Learning Styles: Shaking up your routine!

learning styles and how to use them

Having trouble adapting to the bootcamp experience? Switching things up to work with your learning styles may be the key to success.

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This article is part of the Coaching Collective series, featuring tips and expertise from Flatiron School Career Coaches. Every Flatiron School graduate is eligible to receive up to 180 days of 1:1 career coaching with one of our professional coaches. This series is a glimpse of the expertise you can access during career coaching at Flatiron School. 

It’s time to question the tried and true method of “hitting the books”. Finding out your learning style, and switching modalities up when you need to is a crucial piece of finding success as an adult learner. I know that when we were all in traditional school settings cramming until 2 AM, reading the same passages over and over, and making ornate flashcards were common paths to take for success. However, in a fast-paced setting like a bootcamp, those old study habits may no longer cut it.  If you’re struggling to get new material to really “stick”, then it’s time to try out a different style. 

What Are Learning Styles

There are a lot of different “types” or “styles” of learning. At the basis of learning is how you are absorbing information. So, try this. Think about a specific happy memory you have from childhood. How are you remembering that point in time? What is standing out? Is it the dialogue, can you see it like a movie, is it something that was written down, was it who you were with or what you were physically doing? What stands out most to you is a good indicator of how you’re absorbing information, and therefore how you learn. 

Consider the list below, and know that you are probably a mixture of several types, with a few more dominant than others. This is also a short list of some options, you can find more nuanced types if you dig a little deeper. The VARK questionnaire can help you delineate these nuances. 


Visual learners absorb what they see over what they hear or read. Most people are visual learners or have a strong affinity for visual learning. These folks can find schematics, sketches and diagrams, or watch videos or create visualizations to study broader concepts.


Auditory learners most effectively learn through listening. This is a language-based style, like verbal, but auditory learners best process information by listening, not just reading. Incorporating this into your studies could look like, listening to lectures multiple times, asking questions and engaging in dialogue with peers and instructors, making songs or rhymes for memorization, or finding videos of differing explanations of a concept. 


Kinesthetic or tactile learners are individuals who need to move or use tangible objects to absorb information. If you’ve ever found yourself tapping a pencil to focus, or chewing gum during a lecture, you might have a bit of this learning style. Incorporating kinesthetic learning into your day could look like hands-on practicing of concepts to make them malleable, walking while you listen to a lecture or video, or having something in your hands while you listen or read (I recall a professor passing out Play-Doh at one point to help out these students).


Verbal learners are, like auditory learners, language-based. However, these students gravitate toward reading and speaking. Students who learn primarily verbally perform best when reading and annotating, taking notes, repeating information back, or finding other ways to summarize. Often, these students find the Canvas coursework to be helpful and will revisit during code challenges or project times to re-read and review.


Social learners can be any and all of the above styles as well, but social learners simply learn better with others or in groups. These learners choose classroom learning and in-person so they can ask questions and create a dialogue for deeper meaning. 


On the other hand, solitary learners often absorb information and content best when they are by themselves. These are folks who also tend to need a more quiet and focused space to work, often retreating to libraries or quieter corners. 


Within these types, there are many different subcategories that are worth diving into if you find that you aren’t retaining information as well as you’d like in your current program. Between the Canvas work, lectures, paired programming, labs, and even Discord, the amount of resources can be overwhelming. This is why it’s important to experiment with your learning. If you find that what you’re doing isn’t working, look for a better way.

How To Implement Your Learning Styles

Try a few things! Here are some low stakes ways to experiment with the type of learner you may be now. 

  • Switch up your reading/lecture order to see how one informs the other in your live or campus classes. 
  • Find a podcast or a Youtube channel that can solidify some information that you’re just not picking up on in other settings. 
  • Reach out on Discord to partner with someone in an additional practice lab in Canvas. 
  • Explain a process to one of your peers, or have them explain it back to you to have that knowledge solidify. 
  • Switch up the times of day that you independently study. 
  • Find instructions for a visualization or build a model. 
  • Switch your readings to audio recordings. 
  • Reaching out to your advisor is also a great way to get some ideas about how to switch up your schedule to accommodate for these risks.

At Flatiron School, we want to expand your soft skills as well as teach you those content driven skills in your program. It’s crucial that you’re flexible enough in your learning and problem solving so you can adapt to any project or role you may be in once you land that job. Get creative in your projects while you’re working with your peers, and try something new. This might mean that you speak up more during your presentations, or take charge of a different section of the project you’re traditionally uncomfortable with. 

Example Of A Student Using Learning Styles

An advisee recently told me that they were experiencing a mental block with how to approach a new topic for their software engineering program. They found that they were stressing out more finding “the most efficient way to approach it”, which in turn made it really…inefficient. So, they took a learning styles quiz which turned up multi-modal, giving very little reprieve on the efficiency front. After chatting about some next steps, we switched the approach to try a new study approach each day, and see what sticks. I know it sounds trivial, and really panic inducing when there’s only so much time in the program. But, once you find that new hack for your brain, you’ll be amazed at what starts to click. 

Good news on that friend of ours, they did incredibly well in Phase 3 of their program. And they’re still switching up their approach when they need to. 

In Conclusion

Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone when working with new content. Often, students will switch up their approaches in different phases as well. If you need ideas, talking to your peers, instructors, and advisors can be helpful if you find yourself reading the same passage over and over to no avail. We’ve all been there. Don’t forget: it’s not that you can’t do it, it’s that you just need to find the way in. 


About Sara McCown

Sara McCown is a Team Lead for Student Advising with Flatiron School. She has been on the Advising Team since its recent creation and has previous experience in public education and administration. In addition, she has over 12 years of experience in coaching students for success. She’s also an avid reader and always open to suggestions and discussions!

Disclaimer: The information in this blog is current as of July 19, 2023. Current policies, offerings, procedures, and programs may differ.

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