Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is a collection of methods which identify how the mind process information.  Within NLP, there are 3 communication modalities, these are known as the VAK model.  The simple version of the VAK Learning Styles Model describes three representational systems.  These systems reveal how we prefer to learn and communicate.  Once you understand how people prefer to communicate and learn, you can easily build rapport and find ways to connect in a more effective way.

Origin of the VAK Learning Style Model

The VAK Learning Style Model, also known as the Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic model, originated from the work of educational psychologists in the 1920s. The concept was further developed in the 1970s by Walter Burke Barbe and his colleagues. They proposed that individuals have a preferred modality or mode of learning, which can be categorized into three types: visual, auditory, or kinesthetic. This model has been widely used in education and training to enhance learning experiences.

Elements of the VAK Learning Style Model

The VAK Learning Style Model is composed of three main elements:


People who communicate and learn through vision take in information easily when it is presented in diagrams, pictures charts or characterisation.  You can spot someone who prefers to communicate with visual representation as you will hear them say phrases such as “I can see your point”  I get the picture” and “Looking beyond next year”.  They are literally seeing what they have in their minds.


Auditory learners and communicators prefer listening and hearing information.  They will thrive in lecture-type discussions.  You will recognise these preferences when you hear people say phrases such as “I hear what you say” or “I am hearing that you…..”   They like listening to dialogue inner or outer.  Auditory responses might be repeating back to what they have heard.


Learners who prefer the kinesthetic modality communicate through feelings and touch.  They will say things like, “I feel that you are…”  “I feel touched”.  They like to learn through hands-on demonstrations.  Practical practising methods are one of their preferences.

Visual learners prefer to learn through seeing and visualizing information, often using diagrams, charts, and images. Auditory learners learn best through listening and verbal discussions, often benefiting from lectures and group discussions. Kinesthetic learners, on the other hand, learn best through physical activities, hands-on tasks, and movement.

Benefits of Using the VAK Learning Style Model

The VAK Learning Style Model offers several benefits. It allows educators to tailor their teaching methods to suit the learning preferences of their students, thereby improving comprehension and retention. It also encourages self-awareness among learners about their preferred learning styles, which can lead to more effective study strategies. Furthermore, it promotes diversity and inclusivity in learning environments by acknowledging and catering to different learning styles.

Application of the VAK Learning Style Model

The VAK Learning Style Model can be used in various educational settings, from primary schools to corporate training programs. Teachers can incorporate visual aids, auditory materials, and kinesthetic activities into their lessons to cater to all learning styles. For instance, a science teacher might use diagrams (visual), explain concepts aloud (auditory), and conduct experiments (kinesthetic) to teach a topic. In corporate training, trainers can use presentations, discussions, and role-playing exercises to cater to different learning styles.

Real-Life Case Studies of Using the VAK Learning Style Model

Several schools and institutions have successfully implemented the VAK Learning Style Model. For instance, a school in California reported improved student engagement and performance after incorporating VAK strategies into its curriculum. Similarly, a corporate training program in New York found that participants were more engaged and retained information better when training was tailored to their preferred learning styles.

Research into the VAK Learning Style Model

Research into the VAK Learning Style Model has been extensive. While some studies have questioned the effectiveness of teaching according to learning styles, others have found positive effects. A study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology found that students taught in their preferred learning style had improved academic performance. However, more research is needed to fully understand the impact and best application of the VAK model in various learning contexts.

In Summary

Understanding your VAK preferences can significantly aid in various ways. For instance, coaches employ this knowledge to discern a client’s preferred communication style. Speaking a shared language not only fosters rapport but also facilitates the client’s comprehension of new concepts.

When we tailor learning interventions to align with individual preferences, we enhance their effectiveness. If we’re crafting learning materials for a group, it’s crucial to cater to all preferences. Consequently, learning should incorporate elements such as pictures, diagrams, visual aids, auditory materials, and demonstrations.

Grasping the VAK model empowers you to comprehend how you and others perceive and interpret the world. You’ll notice why you effortlessly connect with some individuals and find it challenging with others. With this insight, you can adapt your communication methods to foster better connections.

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