Research has confirmed that people learn in different ways. Each of us has a superlink that makes learning easier, faster, and more comfortable. A person’s superlink is the easiest method for him or her to receive information from the world in order to understand and retain it. A superlink uses a combination of a person’s optimal learning style with the side of the brain preferentially used to process and store information.
Your learning style (or your child’s or student’s) is the method that is most natural for you to receive information. There are four main learning styles: visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic. Visual learners learn by seeing printed or graphic material or from their surroundings. Auditory learners learn best by listening and talking. Tactile learners are more successful when they can feel objects, experience the material emotionally, or use their hands and fingers. Kinesthetic learners receive information best by moving their large motor muscles. These methods generally overlap to some degree. For example, almost all of us learn through both visual and auditory means. The key is to determine which is the primary method; this results in the most successful learning. Some people must rely heavily on two or more of these modalities to learn efficiently.
After information is received, our brain processes and stores it with the left hemisphere of the brain and/or the right. Each side involves a different way of thinking and viewing the world. Left-brain learners tend to be sequential; they process information in a linear manner. Right-brain learners tend to think more globally, seeing the big picture and connecting seemingly unrelated ideas. Also, left-brain learners focus more on symbols, such as letters, words, and numbers, while rightbrain learners center more on sensory images of sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and movement without words.
How to Discover Your Superlink
Identifying your learning style and brain hemispheric preference will reveal your superlink. You can then learn, study, and take tests in the most efficient manner, as well as improve communication and relationships with others.
At the National Reading Diagnostic Institute, individuals are assessed for both learning style and brain hemispheric preference, and we develop a reading program tailored to the learning superlink. The book How to Learn Anything Quickly shares these tests, which can be self-administered. [See below for sample questions from tests -Ed.] There are eight basic types of superlinks (addressing the four learning styles and two brain hemispheres), with many variations to accommodate overlapping and combinations of styles and preferences.
Using the Superlink
Once the learning style has been determined (through a separate assessment), it can be combined with the hemispheric preference to determine a superlink. Examples are: auditory left-brain, tactile right-and-left-brain integrated, visual right-and-left brain mixed preference. Just as there can be combinations of brain hemispheric preference, there can be combinations of learning styles, such as visual and auditory, or auditory, tactile and kinesthetic.
The purpose in identifying the superlink is to then use this information to improve learning. With an understanding of the most efficient approaches for each superlink, memory, comprehension, note-taking skills, and test-taking skills can be improved.
Hundreds of millions of dollars are wasted every year in private and public schools by utilizing teaching techniques that are ineffective for large numbers of students. These students must work twice as hard to learn material they could easily master if their superlink was assessed and focused on. These pupils often tend to be the students who eventually tune out and drop out.
Teachers could be more successful if they knew the natural learning preferences of their students and were able to adapt learning strategies to meet the needs of those students. Unfortunately, the concept itself is rarely considered, even in exceptional student education (ESE) programs. The fact is, many students placed in ESE programming are not “learning disabled” but rather “learning different.”
The superlink approach can he used to enrich the learning of gifted, high achievers, and average students, as welt as to remediate skills in challenged learners.
Learning Style Preference Assessment
Select the response that feels best and is least stressful for you. Try to settle on one choice, but if you are sure there is more than one answer, then select the others also.
1. When you meet a new person, what do you first notice about him or her?
- What he or she looks like and how he or she dresses.
- How the person talks, what he or she says, or his or her voice.
- How you feel about the person.
- How the person acts or what he or she does.
2. When you teach something to others, which of the following do you do?
- You give them something to look at like an object, picture, or chart with little or no verbal explanation or discussion.
- You explain it by talking, without any visual materials.
- You write it out for them or use your hands to explain.
- You demonstrate by doing it and have them do it with you.
3. Which of the following describes how you can read or study best?
- You can study with music, noise, or talking going on because you can tune it out.
- You need to be comfortable, stretched out, and can work with or without music, but negative feelings of others distract you.
- You need to be comfortable, stretched out, and can work with or without music, but activity or movement in the room distracts you.
4. When you talk with someone, which way do your eyes move?
- You need to look directly at the face of the person who is talking to you, and you need that person to look at your face as you talk.
- Your look at the person only for a short time, and then your eyes move from side to side, left and right.
- You only look at the person for a short time to see his or her expression, then you look down or away.
- You seldom look at the person and mostly look down or away, but if there is movement or activity, you look in the direction of the activity.
5. What bothers you the most?
- A messy, disorganized place
- A place that is too quiet
- A place that is not comfortable physically or emotionally
- A place where there is no activity allowed or no room to move about
Seventeen items are scored for your learning style (or combination of styles). Types of learners include: visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic.
The Brain Hemispheric Preference Assessment
Select a or b for the following questions, picking the choice that is most comfortable and natural to you. If you are sure that both answers equally describe you, then select both, but don’t choose both just to take the easy way out.
1. Close your eyes for a few minutes and see three. What did you see?
- The letters t-h-r-e-e, the number 3, or perhaps nothing, because you could not visualize it
- Three animals, people, or objects
2. If you play music or sing:
- You cannot play by ear and must read notes.
- You can play by ear if you need to.
3. When you put something together:
- You need to read and follow written directions.
- You can use pictures and diagrams or just jump in and do it without using directions.
4. When doing a math problem, which way is easiest for you?
- To work it out in the form of numbers and words
- To draw it out, or work it out using hands-on material, or use your fingers
5. How do you keep your room or your desk?
- Neat and organized
- Appears messy or disorganized to others, but you know where everything is
6. If no one is telling you what to do, which is more like you?
- You do things on a schedule and stick to it.
- You do things at the last minute or in your own time and/or want to keep working even when time is up.
7. You like to do:
- Art projects in which you follow directions or step-by step instructions.
- Art projects that give you freedom to create what you want.
Thirty-six items are scored to determine your brain hemispheric preference, with allowance for overlapping or mixed preference. The categories are: left, right, integrated (tied), mixed preference, mixed preference favoring the right hemisphere, mixed preference favoring the left hemisphere.
What should you do after determining a superlink? You should establish your ideal learning environment or adapt a non-compatible environment to meet your needs.
If you are an auditory left-brain learner, this is your best learning environment:
- You can listen to others and discuss your own ideas.
- Only one auditory stimulus at a time; no music in background while studying or reading.
- Orderly environment has filing systems, organizers, and time schedule.
- The speaker is clearly audible.
- Instructor gives out schedules, comes on time, and leaves on time.
Excerpted and adapted with permission from How to Learn Anything Quickly, by Ricki Linksman.