Frequently Asked Questions
VARK is a questionnaire that provides users with a profile of their learning preferences. These preferences are about the ways that they want to take-in and give-out information.
Technically No! A learning style has 18+ dimensions (such as preferences for temperature, light, food intake, biorhythms, working with others, working alone). VARK is about one preference - your preference for taking in, and putting out information when learning is the objective. Although it is a part of a learning style we consider it an important part because people can do something about it. Some other dimensions are not open to change.
After each person completes the questionnaire they are asked to provide information about themselves. About one-third do. One question asks whether their VARK Profile matches their own perception of their preferences for learning. The options are "Match", "Don't Know" and "No Match". The most recent percentages for those aged 19 and older are:
Although self perceptions are not always reliable these figures support the value of the VARK questionnaire. We would be concerned if the "Match" figure dropped below 50% and if the "No Match" figure climbed above 5%.
VARK now has a "pinged" Profile. After completing the questionnaire, your students, customers, clients, suppliers, employees or employers can instantly receive a profile explaining how they can use their preferences effectively. The VARK Profile comes as a .pdf file sent back to your browser. It can be customized to contain information about your business. Ask about the costs and possibilities for this service.
Experience suggests that if there are too many questions (25+) some people take the questionnaire less seriously and some may become bored with it or provide spurious answers because of survey fatigue.
We won't know until somebody does some longitudinal research on a group but you will not switch from a Read/write preference to a Visual preference overnight! Typically, scores on a particular mode may rise or fall by 1 or 2 if you do the questionnaire again after some time. There is, however, an increase in single preferences with age. The most recent database shows that for those under 18 years of age there were 36.2% with a single preference and 63.8% with some form of multimodality. For those aged 55+ there were 43.2% with a single preference and 56.8% who had multimodal preferences. We also know that, with age, the proportion with a Read/Write single preference increases as the proportion with a Kinesthetic single preference decreases. Visual decreases from 3.6% to 2.9% and Aural decreases from 9% (0-18 year olds) to 6.6% (55+ year olds). For under 18-year-olds those with a single preference Kinesthetic profile are 13.6% of their total and those with single preference Read/write make up 9.8%. For those aged 55+ the proportions are 11.1% and 22.6%! Some have suggested that this merely reflects the way that the older age group were taught!
Probably! Some people report that when they were younger their VARK profile would have been different and that it is their exposure to different life experiences (travel, recreation, work, and relationships) that would have made a change in how they prefer to learn. Sufficient longitudinal studies have not been done to be sure about that.
Yes and No. Yes! Those who are multimodal in their preferences can be more flexible about how they take in and give out information than those with a VARK profile that emphasizes a single preference. They tend to be able to match their preferences with whatever mode(s) are being used. That is the "Yes" answer. But because those who are multimodal need to have at least two, three or four modes involved in learning before they are satisfied, that can be a disadvantage. For example, someone with a bimodal Aural/Read/write profile would want to read about it and talk about it with others before they would "trust"the incoming information. A person with a single preference would "get it" from just their preferred mode - presuming it was available in that mode.
Yes! The strength of the VARK questionnaire is that it provides strategies that can lead to success in any learning environment. It treats people as different, not dumb and suggests that some strategies may be helpful and some harmful. The answer is to use the modes you prefer and avoid those that you do not like.
Yes! There are a great variety of learning preferences and hundreds of different VARK profiles. High schools, colleges and universities still insist that their students present evidence of their learning in written form and they also emphasize reading. Business use is also firmly based on reading and writing. VARK provides you with strategies to help your learning, and suggests that you use your strengths even though they may not be Read/Write ones. In school, your learning may still have to be presented in written form (as in tests, assignments, examinations or business reports) but your learning for these events should suit your preference(s).
Yes! Our database now shows significant differences (Chi square analysis) between males and females. Men have more Kinesthetic responses and women more Read/write responses.
Yes. Significant differences are shown in the Read/write dimension of VARK. The figures are 15.6% for Read/Write single preferences for students and 20.9% for teachers. The Kinesthetic figures are 11.7% and 12.4% respectiveley. There is also a difference between the proportion of single modes and multimodes. Students have 37% of their profiles in single modes and teachers 43%. Correspondingly, students are more multimodal - 63% to 57%.
Yes. When we use VARK with small groups from a particular discipline there are differences. For example, law students and faculty usually have larger proportions of Read/write than, say, nursing, where students are more likely to have Kinesthetic preferences. Graphic designers, performing arts and computer-systems students have a greater proportion of Visual preferences.
We expect that there would be differences but have little research evidence. Polynesian cultures had no written language but had a strong set of traditions based on storytelling and genealogy handed down from elders to novices. This may indicate a stronger Aural preference. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Australian) and Native Americans had strong symbolic representations and drawings to depict their views on reality and history that might indicate a stronger set of preferences for the Visual mode. A recent Middle Eastern research paper found more students with a Visual preference.
Yes. Asking some people to engage in a role-play will appeal to those who have a Kinesthetic preference while discussion in lectures will be more suited to those who have stronger scores for Aural in their profile. These are only two examples of many that exist. The VARK books help with other examples.
No. Motivation is a separate and significant part of learning. However if learners are using modes that are a strong part of their preferences they are more likely to be motivated than if they have to use modes where their preference is weak. That makes common sense!
No! This is a common error. It is not the media that determine the acceptability of content for learning but the ways in which the media depict that content. Television commercials often appeal to all modalities. Videos and photographs appeal to Kinesthetic modalities because they usually show real situations. Most media do not use the diagrams, charts and symbolism that Visual learners prefer. Some media use a strong Auditory component and many computer-based learning programmes appeal only to those with a Read/write preference with words dominating the screen. Marketers understand and use VARK principles cleverly!
This book uses the VARK questionnaire to understand how coaches, athletes and players learn. Of course they are using their Kinesthetic preferences when they perform but they may not learn in that mode. That is why some athletes do well with some coaches and others do not? Buy the book and find out.
VARK is about modal preferences which are a part of the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator and VARK is structured specifically to improve learning and teaching. David Kolb's Experiential Cycle is a model of cognitive processing - how we process learning in the brain whereas VARK is about our preferences for taking information into the brain and communicating them "outwards". Gardner's Multiple Intelligences Theory is another cognitive model and it includes some of the VARK modalities as "intelligences" and extends that list to at least five other dimensions. Sometimes the link between VARK and these theories appears to be quite strong but VARK has its own focus, rationale and strategies.
Yes! We have learned that many people have used VARK to untangle differences in "styles" of communication at work and at home. VARK can be a powerful tool to understand how to relate to others and, any understanding of ourselves can be beneficial. We would expect that those working in the world of design will have strong Visual scores and those in text-editing and authoring will be strong on Read/write. Similar differences will exist in other career choices. We have seen conflict in workplaces that is attributable to major mis-matches in VARK profiles. For example an employee with a very strong Aural preference had some difficulty working with an employer who had a zero score for that preference. We have found very few elite athletes who have a low Kinesthetic score.
Some people report that their understanding of people in their lives is improved with knowledge of their own VARK profile and the VARK profile of "significant" others.
No. The database suggests that there are more people who have single preferences in older age groups. 19-25 year-olds had 36% with single preferences and those aged 55+ had 43% in that group.
Yes. Prior to age 25 the database indicates that more people come to the VARK website with a Kinesthetic preference. After age 25 our database shows Read/write ahead of Kinesthetic.
Yes. So it is not just an artifact of teachers being older than students.
The database for September 2011 had over 200 000 respondents. Many more used the questionnaire in paper format elsewhere. We will reach over one million users during the 2011 year.
Some psychologists suggest that women are more interested in online information about themselves.
Probably not. The VARK questionnaire indicates how teachers and trainers learn so we don't know how they teach and train. Many use their empathy to recognise that other people are struggling and they use VARK modes other than their own preferred ones to "reach" them. That is why it is important to complete the questionnaire by responding as a learner not as a teacher or trainer!
Not much. Those who visit the VARK site have self-selected and skewed the results towards those who like completing questionnaires online. They may not be representative of the "general" population. Most are students and teachers or those "in education". The data from the small sample of those "not in education" indicates similar patterns to the remainder - low Visual and Aural and high Read/write and Kinesthetic. Why not begin a research project to help our knowledge about this question.
"Visual" is defined very specially for VARK and it excludes anything that is text or pictorial as in a book, movie or video, especially images that are real. Abstract paintings (Mondrian) may suit those who have a Visual preference whereas photographic images may suit those who have a Kinesthetic preference. Movies, videos, YouTube and photographs are appreciated by those with a Kinesthetic preference. According to VARK data, we do not live in a world dominated by maps, charts, graphs, symbols or diagrams so the world is not a Visual one!
The VARK questionnaire is difficult to use with current statistical methods of validation because of its structure and the fact that it allows multiple answers to each question. VARK replicates how real decisions are made using many preferences so the multiple answers for each question make statistical analysis very difficult. There are no "right" answers! From Dr Leite's research, the reliability estimates for the scores of the VARK sub-scales were 0.85, 0.82, 0.84 and 0.77 for the Visual, Aural, Read/write and Kinesthetic sub-scales, respectively. These are considered adequate. Please check our Research page for the latest on VARK research.
We await somebody to test VARK's reliability by following a group of users through several months or years. Any offers?
That is true, in the same way that knowing you have a disease does not cure the disease or weighing yourself does not fix obesity. It is the next step that is important - When people make changes to their learning, based on their VARK preferences, their learning will be enhanced. They do this by using strategies that align with their preferences. It is what you do after you learn your preferences that has the potential to make a difference.
Learning is a complex neurological experience and we cannot detect (yet) why and how learning occurs or to what it can be attributed. Is it the student's own efforts or the coincidence of other factors such as motivation, a brilliant teacher, or time of day ...? We still have difficulty designing effective ways to assess whether learning has occurred (For example, multichoice questions and essays are not very effective at measuring learning.). So, many writers say, "There is no evidence to support the view that teaching to a student's learning style improves his/her learning". But that does not say or prove very much. Maybe there is no evidence because we have not yet found answers to those questions above about measuring learning. Double-blind, controlled experiments using students and teachers would be difficult to design. Certainly it is obvious that choosing to teach a student in ways that he/she does not prefer to learn would be rather strange. And that is where VARK is helpful. It indicates the ways in which students prefer to learn. It does not say anything about how teachers teach.
© copyright 2001 - 2011 Neil Fleming