Fleming VARK Theory

Fleming VARK Theory – 1987

Students and teachers need a starting place for thinking about, and understanding, how they learn..

~Neil Fleming

Neil Fleming, an educator, has devoted his career to investigating learning styles and determining how individuals learning through modality preferences.  In 1987, Fleming originally developed his theory working with Barbe’s VAK model. Howver, Fleming added one additional area, read/write learning style, to the model.


Fleming’s VARK Learning Styles

The VARK (visual, aural/auditory, read/write and kinesthetic) Learning Style falls under the umbrella of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). NLP “encompasses the three most influential components involved in producing human experience: neurology, language and programming” (Dilts, 2016, para. 1). NLP investigates the interactions between how neurological (mind) and linguistics (language) within an individual impact behavior (programming).vark

Visual learners learn by seeing. They have a high ability for visual recall. They prefer to learn using visual representations such as graphs, posters, maps, displays. They frequently use hand movements while talking and have a tendency to look upwards when thinking (Pritchard, 2009). Fleming added the need to recognize that visual learners prefer graphics. The written word would not be as valuable, especially when used as a visual additive in a classroom with only words on media. “It must be more than mere words in boxes that would be helpful to those who have a Read/write preference” (Fleming, 2017).

Aural/auditory learners learn by listening. They favor the audio and have a high ability for auditory recall. They pefer repetition, summaries and benefit from discussions, lectures, stories, Podcasts. These learners have a tendency to tilt their heads and use eye movements when concentrating or recalling information (Pritchard, 2009). Within this learning style, Fleming added chating and email as they possess more “abbreviations, colloquial terms, slang and non-formal language” (2017).

Read/write learners rely heavily on the written word. This preference of learning style is the most used by traditional educators. The read/write learner prefers to have text as both a way to gather information and to share information. “People who prefer this modality are often addicted to PowerPoint, the Internet, lists, diaries, dictionaries, thesauri, quotations and words” (Fleming, 2017).

Kinesthetic learners rely on doing to learn. They heavily depend on interactions within the learning environment and especially with their bodies. They will easily recall events or information attached to an experience or the feelings of a physical event. They learn best through field trips, physical activity, manipulating objects and touch. Kinesthetic learners tend to have high difficulty in sitting still and need frequent breaks when learning.



Multimodal learners are learners who do not show a defined preference or statistical score which is high above the others. These learners possess the capability to access two or more methods of learning. They may use one mode of learning in one situation and another mode in a different situation.


Determining the Learning Style

To determine the learning style within the VARK model, Fleming designed a learning style questionaire. The questionaire is readily available online with an explanation to assist in deciphering the results and how to most effectively use the results.


Using VARK

VARK is simply integrated into classrooms, work environments and can be adapted for individual use. By keeping the diffferent learning needs in mind, educators can develop a successful lesson plan built around a variety of materials which appeal to visual learners, auditory learners, read/write learners and kinesthetic learners.


Visual Auditory
·         gestures

·         pictures

·         posters

·         videos

·         underlining

·         graphs

·         symbols

·         diagrams

·         lectures

·         discussion

·         recordings

·         describe overheads and pictues

·         conversations

·         interviews



Read/Write Kinesthetic
·         lists

·         headings

·         readings

·         notes

·         manuals

·         handouts

·         writing

·         words

·         field trips

·         examples

·         application

·         hands-on

·         trial and error

·         collections

·         exhibits

·         role playing




Dilts, R.B. (2016). What is NLP. Retrieved from http://www.nlpu.com/NewDesign/NLPU_WhatIsNLP.html

Fleming, N. (2017). The VARK modalities. Retrieved from http://vark-learn.com/introduction-to-vark/the-vark-modalities/

Pritchard, A. (2009). Ways of learning: Learning theories and learning styles in the classroom (2nd ed.). New York, NY:Routledge.

Tracy Harrington AtkinsonBy Tracy Atkinson

Tracy Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the Midwest with her husband and spirited long-haired miniature dachshunds. She is a teacher, having taught elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education and a master’s in higher education. Her passion is researching, studying and investigating the attributes related to self-directed learners and learning styles. She has published several titles, including MBTI Learning Styles: A Practical Approach, The Art of Learning Journals, Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Lemosa: The Annals of the Hidden, Book Two, Rachel’s 8 and Securing Your Tent. She is currently working on a non-fiction text exploring the attributes of self-directed learners: The Five Characteristics of Self-directed Learners.



Tracy Harrington-Atkinson

Tracy Harrington-Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the mid-west with her husband. She loved storytelling and sharing her stories with her children. As they grew, she started writing her stories down for them. She is a teacher, having taught from elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education, masters in higher education and continued on to a PhD in curriculum design. Her husband, Kerry and Tracy breed miniature dachshunds and love to spend time with their growing family. She has published several books including Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Rachel's 8 and Securing Your Tent.

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