Multimodal Learning Vs. Learning Styles: What’s The Difference?

You’ve just sat through another PD about the latest craze: multimodal learning. You’re feeling a little jaded because it sounds like the education world is just repackaging the same learning styles fad of yesteryear. 

But while similar, learning styles and multimodal learning do have their own unique differences. The learning styles movement had limitations, and multimodal instruction aims to address those. Additionally, multimodal learning incorporates technology in the classroom so that you can actually cater to your diverse student population. 

Read on to find out what makes multimodal learning different from learning styles.

Multimodal Learning Vs. Learning Styles

What are learning styles?

Learning styles refer to the different ways students acquire and process knowledge. While there are various theories and models of learning styles, the concept generally suggests that people have unique preferences for how they learn best. Understanding and adapting to different learning styles can help optimize teaching and improve educational outcomes.

Here are some commonly recognized learning styles:

  • Visual learners: Visual learners prefer to process information through visual aids such as diagrams, charts, graphs, and images. They benefit from seeing information presented in a clear and organized manner.
  • Auditory learners: Auditory learners learn best through listening and verbal communication. They prefer lectures, discussions, and spoken explanations. They may also benefit from using recordings or reading aloud to reinforce learning.
  • Kinesthetic learners: Kinesthetic (or tactile) learners learn through physical experiences and hands-on activities. They prefer to engage in practical tasks, experiments, and interactive learning. They often learn best by doing and moving around.
  • Reading/Writing learners: These learners prefer reading and writing to acquire and process information. They excel in text-based activities such as reading books, taking notes, and writing summaries. They may also benefit from creating lists, flashcards, or written explanations.

It’s essential to recognize that individuals can exhibit a combination of learning styles, and preferences may vary depending on the subject matter or context. Flexibility and adaptability in teaching and learning approaches can help accommodate diverse learning needs.

What is multimodal learning?

Multimodal learning, or multimodal instruction, is an instructional approach that engages learners through multiple sensory channels or modalities. It involves incorporating various modes of communication and representation to enhance the learning experience and promote deeper understanding.

In multimodal learning, different modalities are used to present information and engage learners. These modalities can include visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and textual elements. By providing information through multiple channels, learners have more opportunities to process and internalize the content in ways that align with their individual learning preferences and strengths.

By combining multiple modalities, multimodal learning aims to cater to diverse learning styles and preferences, promote active engagement, and support deeper understanding and retention of information. It recognizes that individuals have different strengths and preferences when it comes to processing information, and by providing a variety of modes, learners can access the content in ways that are most effective for them.

What makes multimodal learning and learning styles different?

Multimodal learning is often used in educational settings to create more inclusive and engaging learning experiences. It acknowledges the importance of addressing learners’ diverse needs and preferences and encourages educators to employ a range of teaching strategies and resources to facilitate meaningful learning.

Learning styles often come from learning style inventories (think Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence or Barsch Learning Styles Inventory). The idea of learning styles is that it arms learners with important knowledge on how to acquire new knowledge.

Multimodal learning would be the method that teachers employ to make different learning styles more comfortable in the classroom.

How can you use multimodal learning and learning styles in your classroom?

While learning styles can provide valuable insights into individual preferences, research suggests that tailoring instruction solely based on learning styles may not significantly improve learning outcomes. Instead, incorporating a variety of teaching methods and multimodal approaches that cater to different learning preferences is often more effective.

That’s because learners very rarely fit into one learning style camp, and you will rarely get a classroom of students that all fit the same learning styles. Instead, you should consider giving learners various opportunities to gain knowledge by presenting new content in different formats.

Reach more students by incorporating multimodal learning every day in your classroom.

Multimodal learning creates a more holistic and effective classroom for learners. TeacherMade gives teachers the tools to develop multimodal classrooms. With TeacherMade, you can:

  • Create interactive slides with Google Slides and PowerPoint.
  • Incorporate multimedia, including videos, audio, voice recording, and visuals. 
  • Create drag-and-drop items and diagrams that simulate new standardized tests and appeal to kinesthetic learners.
  • Auto-score questions with the flexibility of mixing in open-ended questions as well.
  • Choose from 20+ question types that will stretch learners to apply their knowledge.