Understanding and Using Learning Modalities


Michael's Mini-Course:Michael VanDoren_Biography and Course Details


In today’s educational landscape, student engagement is a vital requirement in our classrooms and schools, but one that often seems harder and harder to facilitate. Our students are changing, and so must our practices if we want to foster knowledge creation and building across subject areas. The goals of this mini-course are designed to help you achieve this by better understanding how your students learn best and to suggest ways to use this knowledge to your advantage (and theirs).

In this course, we will explore the reasons for and uses of multiple modalities in lesson design. By the end, we will be able to identify the different types of modalities, how to best incorporate them into your lesson design, and identify which types of learners respond positively or negatively to which modes of instruction. Through the acquisition of these three goals, you should be better equipped to foster motivation and understanding of your content among your students.


In this course, we will explore the reasons for and uses of multiple modalities in lesson design. By the end you will be able to:

(1) identify the three different types of learning modalities

(2) apply the above knowledge to evaluate which modality(ies) best suit the learning needs of your students

(3) incorporate multiple-modality strategies into lesson design to create authentic learning activities and environments tailored to their student's individual strengths, as well as to those of the class as a whole.

Through the acquisition of these three goals, you should be better equipped to foster motivation and understanding of your content among your students.

Before We Get Started

Before we start getting into the specifics, let’s do a short exercise that will help us better understand the importance of recognizing learning modalities, and what effects they have on your students.

Step 1- Pick six of your current or past students whose academics fall into the mid to lower-mid ranking (you may want to write them down).

Step 2- Copy the chart below and sort your six students into them based on where they fit best.

Mind Strays While Giving Complex Instructions Has Difficulties With Written Instructions Reading Is Not a Priority

Now do the same process, with the same six students, on the chart below.

Organized Approach to Note Taking Excels In Group Discussions Enjoys Working On Labs/Experiments

The first chart demonstrates possible learning modality weaknesses, while the second shows possible strengths. The first column on both charts represents the visual modality, the second represents the auditory modality, and the third represents the kinesthetic modality. We will discuss each of these modalities in further detail as the mini-course progresses but, in the most basic terms, you just identified learning strengths and weaknesses of six of your many students.

By understanding these modalities, and being able to identify which ones your individual students (and classroom populations as a whole) learn best from, you can design lessons and curriculum that help build confidence, and content that students will be more willing to connect to and learn from.

Course Guide/Navigation

The navigation and flow of this mini-course is now in your hands. I have strived to keep each section of this course as streamlined and goal-oriented as possible. You can click on any of the three below modality links, in any order, read up on the theory behind learning modalities, and read the conclusion. It is my hope that participants will first check their prior knowledge against the information in the definition and theory unit, click on each of the three below modality links, read the information provided, watch the supportive videos, and participate in the short check-ins at the end of each page. Whatever you decide, I hope that you will find this course to be informative and useful.

Unit 1: Learning Modalities

Definition and Theory

Unit 2: Visual Modality


Unit 3: Auditory Modality


Unit 4: Kinesthetic Modality



Summary and Takeaway


  • K, S. S., & Helena, T. C. (2017). Styles of Learning Based on the Research of Fernald, Keller, Orton, Gillingham, Stillman , Montessori and Neil D Fleming. International Journal For Innovative Research In Multidisciplinary Field, 3(4), 17-25.
  • Larson, M. B. and Lockee, B. B. (2020). Streamlined ID: A Practical Guide to Instructional Design (2nd edition). New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Melodie Rosenfeld & Sherman Rosenfeld (2008) Developing effective teacher beliefs about learners: the role of sensitizing teachers to individual learning differences, Educational Psychology, 28:3, 245-272, DOI: 10.1080/01443410701528436
  • Tanner, K., Allen, D., Shortlidge, E., Hubbard, J., Bissonnette, S., Aikens, M., . . . Phillips, A. (2017, October 13). Approaches to Biology Teaching and Learning: Learning Styles and the Problem of Instructional Selection-Engaging All Students in Science Courses. Retrieved December 05, 2020, from https://www.lifescied.org/doi/full/10.1187/cbe.04-07-0050