Trinity College Dublin

Skip to main content.

Top Level TCD Links

Learning Preferences

The diversity of the student population of College can be measured in two ways:

Students have different strengths, attitudes about teaching and learning, and responses to specific classroom environments, teaching and assessment practices.

The more aware you are of these differences, the more equipped you will be to meet the learning needs of all your students. Using flexible and varied teaching and assessment methods allows students to engage in their own way and can increase student interest, and success. Furthermore, by teaching through a variety of methods, and by assessing students through a variety of methods, you can ensure students develop skills in areas traditionally neglected by higher education.

Dr. Patrick Geoghegan discusses the importance of flexible teaching to accommodate a range of learner preferences, and todevelop a range of transferable skills. He also gives examples from his own discipline (History). You can also watch his teaching in action at: Act of Union Debate - student Reenactment

Common Models of Learner Differences

Kolb's Experiential Learning Model

Classifies students as having a preference for:

  • concrete experience or abstract conceptualization, and
  • active experimentation or reflective observation.

The four types of learners in this classification scheme are:

Type 1 (concrete, reflective)— the diverger .

  • Divergers like to relate course material to their experience, interests, and future careers. They ask “Why?” and respond well to practical motivation. diagram depicting Kolb's scheme (explained within the text).

Type 2 (abstract, reflective)—the assimilator .

  • Assimilators like to reflect on organised, logical information. They ask “What?” and respond well to expert instruction.

Type 3 (abstract, active)—the converger .

  • Convergers like to actively work on well defined tasks and to learn by trial-and-error in an environment that allows them to fail safely. They ask “How?” and respond well to coaching, practical guidance, and feedback.

Type 4 (concrete, active)—the accommodator .

  • Accommodators like to apply course material to new situations to solve real problems. They ask “What if? ” and respond well to open-ended questions and autonomy.


VARK looks at the way learners prefer to take-in and give-out information. There are five possible outcomes:

  • Visual learner: learn best through visual experience. Find diagrams and graphs useful. Engage well with posters, video materials, and photography. Likely to use colours and highlighter as studying aids.
  • Aural learner: learn best through listening. Find discussion, debate and audio materials useful. May have difficulty with note taking, preferring to record lectures for future listening. Likely to find verbally recalling data a useful studying aid.
  • Read/Write learner: learn best through written materials. Will benefit from traditional teaching methods as their strengths lie in reading, taking notes and writing essays. Will benefit from handouts and effective reading lists.
  • Kinaesthetic learner: learn best through practical application. Find lab work, practicals, and field trips useful. May have difficulty with text based teaching methods and abstract, theoretical modules. Likely to benefit from active study methods such as role place or trail exam sessions.
  • Multimodel learner: Has a joint preference for two or more approaches.

VARK Questionnaire

Last updated 27 March 2018 by Trinity Inclusive Curriculum (Email).