Theory Behind the Model

Learning modalities are the sensory channels or pathways through which individuals give, receive, and store information.  Perception, memory, and sensation comprise the concept of modality.  The modalities or senses include visual, auditory, tactile/kinesthetic, smell, and taste.  Researchers, including Reiff, Eisler, Barbe, and Stronck have concluded that in a classroom, the students would be approximately:

§         25-30% visual

§         25-30% auditory

§         15% tactile/kinesthetic

§         25-30% mixed modalities


Therefore, only 30% of the students will remember most of what is said in a classroom lecture and another 30% will remember primarily what is seen.


Visual learners are those who learn by seeing.  They need to see overheads, diagrams, and read text books, etc. to understand a concept.


Auditory learners must hear what they are learning to really understand it.  They enjoy listening, but cannot wait to have a chance to talk themselves. These students respond well to lecture and discussion.


Tactile/kinesthetic learners need to feel and touch to learn...these learners also learn better if movement is involved.  They may be those students who are not doing well in school.  Instruction geared to the auditory learner can be a hindrance to these learns, causing them to fall behind.  One key reason at-risk children have trouble with school is that they tend to be these types of learners.  About one-third of students do not process auditorially and are educationally deaf.  Students with a tactile strength learn with manipulatives such as games, the internet, and labs.


An effective means to reach all learners is modality-based instruction; this consists of organizing around the different modalities to accommodate the needs of all learners.  Most students learn with all their modalities, but some students may have unusual strengths and weaknesses in particular modalities.  For example, students strong in the visual modality will be frustrated or confused with just verbal explanations.


The following chart describes each modality and can help you determine your learning style; read the word in the left column and then answer the questions in the successive three columns to see how you respond to each situation. Your answers may fall into all three columns, but one column will likely contain the most answers. The dominant column indicates your primary learning style.


MODALITES….How do you Learn?

When you..



Kinesthetic & Tactile


Do you try to see the word?

Do you sound out the word or use a phonetic approach?

Do you write the word down to find if it feels right?


Do you sparingly but dislike listening for too long? Do you favor words such as see, picture, and imagine?

Do you enjoy listening but are impatient to talk? Do you use words such as hear, tune, and think?

Do you gesture and use expressive movements? Do you use words such as feel, touch, and hold?


Do you become distracted by untidiness or movement?

Do you become distracted by sounds or noises?

Do you become distracted by activity around you?

Meet someone again

Do you forget names but remember faces or remember where you met?

Do you forget faces but remember names or remember what you talked about?

Do you remember best what you did together?

Contact people on business

Do you prefer direct, face-to-face, personal meetings?

Do you prefer the telephone?

Do you talk with them while walking or participating in an activity?


Do you like descriptive scenes or pause to imagine the actions?

Do you enjoy dialog and conversation or hear the characters talk?

Do you prefer action stories or are not a keen reader?

Do something new at work

Do you like to see demonstrations, diagrams, slides, or posters?

Do you prefer verbal instructions or talking about it with someone else?

Do you prefer to jump right in and try it?

Put something together

Do you like at the directions and the picture?


Do you ignore the directions and figure it out as you go along?

Need help with a computer application

Do you seek out pictures or diagrams?

Do you call the help desk, ask a neighbor, or growl at the computer?

Do you keep trying to do it or try it on another computer?

Adapted from Colin Rose(1987). Accelerated Learning.


Link to Modality Test

To help understand how you learn best, take one of these learning styles tests to determine your strongest Modality. There are just a few questions to answer and the test should take approximately two minutes to complete.