Tapping Potential with Learning Styles: Auditory Learners

by Dahlia Miller
November 2006

Like a fingerprint, your learning style is unique to you. No two people learn in exactly the same way. When taking new information in, we all have different strengths. Some people like to see new information (Visual Learners), some like to hear it (Auditory Learners), and some like to touch or move things around to learn (Kinesthetic Learners).

Most people tend to be stronger in one or two learning styles (visual, auditory, or kinesthetic).

If you know your learning style, you can tap into your natural potential. You can adjust your study style to maximize your time and efforts. If you know how you learn best, you can also communicate more effectively with teachers - you can ask them to present information to you in ways that suit you best.

Some Clues Revealing Auditory Learners

Is it easier to understand or remember information if you hear it or talk about it?
Do you like to have someone explain or describe how to do something?
When concentrating, are you very distracted by background noise? OR Do you prefer to have background noise when concentrating?
Do you like to listen to people or talk when waiting in line-ups?
When solving problems, do you like to talk yourself through the steps?
When solving problems, can you “replay” your instructors’ directions in your mind?
Is it helpful for you to ask a lot of questions when you’re learning new information?

About Auditory Learners

Auditory learners need to hear or talk about new information in order to process it. They tend to learn best when there is discussion about what is being learned.

As a group, strong auditory learners are somewhat difficult to describe. Individual auditory learners often have strong preferences for or against certain teaching styles or learning situations (as we'll see below). So, it's important for learners to know what works best for them, and for teachers to take into account the variety of possible preferences of their auditory learners (obviously in a classroom, with a mix of learners, this can be a great challenge).

Some auditory learners learn best by listening and some by talking, but most auditory learners combine these two styles and have strengths and weaknesses in each.

"Auditory Listeners" prefer to take new information in through listening. When someone is explaining a new topic, "auditory listeners" focus on what is being said and can sometimes remember directions or descriptions in great detail. These learners may like to hear stories or learn background context about what they are studying (or they may find this type of "off-topic" information distracting). It can be challenging for "auditory listeners" to be distracted when listening intently. For example, some auditory learners find it difficult to listen and take notes simultaneously, or to listen and refer to a visual at the same time. Background noise may promote focus for "auditory listeners", or break focus.

"Auditory Talkers" need to discuss what they are learning. They may like to ask a lot of questions to solidify what is being learned. It can often help them to "teach" newly learned information to someone else. In discussing their understanding of something new, "auditory talkers" form links between known information and new information. This oral processing (i.e. learning through speaking) helps them to recognize their level of understanding of the topic. Speaking also obviously gives "auditory talkers" an opportunity to hear and learn through listening as well.

"Men, in teaching others, learn themselves.”

When presenting information to an auditory learner, describe and explain the concepts thoroughly. Be sure to allow as many opportunities as possible for the person to ask you questions and discuss their understanding of your position. Ask questions of the student so that they have an opportunity to recognize their thought patterns aloud - this will help them to prepare to take new information in.

Using handouts, refer to them only to back up what you are discussing. If possible, explain all situations orally first, giving the auditory learner a chance to discuss topics, before you ask them to interpret visual information.

Study Tips for Auditory Learners

  • Ask questions in class. Ask for the topic to be explained, or for the teacher to tell you how to do the work - don’t just say you don’t understand.
  • Look at your study environment - is it too noisy, or would you like quiet music in the background? Definitely turn off the TV.
  • Talk to someone about what you are learning.
  • Ask yourself questions about what you are studying and look for the answers.
  • Repeat information or directions aloud to yourself (under your breath in class).
  • Make up songs or rhymes to memorize new information.
  • Read aloud when studying.
  • Read directions or instructions aloud - for all subjects. Then talk yourself through the steps to complete the assignment or problems.
  • To review, recite information you have learned.
  • When writing essays, try saying what you’d like to write, then write it down (or ask someone to scribe for you).
  • Check if it’s possible for assignments to be completed in audio form (for example an audio recording of an essay rather than a written essay).
  • Work with a study partner. Have them ask you questions about what you are learning.
  • Teach someone what you have learned.

“Drawing is speaking to the eye; talking is painting to the ear.”
Joseph Joubert