Classroom in Your Hand


Know the VARK

We may have heard one of the most popular terms in education, VARK; that each student has a dominant learning style, either Visual, Auditory, Read, or Kinaesthetic. Thus, as a teacher, we should design our content to facilitate these different learning styles. 

Honestly I am still a bit puzzled since the first time I was introduced to this VARK term. This is often preached by some education specialists, that a superior way to enable a student to understand learning content better, is to understand their learning preference. In this way, a teacher must design the mode of instruction to accommodate individual preference to create a personalised learning experience (?).

Let see an example:

If I want to my student to understand a concept of a vibrating frequency of a machine, I will create a content comprising these following elements:

  • A paragraph of text for the introduction and definition of frequency (with an equation) [Read].
  • An audio saying out loud the given text [Auditory].
  • A graph showing a sinusoidal curve to define a frequency [Visual] and it has button where it can change if the frequency is changed [Visual and Kinaesthetic].
  • An animation showing how a machine vibrates with different frequency [Visual]. Better if there is a button where the vibration speed of the machine changes with change of frequency [Visual and Kinaesthetic]


A vibrating object moves up and down, or back and forth from its equilibrium position (stationary condition, if it is not vibrating).

One complete cycle is when from an equilibrium position, the object goes to maximum position and then to minimum position, and back to the equilibrium line.

Frequency is defined as the number of cycles a vibrating object can complete in one second.

The easiest way to visualise the frequency is how fast an object vibrates as seen in the animation, comparing a pipe vibrating at low frequency and at high frequency.

Animations of low and high frequency of a vibrating pipe.

To represent the vibration of the pipe, the instantaneous amplitude of the pipe can be expressed as

y(t)=A\sin(\omega t)

where \omega =2\pi f is the angular frequency (in rad/s) with  f the frequency in Hertz (Hz) and A is the peak amplitude.

You can interact with the graph below to get the feel of the equation.

Interactive graph demonstrating frequency and amplitude.

Come back to the concept of VARK, does the Read student understand the concept of the frequency just by reading the text, even without the animations? If let say all the students are Visual and Kinaesthetic, is it sufficient to only give them the animations and the interactive graph, without the text?

Will the Read and Visual student learn better with interactive graph? Or sufficient with only a static graph?  

The concept of VARK still brings controversy as it does not have a sound scientific back up. A student will learn effectively using the corresponding V,A,R,K element depending on the content of the subject, NOT because he/she has a preference learning style. 

If we teach Geography, the visual element in the content must be dominant. For music and linguistic subjects, auditory element must be emphasised, although it can be enhanced by the visual element as well. 

Know the learning outcome + digital content

Designing the learning outcome is to begin with the end in mind. What do we want the students to be able to achieve? This will determine the ‘digital activities’ in the learning platform and also the activities in the classroom. This in turn, will also determine the type of digital contents we want to use. Scaffold them properly to build up the cognitive skills of the student.

The above example shows the digital contents required for the students to understand and to apply the concept of vibrating frequency. The contents include:

  1. Explanatory text.
  2. Animation of piping vibration differentiating low and higher frequency.
  3. Interactive graph (online).
  4. We can also add small quiz (2-3 multiple answer questions) for the student to strengthen their understanding. But make sure the quiz can provide the feedback for the wrong or right answer.   

Scaffolding the lesson activities.

It is good to scribble your idea (sketch noting) of a lesson plan for better visualisation. The plan most often starts with an analysis, for example:

a) This concept of frequency has to be strongly grasped by students to easily understand the next topics, which are more about applications of vibration in engineering.


b) Why most students could not understand the concept of frequency? I need to give a visualisation (animation) about frequency so that it is not merely about mathematics.

Item (a) is the analysis usually for the first time you want to build your content. Item (b) is your reflection based on the previous results of students’ performance, or from the feedback you received from the students.

The following is my sketch note I did using Freeform app in my iPad.

Sketch noting the lesson plan.