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Respect, integrity & truthfulness form the basis of academic civility. Academic civility allows students, staff & faculty to maintain an informal & voluntary contract of reasonable expectations, mutually beneficial good manners, authentic sensitivity & common sense. By maintaining standards of conduct appropriate to membership in the college community, college students can study & learn in an environment free of undue difficulty & distraction. Genuine respect for one another as well as for tradition leads to genuine communication.


Students are accountable for timely submission of all academic work ("The dog ate my homework" or "the computer crashed" won't work). Students missing beginning-of-class work or handouts because they arrived late should neither ask for nor expect accommodations. Students who do not bother reading the course requirements and policies cannot suddenly feign ignorance of elements affecting their course grade at the end of the semester.


In the workplace, employers expect and rely upon regular work hours. Similarly, unless students are in non-traditional courses not requiring regular classroom attendance, professors expect regular attendance and timeliness to be crucial components of positive outcomes. Students should develop the habit of being in their seats before class starts. Habitual tardiness not only disrupts learning for others but also reflects poorly on the student. Students should also take care of physical needs before class begins. Habitually leaving class for such reasons is as disruptive and unprofessional as habitual tardiness. Students may suffer serious penalties for excessive absenteeism and tardiness.


The following behaviors during class time are inappropriate.

o    talking or whispering to others while someone else is speaking

o    doing assignments for other courses

o    programming cell phones

o    sending / reading text messages

o    calculating checkbook balances

o    checking messages

o    surfing the internet

o    sleeping or resting a head on the desk

o    constantly checking watches and wall clocks or any other visible or audible signs of restlessness

o    zipping up backpacks or performing similar activities in readiness for departing the classroom before the professors signals dismissal from class

Stopping all non-course related activities once a professor starts class is courteous. Raising a hand before speaking or asking a question is courteous.


Students who adopt positive attitudes even when tackling a difficult subject matter will find better academic success than will those who prefer setting up classroom gripe sessions. Wise time management and concerted effort - not whining - produce completed assignments. Learning for the joy of learning is a quality all professors appreciate finding in their students.


At times, some students may want to challenge a professor’s policy, grade or assignment. First, they should consider the time, manner and place. The professor’s office, not the classroom during a lecture, is always an appropriate setting – just as a non-argumentative tone is an appropriate one. Most attempts at negotiating an alternate assignment are discourteous. Students with extenuating circumstances should address their deficiencies in the professor’s office, not in the classroom.


Before entering the classroom, students should turn off all electronic devices and remove headphones. Students should also remind their friends and families not to call them during class times.


Once a professor addresses the class whether to instruct or to respond to a question students should cease all chatter. Students not participating in discourteous chatting or other distracting behavior have every right if not obligation to ask for a cessation of disruptive behaviors. In addition, when professors assign group work, they do not expect students to use the time to chat about extracurricular activities.


Civility is the underpinning of all academic behavior. To enhance the quality of education by avoiding behaviors obstructing learning opportunities, students must recognize that increasing diversity in the classroom demands increasing efforts to maintain mutual respect, tolerance of differences and reasoned discourse. A healthy debate can energize and enrich the understanding of a subject. However, it can also lead to emotional volatility, including hostility. Respect for another's viewpoints is fundamental, regardless of the depth of the division of core beliefs. Passionately opposing another's viewpoints is appropriate in a classroom debate; using offensive, intimidating or inflammatory language toward the person holding opposing viewpoints is, by contrast, always inappropriate. Shouting down another's viewpoints, dominating class discussions and engaging in side discussions are equally inappropriate.


Students should check their electronic mail daily. Students should not expect instant replies to their mail, nor should they expect professors to reply to messages on weekends and holidays. Students should avoid chat-room style grammatically incorrect sentences, using lower-case "i" for the pronoun "I," shouting a message through the use of capital letters and disrespectful discourse.


Students entering the classroom late should take a seat close to the door instead of walking in front of the professor to take a seat. If a seat near the door is unavailable, they should at the least walk behind the professor to get to a desk. They should not expect a reiteration of missed instruction … students who arrive late should instead wait until class is over to ask their peers about missed instruction. Students who know in advance they must leave class early should arrive to class early enough to take a seat near the door as well as to inform the professor.


Students who cannot perform regular assignments in the course of a semester will find performing extra work even more difficult. Most professors therefore do not offer extra credit assignments.


Students should consider the appropriateness of the following questions or assertions.

o    "I missed class the other day. Can you go over everything I may have missed?"

o    “Are we doing anything important in class today?”

o    "I have to have an 'A' in this course. You're the only professor who is hurting my GPA."

o    "I have to work over forty hours a week. You cannot expect me to spend much time on assignments."

o    "Why don't you grade me on my effort even though I failed the test?"

o    “I shouldn’t be penalized just because I didn’t follow some stupid instructions.”

o    “I didn’t see those requirements. Will you just ignore my first assignment and let me turn in another one?”

o    “I spent a lot of time on that assignment and that ought to count for something.”


See Civility above. In addition, students should avoid interrupting a lecture to ask whether a certain piece of instruction "will be on the test" (or something akin to this question). Making a point or asking a question totally unrelated to a lecture or discussion is inappropriate. The same applies to jumping in to say something when clearly another student's hand has been in a raised position to speak first.


Students should avoid any communication that others might interpret as harassing, intimidating, confrontational or offensive. Because many students and professors find profanity offensive and inappropriate, students should avoid its use either in classrooms or in hallways. Keep in mind, too, that listeners often interpret language and vocabulary as a reflection of a person’s educational level. As a student’s education increases, so too should that student’s language and vocabulary become richer and more complex. Continuing to use grade school profanity as a response in every conversational situation does not speak well of a student’s educational achievements.


All professors assume their students have developed good note-taking skills. (Students whose skills are weak should consider seeking instruction in note-taking skills.) Arriving in the classroom without a notepad and pen is irresponsible conduct. Assuming that everything a professor says is noteworthy should prevent students from asking whether or not to take notes. Finally, students should gain their professor’s permission before recording a lecture.


All full-time faculty members post office hours in their syllabi and on their office doors. If students cannot visit their professors during regular office hours, they should make arrangements to meet at other mutually convenient times. The office, not the classroom, is the appropriate place to discuss personal issues, such as upcoming surgical dates, requests for reference letters and assignment difficulties. Further, students who have missed class should not expect a reiteration of instruction during office hours. They should also respect their professor’s time by not starting a conversation just as the class is beginning or ending.


Participation in class discussions, in group work and in field work is a vital part of a college education. Students should engage fully in class discussions and collaborative assignments. They should not rely on others to do the work and then claim credit for doing the work. Finally, students should avoid pretending to have read an assignment. An admission of failure to do an assignment is better than attempts at bluffing with made-up responses.


Not all students perform at the same level. Students should exercise patience during a class in which some students require additional instruction to understand a point.


Students should arrive in class with all their textbooks, notebooks, materials and assignments. "My books are in my car" speaks poorly of a student's preparatory attitude.


Students should demonstrate their respect for their professors, the maintenance staff and all others using college facilities by keeping their feet off desks, sitting in chairs not on tables, leaving classroom areas clean, disposing of recyclables in designated containers, picking up dropped items and keeping trash in their automobiles instead of dumping it in the parking lots. In study areas and near classrooms, students should be mindful of those studying nearby and lower their voices accordingly.


Students who miss class should not expect the professor to supply the missed instruction. Instead, students should get necessary information from other students willing to expend their time. Should students have to miss class on a day an assignment is due, they are still responsible for turning their assignments in on time.


Students should manage their time wisely to avoid sleeping during class. Not only is classroom napping discourteous, it also results in a loss of learning.


A syllabus isn't window dressing for a course. Rather, it is a serious document covering basic college policies and course requirements … a contract between a professor and his/her students. Once students review the syllabus, they may certainly ask for clarification of policies and requirements. See, too, Accountability above.












BECOMING A CRITICAL THINKER Or, How to Make Your Parents Believe Their Money Is Being Well-Spent

Critical thinking means making reasoned judgments. It involves using criteria to judge the quality of something, from a recipe to a research paper. Critical thinking is a specific way of thinking that allows you to assess the truth of something (ideas, news stories, arguments, research, etc).

Critical thinking uses “higher order” thinking. Benjamin Bloom created a hierarchy of activities categorized by the complexity of thought involved. Bloom’s Taxonomy identifies six levels of thought.

1.  Knowledge is observation & recall of subject matter which you may demonstrate by listing, defining, identifying, showing, labeling or naming.

2.  Comprehension means understanding the information or "getting it" … you demonstrate comprehension by summarizing or interpreting the information.

3.  Application is the ability to use the information, to use methods, to solve problems using required skills/knowledge & to use abstractions of the information.

4.  Analysis is seeing patterns & organization & identifying components. You demonstrate analysis by ordering, explaining, classifying, comparing & contrasting.

5.  Synthesis is the ability to put together parts to form a whole, to use old ideas to create new ones. It involves generalizing, drawing conclusions, integrating & inventing.

6.  Evaluation is making judgments about the value of something & making choices based on sound arguments. Included are assessing, grading, judging, discerning & discriminating.

All thinkers must have a basic level of knowledge and comprehension of a subject. Critical thinkers use the abilities found in Bloom’s higher levels. They apply, analyze, synthesize & evaluate. The table below compares critical thinkers and non-critical thinkers. Look at the comparisons and ask yourself honestly if your thinking is more non-critical than critical.


Critical Thinking

Non-Critical Thinking

Critical evaluation of arguments & propositions

Habitual evaluation based only on past experience or beliefs

Critical judgments used to guide beliefs & actions

Brainstorming without evaluating content of ideas

Critical reasoning leading to establishment of new belief or confirmation of previously held belief

Prejudicial reasoning considering only evidence supporting a position without questioning the position itself

Critical assessment of content of message rather than relying on emotional reaction to message

Emotive assessment that responds to the emotion of a message rather than considering the content

So what makes critical thinkers different from “regular” thinkers? Critical thinkers are skeptical and open-minded, value fair-mindedness, respect evidence and reasoning, respect clarity and precision, and will change positions when reason leads them to do so. Critical thinkers use criteria to assess information … they have conditions that must be met for something to be judged as believable.

Although you can make the argument every discipline has different criteria, some standards apply to all disciplines. You must base any idea — no matter what the subject — on relevant, accurate facts and credible sources. It must be precise, unbiased, logically consistent and strongly reasoned.

Critical thinkers look at different points of view. Your point of view is the way you view the world. It shapes your perception and understanding of things. Critical thinkers try to view things from different points of view. That means critical thinkers tolerate ambiguity, that things may have more than one explanation or interpretation. In fact, ambiguity and doubt are a necessary part of the process. Critical thinkers consider other interpretations, avoid oversimplification and emotional reasoning, analyze assumptions and biases and examine evidence. Above all, critical thinkers ask questions. And they ask specific kinds of questions.

Look at the list of critical questions below. How often do you ask those kinds of questions in your classes? Your professor may more often ask critical questions at the beginning of the course but, as your knowledge of the subject grows, you should increasingly take responsibility for asking these questions of your professors, your peers and yourself.

Types of Critical Questions

1.  Questions of clarification

—Could you give me an example?
—Is your basic point __ or __?

2.  Questions that probe assumptions

—You seem to be assuming __.
—Is this always the case?

3.  Questions that probe reasons & evidence

—How could I go about finding out whether that’s true?
—Is there reason to doubt that evidence?

4.  Questions about viewpoints or perspectives

—How would other groups or types of people respond? Why? What would influence them?
—How would people who disagree with this viewpoint argue their case?

5.  Questions that probe implications & consequences

—What effect would that have?
—If this & this are the case, then what else must also be true?

6.  Questions about the question

—To answer this question, what questions would we have to answer first?
—Is this the same issue as __?

Critical thinking is a habit you have to develop. Like other new skills it’s something we must practice until it becomes second nature. Critical questions are important but there are other things you can do to increase your critical thinking ability. Look at the list below. How often do you use any of the tactics listed? The more frequently you use your critical thinking skills the better at it you’ll become.

Tactics that Reinforce Critical Thinking

1. Summarize or put into your own words what the professor or another student has said.

2. Elaborate on what you said.

3. Relate the issue or content to your own knowledge and experience.

4. Give examples to clarify or support what you said.

5. Make connections between related concepts.

6. Restate the instructions or assignment in your own words.

7. State the question at issue.

8. Describe to what extent your point of view on the issue is different from or similar to the point of view of the professor, other students, the author, etc.

9. Write down the most pressing question on your mind at a given point.

10.  Participate in group discussions.

Okay … so you know what critical thinking is and how it differs from non-critical thinking. You’ve got a list of critical questions and tactics to help you begin to think critically. You’re ready to get started but your professor has just given you a question or topic or problem to consider and you have no idea what to do next! You really, really want to approach it as a critical thinker but don’t know how. As you become a more experienced critical thinker you’ll develop your own ways of approaching a problem. To start, though, try using The Six Critical Thinking Tests below.

You can and should use these tests to evaluate the evidence offered for any idea. If the evidence fails any one of these six tests, you should reject the idea. If the evidence passes all six tests then you are justified in having confidence that the idea is true. Passing all six tests, of course, does not guarantee that the idea is true but it does guarantee that you have good reasons for believing it. Pick an idea — any idea — and give it a try.

The Six Critical Thinking Tests Or, How to Make Yourself Fool-Proof

1. The Proven False Test

It must be possible to think of evidence that would prove an idea false.

It may sound like a paradox, but in order for any idea to be true, it must be possible to prove it is false. This is the first, the most important and the most fundamental test. If nothing imaginable can ever disprove an idea, the evidence that exists won’t matter. It is pointless to even look at the evidence because the idea will stand up to any possible evidence. This does not mean, however, that the idea is true. Instead it means that the idea is meaningless. That’s because it is logically impossible for any idea to be true no matter what. You can always think of circumstances that would make an idea untrue.

For example, you can prove false the assertion that water freezes at 32° F. It would be false if water were to freeze at, say, 34° F. This assertion is a firmly established scientific fact and we do not expect it to prove it false. But it can be. Any idea that you cannot prove false makes an emotional statement, a declaration of the way the speaker feels about the world. Ideas that you cannot prove false do communicate information but what they describe are the speaker’s values. They don’t communicate anything factual and so are neither true nor false.

There are two main ways in which someone can violate this test. The first is the undeclared claim — an idea that is so broad or vague that it lacks any meaningful content. For example, crystal therapists claim they can use pieces of quartz to restore balance and harmony to a person's spiritual energy. What does it mean to have unbalanced spiritual energy? How do you recognize and diagnose the condition? What evidence would prove that the application of crystal therapy had or had not balanced someone's unbalanced spiritual energy? Those who believe an undeclared claim can interpret any evidence as supporting their position so that you can never prove their claim false.

The second way to violate this test involves the use of the multiple out, that is, an endless series of excuses that explain away any evidence that could prove the idea false. For example, UFO proponents, faced with a lack of reliable evidence to support their claims, point to a secret government conspiracy that is allegedly preventing the release of evidence that would support their case. Because they use the lack of evidence of both UFOs and of a government conspiracy to prove their case, you can never prove it false.

2. The Logic Test

Any argument offered as evidence in support of an idea must be logical — i.e., it must be both valid and sound.

If an argument is both valid and sound then you can accept the argument’s conclusion with certainty. You can say an argument is valid if its conclusion follows unavoidably from its premises. An invalid argument can be recognize by finding a counterexample … if you can find a single imaginable instance in which the conclusion would not necessarily follow from the premises even if the premises were true, then the argument is invalid. For example, all dogs have fleas (premise 1); Xavier has fleas (premise 2); therefore Xavier is a dog (conclusion). That argument is invalid because a single flea-ridden cat named Xavier would provide a counterexample.

An argument is sound if it is valid and if all the premises are true. If an argument is invalid it must be unsound. But not all valid arguments are sound because soundness also requires true premises. For example, all dogs have fleas (premise 1); Xavier is a dog (premise 2); therefore Xavier has fleas (conclusion). That argument is valid because the conclusion follows from the premises given. However, it is unsound because the first premise is false. All dogs do not have fleas. Knowing whether a given premise is true or false may require you to learn more about a topic.

3. The Comprehensiveness Test

The evidence offered in support of an idea must be comprehensive, i.e., you must consider all of the available evidence.

For obvious reasons, it is never acceptable to consider only the evidence that supports an idea and ignore the evidence that contradicts it. Unfortunately, people do it all the time. For example, people believe that fortune-teller Jeanne Dixon has precognitive ability because she predicted the 1988 election of George Bush. They typically ignore the thousands of forecasts she made that failed to come true (such as her predictions that John F. Kennedy would not win the presidency in 1960, that World War III would begin in 1958 and that Fidel Castro would die in 1969). If you are willing to be selective in the evidence you consider, you could reasonably conclude that the earth is flat.

4. The Honesty Test

You must honestly evaluate the evidence offered in support of an idea.

The honesty test follows from the comprehensiveness test. The honesty test means you must be willing to come to a rational conclusion once you have examined all the evidence. It requires that you be honest with yourself about the results of that examination. If the weight of the evidence contradicts the idea, you are required to accept that idea as false. The opposite is true as well. If the overwhelming weight of evidence supports the idea, then you must conclude the idea is true.

5. The Repeated Results Test

If the evidence for an idea is based on the results of an experiment or if the evidence offered in support of an idea can logically be coincidental, it is necessary to repeat the evidence.

The repeated results test provides a safeguard against the possibility of error, fraud or coincidence. A single experimental result is never adequate proof by itself. Any experiment, no matter how carefully designed and executed, is always subject to the possibility of undetected errors or coincidence. Too, it is possible the experiment was “rigged” and thus fraudulent. Requiring independent observers to follow the same procedures and achieve the same results is an effective way of correcting errors, detecting fraud and ruling out coincidence.


The evidence given in support of an idea must be enough to establish its truth assuming the following:

(1) the burden of proof for an idea rests on the person proposing it;

(2) extraordinary ideas require extraordinary evidence; and

(3) evidence based only on authority and/or testimony is never sufficient.

The burden of proof always rests with the person proposing an idea for the simple reason that the absence of disconfirming evidence is not the same as the presence of confirming evidence. Simply because no one has proven an idea false, does not mean that anyone has proven the idea true. You must base belief not simply on the absence of disconfirming evidence but on the presence of confirming evidence. It is the obligation of the person putting forward the idea to furnish confirming evidence.

Extraordinary ideas require extraordinary evidence. If I claim that it rained yesterday, you would be justified in accepting that claim as true on the basis of my word. But if I claim that extraterrestrial aliens abducted me, you would be justified in demanding more substantial evidence. The ordinary evidence of my testimony is sufficient for ordinary claims but not for extraordinary ones.

No one’s testimony is adequate by itself for the simple reason that anyone can lie or make a mistake. No amount of expertise in any field is a guarantee against error nor does it rule out dishonesty. You cannot accept by themselves a person's credentials, knowledge and experience as sufficient evidence to establish the truth of an idea. Nor can a person's sincerity make his testimony credible. Even if people are telling what they sincerely believe to be the truth, it’s always possible they are mistaken.

IN SUMMARY: Critical thinkers routinely apply intellectual standards to the elements of reasoning in order to develop intellectual traits.

Remember that critical thinking means using criteria to judge the quality of something. I hope my ideas give you a starting point but as you become a more accomplished critical thinker, analyzing information will be something you do automatically and you’ll develop your own methods of analysis.

Being a responsible adult means accepting the fact that almost all knowledge is tentative. Based on the evidence, you may be required to change your beliefs and you should be willing and able to do so. Being an independent adult means having the ability to judge evidence and reach conclusions on your own. Without that ability your beliefs will always be dependent on what others tell you is true.

That, in essence, is what critical thinking means … the ability to judge information and believe only when evidence supports belief.













Failing a course requires planning and commitment. If that’s your goal, this information will help you get started. Below are answers to some of the most common course failure FAQs.

1.  How can I be certain I'm always unprepared for the course?

a.  Don't form a study group. Why plan ahead and divide up work you aren't going to do anyway?

b.  Don't read anything, especially any assigned chapters in the textbook (or any place else).

c.  Don't even think about taking notes. If unable to avoid discussion, waste time with details from a recent sitcom, music video, movie or etc. - the more unrelated the better.

d.  Brag to classmates - loudly and often - that you are totally unprepared. Make it a point of pride!

e.  You have one real advantage on your side. Everything you need to know to pass the course is in the syllabus. By ignoring only that one document you can almost guarantee total catastrophic failure.

2.  How do I avoid all participation in the course even when I’m physically in the room?

a.  Be completely disengaged. Text-messaging or personal grooming always makes the point. (See #3b below regarding electronic devices.)

b.  Be disinterested. Flamboyant yawning and eye rolling are perennial favorites.

c.  When the professor asks for comments just stare at your book. This works best when there is no visible evidence of your having ever opened the book.

d.  Use course time to catch up on sleep. Even short catnaps help keep participation at a minimum.

e.  Practice mumbling “I don’t know” until it’s an automatic response to every question you’re asked. (This won’t take nearly as much work as you might fear.)

3.  What are some good ways to create maximum disruption during the course?

a.  Arrive late. For greater impact walk up to the professor and ask if there have been any handouts so far or if he/she has “done anything important.” If you’re very late, make sure to ask if the course is going to end early.

b.  Ignore all course rules regarding electronic devices. Choose the most obnoxious ring tones possible for your cell and make prior arrangements for someone to call you at specific times. (If you find a good deal, you might consider buying a second cell and bringing both.)

c.  Leave class on a regular basis for any pretext you can think of – use the restroom, get a drink, etc.

d.  Pack your belongings early and loudly and make a show of leaving before the end.

e.  Walk in front of the professor whenever entering or leaving the room.

f.   Make rude noises during videos and rude facial expressions during classmates’ participation.

4.  There’s no reason to waste time and effort. Are there things I can do to disrespect everyone in the course at once?

a.  Hold private conversations during lectures or discussions. Enlist a friend’s help if necessary but you’ll get better results if you involve classmates who are trying to pay attention.

b.  Make a show of bringing and setting up your laptop.

i.    Wait until after the course is under way to boot up.

ii.   Angle the screen so as to make it visible to a large number of classmates.

iii.  In between naps, play games and visit websites that are as distracting as possible.

c.  Eat in front of everyone. (A full stomach will help you get sleepy … see #2d above.)

d.  Smirk while making infantile comments. Sexual innuendo is particularly effective.

e.  Insult fellow classmates using obscene language repetitiously and in a loud voice. One note: be cautious about insulting classmates much larger and/or stronger than you.

5.  How do I show everyone who has the real power in the course?

a.  Refuse to ask for help.

b.  Refuse to follow instructions or complete assignments on time, especially the final exam.

c.  Demand special treatment and threaten charges of unprofessional behavior if you don’t get it.

d.  Take the position that DVDs and gaming are essential … sleep, maturity and grades are just boring.

e.  Remind everyone that you are important and this blanking professor / course / college / etc isn't. Once everyone knows who’s in charge, stop attending the course without telling anyone. That’ll really show them!

6.  I’ve got failure mastered by now. What if I want to try for something bigger?

If your real goal is more ambitious than simply a failing grade - perhaps expulsion or some quality time in court - frequently display behaviors that are likely to instill fear in others. The more threatening and aggressive your behavior is the better. You can always tell them later that you were only kidding.


[The above tips apply almost exclusively to F2F courses. If you're looking for tips to help you fail your online course, just ask your online professor. I'm sure he/she will be glad to help you out.]












What Is Your Learning Style?

Go to the VARK Questionnaire at

Choose the answer which best explains your preference for each of the 16 questions. Choose more than one answer if a single answer does not match your preference. Leave blank any question that does not apply but answer a minimum of 12 of the questions.

Hit OK.

When the VARK Questionnaire Results page pops up, you will see the 4 learning styles with a number next to each.

Below that you will see a statement such as "Your preferred learning style is __" or "You have a multimodal learning style ... your preferred learning styles are __ and __" or "You have a multimodal (V, R) learning style.”

The specific letter(s) you see are your preferred learning style(s).


The VARK Categories

The acronym VARK stands for Visual, Aural/Auditory, Read/Write and Kinesthetic sensory modalities that are used for learning information. Four categories seem to reflect the experiences of students and teachers. Although there is some overlap between categories, we define them as follows.

Visual (V)

This preference includes the depiction of information in maps, spider diagrams, charts, graphs, flow charts, labeled diagrams and all the symbolic arrows, circles, hierarchies and other devices that instructors use to represent what they could have presented in words. We could call it Graphic (G) as that better explains what it covers. It does not include movies, videos or PowerPoint. It does include designs, whitespace, patterns, shapes and the different formats used to highlight and convey information.

Aural / Auditory (A)

This perceptual mode describes a preference for information that we hear or speak. Students with this modality report that they learn best from lectures, tutorials, tapes, group discussion, email, using mobile phones, speaking, web chat and talking things through. It includes talking aloud as well as talking to one's self. Often people with this preference want to sort things out by speaking, rather than sorting things out and then speaking.

Read / Write (R)

This preference is for information displayed as words. Not surprisingly, many academics have a strong preference for this modality. This preference emphasizes text-based input and output - reading and writing in all its forms. People who prefer this modality are often addicted to PowerPoint, the Internet, lists, dictionaries, thesauri, quotations and words, words, words...

Kinesthetic (K)

By definition, this modality refers to the "perceptual preference related to the use of experience and practice (simulated or real)." Although such an experience may invoke other modalities, the key is that people who prefer this mode connect to reality, "either through concrete personal experiences, examples, practice or simulation." It includes demonstrations, simulations, videos and movies of real things, as well as case studies, practice and applications.

What about Mixtures? Multimodals? (MM)

Life is multimodal. There are seldom instances where one mode is used or is sufficient, so we have a four-part VARK profile. That is why the VARK questionnaire gives you four scores. Those who prefer many modes almost equally are of two types. There are those who are context specific who choose a single mode to suit the occasion or situation. There are others who are not satisfied until they have had input (or output) in all of their preferred modes. They take longer to gather information from each mode and, as a result, they often have a deeper and broader understanding.

Understanding the Results

Your results indicate a rule of thumb that you should not rigidly apply. The questionnaire does not diagnose you. Rather, it should initiate discussion about learning preferences. No one preference will be dominant nor will all participants be multimodal. Approximately 50% of faculty members seem to be multi-modal, although they usually show preferences for Read/Write as one mode. Correspondingly, some students or faculty members have a strong or very strong preference that stands out from others. The most consistent finding from questionnaire results is that our classrooms are very diverse. The power of VARK is that students and faculty members understand it intuitively. Participants often say, "Yes! That's me." Remember, though, that the results indicate preferences not strengths.

Some things to remember:

1.  Preference is not the same as strength.

2.  VARK is about learning, not leisure time.

3.  If you completed the questionnaire with someone else in mind, you indicated his/her preferences – not your own learning preferences. Redo the questionnaire for yourself.

4.  Work and life experiences may blur the boundaries as people learn to use aural, visual, read/write and kinesthetic modes equally well. Those experiences may mask your preferences.

Multimodal Study Strategies

If you have multiple preferences you are in the majority. Approximately 60% of any population fits that category.

Multiple preferences are interestingly varied. For example you may have two strong preferences V and A, or R and K, or you may have three strong preferences such as VAR or ARK. Some people have no particular strong preferences and their scores are almost even for all four modes. For example one person had scores of V=6, A=6, R=6 and K=6. She said that she adapted to the mode used or requested. If the teacher or supervisor preferred a written mode, she switched into that mode for her responses and for her learning.

Multiple preferences give you choices of two, three or four modes to use for your interaction with others. Positive reactions mean that those with multimodal preferences choose to match or align their mode to the significant others around them. But some people have admitted that if they want to be annoying they may stay in a mode different from the person with whom they are working. For example, they may ask for written evidence in an argument, knowing that the other person much prefers to refer only to oral information.

If you have two almost equal preferences please read the study strategies that apply to your two choices. If you have three almost equal preferences read the three lists that apply and similarly for those with four. One interesting piece of information is that people with multimodal preferences often find it necessary to use more than one strategy for learning and communicating. They feel insecure with only one. Alternatively, those with a single preference often understand things by using the set of strategies that align with their single preference.

The data show some differences among those who are multimodal … especially those who have chosen fewer than 25 options and those who have chosen more than 30. If you chose fewer than 25 of the options in the questionnaire, you may prefer to see your highest score as your main preference - almost like a single preference.

Visual Study Strategies

If you have a preference for learning by Visual methods (V = visual) you should use some or all of the following:


You want the whole picture so you are probably holistic rather than reductionist in your approach. You are often swayed by the look of an object. You are interested in color, layout and design and you know where you are in your environment. You are probably going to draw something.

Aural Study Strategies

If you have a preference for learning by Aural methods (A = hearing) you should use some or all of the following:

Intake - To take in the information:

o    Attend classes.

o    Attend discussions and tutorials.

o    Discuss topics with others.

o    Discuss topics with your teachers.

o    Explain new ideas to other people.

o    Use a tape recorder.

o    Remember the interesting examples, stories, jokes and etc.

o    Describe the overheads, pictures and other visuals to somebody who was not there.

o    Leave spaces in your notes for later recall and filling.

SWOT – To make a learnable package:

o    Convert your notes into a learnable package by reducing them (3:1).

o    Your notes may be poor because you prefer to listen. You need to expand your notes by talking with others and collecting notes from the textbook.

o    Put your summarized notes onto tapes and listen to them.

o    Ask others to listen to you explain your understanding of a topic.

o    Read your summarized notes aloud.

o    Explain your notes to another aural person.

Output - To perform well in any test, assignment or examination:

o    Imagine talking with the examiner.

o    Listen to your voices and write them down.

o    Spend time in quiet places recalling the ideas.

o    Practice writing answers to old exam questions.

o    Speak your answers aloud or inside your head.

You prefer to have this page explained to you. The written words are not as valuable as those you hear. You will probably go and tell somebody about this.

Read/Write Study Strategies

If you have a strong preference for learning by Reading and Writing (R) learning you should use some or all of the following:

Intake - To take in the information:

o    lists

o    headings

o    dictionaries

o    glossaries

o    definitions

o    handouts

o    textbooks

o    readings - library

o    notes (often verbatim)

o    teachers who use words well and have lots of information in sentences and notes

o    essays

o    manuals (computing and laboratory)

SWOT - To make a learnable package:

o    Convert your notes into a learnable package by reducing them (3:1).

o    Write out the words repeatedly.

o    Read your notes (silently) repeatedly.

o    Rewrite the ideas and principles into other words.

o    Organize any diagrams, graphs and etc ... into statements, e.g. "The trend is..."

o    Turn reactions, actions, diagrams, charts and flows into words.

o    Imagine your lists arranged in multiple-choice questions and distinguish each from each.

Output - To perform well in any test, assignment or examination:

o    Write exam answers.

o    Practice with multiple-choice questions.

o    Write paragraphs, beginnings and endings.

o    Write your lists (a, b, c, d, 1, 2, 3, 4).

o    Arrange your words into hierarchies and points.

You like this page because the emphasis is on words and lists. You believe the meanings are within the words, so any talk is OK but this handout is better. You are heading for the library.


If you have a preference for Kinesthetic (K) learning (doing) you should use some or all of the following:

Intake - To take in the information:

o    all your senses - sight, touch, taste, smell, hearing and etc

o    laboratories

o    field trips

o    field tours

o    examples of principles

o    lecturers who give real-life examples

o    applications

o    hands-on approaches (computing)

o    trial and error

o    collections of rock types, plants, shells, grasses and etc

o    exhibits, samples, photographs and etc

o    recipes - solutions to problems, previous exam papers

SWOT - To make a learnable package:

o    Convert your lecture notes into a learnable package by reducing them (3:1).

o    Your lecture notes may be poor because the topics were not concrete or relevant.

o    You will remember the real things that happened.

o    Put plenty of examples into your summary. Use case studies and applications to help with principles and abstract concepts.

o    Talk about your notes with another K person.

o    Use pictures and photographs that illustrate an idea.

o    Go back to the laboratory or your lab manual.

o    Recall the experiments, field trip and etc.

Output - To perform well in any test, assignment or examination:

o    Write practice answers, paragraphs and etc.

o    Role play the exam situation in your own room.

You want to experience the exam so that you can understand it. The ideas on this page are only valuable if they sound practical, real and relevant to you. You need to do things to understand.
















When was the last time you set out to fail? Academic culture is built on the premise that failure is shameful: a sign of imbecility or slapdash preparation. That’s why the “FAIL HARDER” sign shocks. We are being exhorted to override our training and instinct, to shelter ideas that may not be fully articulated, or practices at which we may not yet be masterful. But failure hatches work-arounds that may not have been thinkable until you had an urgent need to solve the problem. One of the greatest motivators of creativity is the fear of failure. Failure is not pleasant but it does teach us something, The only way we truly fail, is if we learn nothing from the experience.

Kathi Inman BerensFirst Attempt In Learning


I have not failed 700 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work.

When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.

~ Thomas Edison


I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed.

I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.

~ Michael Jordan


Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.

~ Sir Winston Churchill



Copyright © 1996 Amy S Glenn
Last updated:   10/19/2017   2200

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