VAK in the classroom

Every time we explain something, or every time we ask our students to do an exercise, we use a representational system and ignore the others. Each exercise, each activity, and each experiment, according to how they are designed, present the information in a certain way, and ask the students to use one specific representational system.

What representational system do our students have to use when we explain something verbally? And when we write on the blackboard? When they solve a puzzle? In the activity table there are examples of some of the classroom activities according to representational systems. It’s good practice to write a list of the activities we use the most in the classroom, and to classify them according to the representational system or systems they use. The fact that we use visual, auditory or kinesthetic activities influences our students’ learning. When we receive information, or when we have to work on an exercise, it’s easier to understand things if they are in our preferred representational system.

When we write our students’ tests, we try to give them written instructions, making things as clear as possible. Almost always, there are students who ask us to explain one of the test’s questions better. So what should we do? Usually, I start by reading the question out loud. Frequently, as soon as I finish reading out loud what’s written in the paper, the student says he understood and doesn’t need more explanations. An auditory student understands much better when he hears than when he sees, even if the explanation is exactly the same.

It’s not just students that have preferences and styles of learning. All teachers have their own styles for teaching their class, and that style is reflected in the way in which we use the different representational systems. Most of us usually use one representational system more than others when we teach a class.