Posted: September 19th, 2022
LEARNING STYLES AND STRATEGIES1
Richard M. Felder
Hoechst Celanese Professor of Chemical Engineering
North Carolina State University
Barbara A. Soloman
Coordinator of Advising, First Year College
North Carolina State University
ACTIVE AND REFLECTIVE LEARNERS2
Active learners tend to retain and understand information best by doing something active
with it—discussing or applying it or explaining it to others. Reflective learners prefer to think
about it quietly first.
“Let’s try it out and see how it works” is an active learner’s phrase; “Let’s think it through
first” is the reflective learner’s response.
Active learners tend to like group work more than reflective learners, who prefer working
Sitting through lectures without getting to do anything physical but take notes is hard for
both learning types, but particularly hard for active learners.
Everybody is active sometimes and reflective sometimes. Your preference for one
category or the other may be strong, moderate, or mild. A balance of the two is desirable. If you
always act before reflecting you can jump into things prematurely and get into trouble, while if
you spend too much time reflecting you may never get anything done.
How can active learners help themselves?
If you are an active learner in a class that allows little or no class time for discussion or
problem-solving activities, you should try to compensate for these lacks when you study. Study
in a group in which the members take turns explaining different topics to each other. Work with
others to guess what you will be asked on the next test and figure out how you will answer. You
will always retain information better if you find ways to do something with it.
How can reflective learners help themselves?
If you are a reflective learner in a class that allows little or not class time for thinking
about new information, you should try to compensate for this lack when you study. Don’t simply
read or memorize the material; stop periodically to review what you have read and to think of
possible questions or applications. You might find it helpful to write short summaries of readings
or class notes in your own words. Doing so may take extra time but will enable you to retain the
material more effectively.
1 1993 by Richard M. Felder and Barbara A. Soloman. See
for additional details about the Index of Learning Styles and the Felder-Silverman learning styles model upon which
the ILS is based.
2 R.M. Felder and R. Brent, Teaching and Learning STEM: A Practical Guide, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass (2016),
SENSING AND INTUITIVE LEARNERS3
Sensing learners tend to like learning facts, intuitive learners often prefer discovering
possibilities and relationships.
Sensors often like solving problems by well-established methods and dislike complications
and surprises; intuitors like innovation and dislike repetition. Sensors are more likely than
intuitors to resent being tested on material that has not been explicitly covered in class.
Sensors tend to be patient with details and good at memorizing facts and doing hands-on
(laboratory) work; intuitors may be better at grasping new concepts and are often more
comfortable than sensors with abstractions and mathematical formulations.
Sensors tend to be more practical and careful than intuitors; intuitors tend to work faster and
to be more innovative than sensors.
Sensors don’t like courses that have no apparent connection to the real world; intuitors don’t
like “plug-and-chug” courses that involve a lot of memorization and routine calculations.
Everybody is sensing sometimes and intuitive sometimes. Your preference for one or the
other may be strong, moderate, or mild. To be effective as a learner and problem solver, you
need to be able to function both ways. If you overemphasize intuition, you may miss important
details or make careless mistakes in calculations or hands-on work; if you overemphasize
sensing, you may rely too much on memorization and familiar methods and not concentrate
enough on understanding and innovative thinking.
How can sensing learners help themselves?
Sensors remember and understand information best if they can see how it connects to the
real world. If you are in a class where most of the material is abstract and theoretical, you may
have difficulty. Ask your instructor for specific examples of concepts and procedures, and find
out how the concepts apply in practice. If the teacher does not provide enough specifics, try to
find some in your course text or other references or by brainstorming with friends or classmates.
How can intuitive learners help themselves?
Many college lecture classes are aimed at intuitors. However, if you are an intuitor and
you happen to be in a class that deals primarily with memorization and rote substitution in
formulas, you may have trouble with boredom. Ask your instructor for interpretations or theories
that link the facts, or try to find the connections yourself. You may also be prone to careless
mistakes on test because you are impatient with details and don’t like repetition (as in checking
your completed solutions). Take time to read the entire question before you start answering and
be sure to check your results.
VISUAL AND VERBAL LEARNERS1
Visual learners remember best what they see—pictures, diagrams, flow charts, time lines,
films, and demonstrations. Verbal learners get more out of words—written and spoken
explanations. Everyone learns more when information is presented both visually and verbally.
3 R.M. Felder and R. Brent, Teaching and Learning STEM: A Practical Guide, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass (2016),
In most college classes very little visual information is presented: students mainly listen
to lectures and read material written on chalkboards and in textbooks and handouts.
Unfortunately, most people are visual learners, which means that most students do not get nearly
as much as they would if more visual presentation were used in class. Good learners are capable
of processing information presented either visually or verbally.
How can visual learners help themselves?
If you are a visual learner, try to find diagrams, sketches, schematics, photographs, flow
charts, or any other visual representation of course material that is predominantly verbal. Ask
your instructor, consult reference books, and see if any videotapes or CD-ROM displays of the
course material are available. Prepare a concept map by listing key points, enclosing them in
boxes or circles, and drawing lines with arrows between concepts to show connections. Color-
code your notes with a highlighter so that everything relating to one topic is the same color.
How can verbal learners help themselves?
Write summaries or outlines of course material in your own words. Working in groups
can be particularly effective: you gain understanding of material by hearing classmates’
explanations and you learn even more when you do the explaining.
SEQUENTIAL AND GLOBAL LEARNERS4
Sequential learners tend to gain understanding in linear steps, with each step following
logically from the previous one. Global learners tend to learn in large jumps, absorbing
material almost randomly without seeing connections, and then suddenly “getting it.”
Sequential learners tend to follow logical stepwise paths in finding solutions; global learners
may be able to solve complex problems quickly or put things together in novel ways once
they have grasped the big picture, but they may have difficulty explaining how they did it.
Many people who read this description may conclude incorrectly that they are global,
since everyone has experienced bewilderment followed by a sudden flash of understanding.
What makes you global or not is what happens before the light bulb goes on. Sequential learners
may not fully understand the material but they can nevertheless do something with it (like solve
the homework problems or pass the test) since the pieces they have absorbed are logically
connected. Strongly global learners who lack good sequential thinking abilities, on the other
hand, may have serious difficulties until they have the big picture. Even after they have it, they
may be fuzzy about the details of the subject, while sequential learners may know a lot about
specific aspects of a subject but may have trouble relating them to different aspects of the same
subject or to different subjects.
How can sequential learners help themselves?
Most college courses are taught in a sequential manner. However, if you are a sequential
learner and you have an instructor who jumps around from topic to topic or skips steps, you may
have difficulty following and remembering. Ask the instructor to fill in the skipped steps, or fill
them in yourself by consulting references. When you are studying, take the time to outline the
lecture material for yourself in logical order. In the long run doing so will save you time. You
4 R.M. Felder, “Meet Your Students: 2. Susan and Glenda.” Chemical Engineering Education, Winter 1990, pp. 7–8.
might also try to strengthen your global thinking skills by relating each new topic you study to
things you already know. The more you can do so, the deeper your understanding of the topic is
likely to be.
How can global learners help themselves?
If you are a global learner, just recognizing that you aren’t slow or stupid but simply
function differently from most of your classmates can help a great deal.4 However, there are
some steps you can take that may help you get the big picture more quickly. Before you begin to
study the first section of a chapter in a text, skim through the entire chapter to get an overview.
Doing so may be time-consuming initially but it may save you from going over and over
individual parts later. Instead of spending a short time on every subject every night, you might
find it more productive to immerse yourself in individual subjects for large blocks. Try to relate
the subject to things you already know, either by asking the instructor to help you see
connections or by consulting references. Above all, don’t lose faith in yourself; you will
eventually understand the new material, and once you do your understanding of how it connects
to other topics and disciplines may enable you to apply it in ways that most sequential thinkers
would never dream of.
Get The Most Out Of This Class
Build Your Own Learning Strategy
Dr. Andres Fortino
The ILS Inventory
Your Learning Styles are a mix of four dimensions:
active/reflective, sensing/intuitive, visual/verbal, and sequential/global
The Index of Learning Styles is an on-line survey instrument used to assess preferences in the four dimensions
You fill-in a forty-four A/B question survey and submit it, then your four preferences are reported back to your immediately.
It takes less than 5 minutes.
The results are not stored: when the report window is closed, the results are not saved.
What it is and How is it used
The survey results provide an indication of your learning preferences
Your learning style profile provides an indication of possible strengths and tendencies or habits that might lead to difficulty in academic settings.
The profile does not reflect your suitability or unsuitability for a particular subject, discipline, or profession.
It is a guide for selecting learning approaches that maximize your learning
This is what it looks like
How to access
It should take you 5 minutes.
Enter the scores in the Google Form:
How to interpret your score
The reported score for a dimension indicates your preference for one category or the other.
If your score for a dimension is 1 or 3, you are fairly well balanced on the two categories of that dimension, with only a mild preference for one or the other.
If your score for a dimension is 5 or 7, you have a moderate preference for one category of that dimension. You may learn less easily in an environment that fails to address that preference at least some of the time than you would in a more balanced environment.
If your score for a dimension is 9 or 11, you have a strong preference for one category of that dimension. You may have difficulty learning in an environment that fails to address that preference at least some of the time.
Active learners tend to retain and understand information best by doing something active with it—discussing or applying it or explaining it to others.
Active learners tend to like group work.
Reflective learners prefer to think about it quietly first.
Reflective learners prefer working alone.
Sensing learners tend to like learning facts
Sensors often like solving problems by well-established methods
Sensors tend to be patient with details and good at memorizing facts and doing lab work
Intuitive learners often prefer discovering possibilities and relationships
Intuitors like innovation and dislike repetition
Intuitors are more comfortable with abstractions and mathematical formulations.
Visual learners remember best what they see—pictures, diagrams, flow charts, timelines, films, and demonstrations.
Verbal learners get more out of words—written and spoken explanations
Sequential learners tend to follow logical stepwise paths in finding solutions;
Global learners tend to learn in large jumps, absorbing material almost randomly without seeing connections, and then suddenly “getting it.”
We will pair you up with someone in the class and you can share what your styles mean to you with a partner.
Take Home Assignment:
“Learning Styles and Strategies” advice document and with this new knowledge about YOUR styles create a strategy to improve your learning.
Submit your strategy to your instructor to get feedback on your plan.
Team Assignment Session 1
Use the Brightspace Assignment to submit
Place an order in 3 easy steps. Takes less than 5 mins.