the dominant learning style. It is sometimes known as VAKT (Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic, & Tactile). It is based on modalities—channels by which human expression can take place and is composed of a combination of perception and memory.

VAK is derived from the accelerated learning world and seems to be about the most popular model nowadays due to its simplicity. While the research has shown a connection with modalities and learning styles (University of Pennsylvania, 2009), the research has so far been unable to prove the using one's learning style provides the best means for learning a task or subject. This is probably because it is more of a preference, rather than a style.


Learners use all three modalities to receive and learn new information and experiences. However, according to the VAK or modality theory, one or two of these receiving styles is normally dominant. This dominant style defines the best way for a person to learn new information by filtering what is to be learned. This style may not always to be the same for some tasks. The learner may prefer one style of learning for one task, and a combination of others for a different task.

Classically, our learning style is forced upon us through life like this: In grades kindergarten to third, new information is presented to us kinesthetically; grades 4 to 8 are visually presented; while grades 9 to college and on into the business environment, information is presented to us mostly through auditory means, such as lectures.

According to the VAK theorists, we need to present information using all three styles. This allows all learners the opportunity to become involved, no matter what their preferred style may be.

While there is some evidence for modality specific strengths and weaknesses (Rourke, et al. 2002), what has has not been established is matching the instructional style to individual learning strength improves their learning abilities. For example, one study (Constantinidou and Baker, 2002), found that visual presentation through the use of pictures was advantageous for all adults, irrespective of a high or low learning-style preference for visual images. Indeed, it was especially advantageous for those with a strong preference for verbal processing.

Hints for Recognizing and Implementing the Three VAK Styles

Auditory learners often talk to themselves. They also may move their lips and read out loud. They may have difficulty with reading and writing tasks. They often do better talking to a colleague or a tape recorder and hearing what was said. To integrate this style into the learning environment:

Visual learners have two sub-channels—linguistic and spatial. Learners who are visual-linguistic like to learn through written language, such as reading and writing tasks. They remember what has been written down, even if they do not read it more than once. They like to write down directions and pay better attention to lectures if they watch them. Learners who are visual-spatial usually have difficulty with the written language and do better with charts, demonstrations, videos, and other visual materials. They easily visualize faces and places by using their imagination and seldom get lost in new surroundings. To integrate this style into the learning environment:

Kinesthetic learners do best while touching and moving. It also has two sub-channels: kinesthetic (movement) and tactile (touch). They tend to lose concentration if there is little or no external stimulation or movement. When listening to lectures they may want to take notes for the sake of moving their hands. When reading, they like to scan the material first, and then focus in on the details (get the big picture first). They typically use color high lighters and take notes by drawing pictures, diagrams, or doodling. To integrate this style into the learning environment:

VAK Survey

Free VAK Survey.


Constantinidou, F. and Baker, S. (2002). Stimulus modality and verbal learning performance in normal aging. Brain and Language, 82(3), 296–311.

Rourke, B., Ahmad S., Collins, D., Hayman-Abello, B., Hayman-Abello, S., and Warriner, E. (2002). Child clinical/pediatric neuropsychology: some recent advances. Annual Review of Psychology, 53, 309Ð339.

University of Pennsylvania (2009). Visual Learners Convert Words To Pictures In The Brain And Vice Versa, Says Psychology Study. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 10, 2011, from