14 October 2016

VARK: A smart training strategy for business


Learners are all so different, and maximising one's investment in training is important to organisations and professionals alike. How do trainers captivate and catch ‘em all?

Ongoing training is a widely known competitive advantage, for individuals as well as the organisations in which they work.

Whether trainers stand in rooms or present their expertise online, the people they wish to influence are a motley crew with different degrees of interest, perspectives, and preferred ways of taking in information.

As individuals, employees in a business are each unique, and will find certain methods of processing information better suited to their individual personalities than others.

Trainers do well to have an in-depth understanding of individual training styles so they could design training programs that produce stronger results. The VARK model is one approach that could facilitate such achievement.

In 1992, Fleming and Mills suggested that there are four main ways people learn and subsequently the VARK model was created. This model is still being used today.

The name ‘VARK’ is an acronym which stands for Visual, Auditory, Read/Write and Kinesthetic.

Understanding employees’ VARK profiles could produce the following outcomes:

  • Improve communication and mutual understanding
  • Stronger new-hires onboarding, which influences employee retention
  • Increase team performance and enhance compatibilities
  • Widen the range of strategies used for communicating
  • Reduce conflicts that arise from having different perspectives

Let’s explore each learning style.


Diagram 1: VARK - Visual, Auditory, Read/Write and Kinesthetic

Visual learners prefer to see what they are learning. They like to draw, create diagrams, use maps, make charts, graphs, hierarchies and use other devices to represent what could have been presented in words.

Auditory learners are good at understanding and learning through speech and discussions. They will also find that they prefer to learn through lectures, group discussion, radio, using mobile phones, speaking, web-chat and talking things through.

Read/Write learners prefer to learn by reading and writing. Methods of learning they prefer are manuals, reports, essays and assignments as well as PowerPoint, surfing the web, lists, diaries, dictionaries, thesauri, quotations and words, words, words.

Kinesthetic learners prefer to ‘do’ rather than just see, write or discuss. They tend to be well suited to learning through demonstrations, simulations, videos and movies of “real” things, as well as case studies, practice and applications.

The VARK model suggests that when employees learn, they use a combination of these modalities. In practice, different people are wired to prefer one or more modalities above the others, and learn more effectively using some modes of learning than others.

For example, I would describe myself as a visual learner.

As a Software Engineer at Velpic, my role includes solving challenging and complex problems. I find drawing diagrams to be the single most effective tool for me to understand and map out these problems before I can tackle them intelligently with my team.

I also notice that I am sometimes not as good at understanding technical problems when they are spoken (auditory) quickly without any visual aid.

Knowing my preferred modality of learning has helped me to improve my productivity at work because I know how to intentionally learn in the most effective way for me as an individual.

Imagine the productivity gains in your organisation if every single employee and manager could interact with this in mind.

The VARK model can be used to improve and optimise the productivity of learning for businesses—by allowing trainers and teachers to make smarter decisions about how they design, structure and present business documents and training materials.

Diagram 2: VARK Learning Styles

Trainers and influencers can easily figure out their audiences’ learning styles.

For example, here’s one quick questionnaire to find out one’s score in each of the four VARK learning modalities.

Here is a sample VARK score from when I did the test:

Your VARK Results

  • Visual 8
  • Aural 5
  • Read/Write 4
  • Kinesthetic 4

Result: You have a mild visual learning preference.

Knowing the preferred learning styles of each individual in a group is valuable information for a business to collect when designing training materials because lessons can be specifically tailored to the type of learners in the group.

This information is also useful when it comes to creating video lessons in the Velpic platform.

  • If you knew that most of your audience are visual learners, include plenty of diagrams and pictures in your slides helps you get your message across more effectively.
  • If your audience is mostly auditory in learning style, it would be worth your while to record a comprehensive narration of the lesson content.
  • If you have a multimodal audience, knowing the relative percentage of different learning styles is valuable for making decisions on what types of training techniques to emphasise.
  • Learning is not ‘one size fits all’ and a training platform like Velpic allows you to copy and customise lessons quickly and efficiently for multimodal learners.

With a deeper understanding of how trainees learn, trainers can take one step further to design training programs that that lead to stronger business outcomes—by producing more rewarding training experiences for both individuals and trainers.

Now, over to you. In what ways could you apply VARK as a smarter training strategy for your business?