How Using Your Learning Style Can Revitalise Your Bible Study

In the same way that we have different gifts, talents and personalities, each of us has a unique way that we best learn and study.

When I attended a course on how to train people in groups, I was taught to make allowance for individuals’ different learning styles. [1]

This is why I don’t just talk during my training sessions; I also incorporate visual aids and other media, give opportunities for practical application and encourage questions and discussion.

Schoolteachers are taught about learning styles and encouraged to incorporate them into their classroom environment.

What would happen if we began to apply these same principles to discipleship, Bible study and our devotional life?

Do You Know what Your Learning Style is?

You may relate to one of these 3 main learning styles:

1. Visual—you learn best by seeing—reading, diagrams, visual media and other visual aids.

2. Auditory—you learn best by hearing—lectures, audio media, discussions.

3. Kinesthetic—you learn best by doing—hands on, activities and an emphasis on practical application.

The Visual style can be broken into two further categories: Visual and Reading/Writing. [2]

At the end of this post I will give you a link to an online questionnaire to help you discover your primary learning styles.

How Using my Learning Style Renewed my Devotional Life.

I have shared recently how our devotional life—vitally connecting to God through prayer and studying the Bible—can suffer when we feel we have to do it out of duty, to please God or people. [3]

A few years ago, I became exhausted and my devotional life waned—especially Bible reading, study and journaling.

When I was picking up the pieces of my life, I reflected on where I had gone wrong.

One of the things I noticed was that I had been trying to conform to a set method of journaling for my personal Bible study.

The method I had been using did not come naturally to me.

My personal learning style is primarily visual. Being creative, I also need an unstructured way to record what I am learning from the Bible.

I put aside my A5 lined journal, purchased an A4 unlined notepad, and began to use diagrams and mind-maps to visualise what I was learning about a Bible passage or topic and to record what God was saying to me.

Life began to flow back into the time I spent with God’s Word!

Devotional Methods are Tools, not Rules.

It is vital that we understand that devotional methods, such as journaling styles, are not rules to be followed.

Instead, they are tools that we can choose to use—if they suit our unique wiring—that can help us connect to God and His Word.

There is a common misconception that one particular devotional or journaling method is better than others.

For example, some churches provide SOAP journals for all of their congregational members.[4]

SOAP is a simple and effective devotional tool that everyone can (and should) learn. However—let’s not stop there!

The limitation of SOAP journaling is that it assumes a Reading/Writing learning style. And this does not come naturally to many of us.

So let us teach, encourage, model and provide resources for Bible study that incorporate all learning styles.

And let’s validate the unique ways that people connect with God, rather than endangering their relationship with Him by leading them into performance.

Marlene Le Fever, who teaches about learning styles, tells the moving story of an old African-American man who approached her at the end of a session.
“Teacher!” he said. “Iffen somebody’d a tol’ me when I was a kid that God made my mind right, I’da’ done something for my Jesus.” [5]

Using a Questionnaire to Discover Your Personal Learning Style

You are created to uniquely connect with God and His Word, the Bible.

Do you know what your learning style is? Sometimes, we are aware of our primary learning style but can also benefit from using a questionnaire to help us confirm this or discover our secondary learning style.

I have included a link below to an online questionnaire that can help you discover your learning style. [6]

Following are the basic learning styles and some ideas of how to make the most of these in your Bible study and in journaling.

Ideas for Bible Study Using the 4 Main Learning Styles

VISUAL – You learn by seeing

  • Journal using diagrams and pictures. Try mind-mapping your Bible study
  • Make use of colour coding, indexing and highlighting in your journal
  • Bible teachers that use vivid (picture) story telling will suit you
  • Use your imagination when reading Bible stories (create an internal movie of the scene)
  • Parts of the Bible have been filmed using the NIV text—try Matthew or Acts on DVD. Ask at the Christian bookstores what is available
  • Illustrative Bible study tools and dictionaries
  • Locate good teaching DVDs

AUDITORY – You learn by hearing

  • Read portions of Scripture aloud to yourself
  • Process what you are learning in the Bible verbally—you can do this through praying about it, sharing with others or simply musing your thoughts aloud
  • Try a conversational journaling approach, where you talk with God about what you are learning and write what you ‘hear’ Him saying to you (e.g. prayer journaling)
  • Listen to the Bible on MP3 or CD—purchase or download free from the Internet
  • As above, but Bible teaching (Ensure that the teaching is sound and not slanted towards a particular doctrines or agenda)
  • iPod or MP3 player while walking, using public transport, doing housework, etc

READING / WRITING – You learn with words

  • Traditional forms of devotions may suit you
  • Try daily devotional booklets
  • Practice journaling (SOAP or similar)
  • Selective Bible reading (character studies, books, portions)
  • Sequential Bible reading (read the Bible in a Year – look-up or One Year Bible formats)
  • Bible teaching or study books
  • Use written study tools such as commentaries, dictionaries—in text form, software or online

KINESTHETIC – You learn by doing

  • Find a good devotional that includes Bible references and reading, and includes life application principles
  • Teaching and study tools that have practical life application will suit you.
  • Write ‘action points’ in your journal from your Bible studies or teaching that you receive. This will help translate what you learn into everyday life. Follow them through
  • Teaching with real-life case studies and stories will be helpful
  • Cross-reference devotional and instructional teaching in the Bible to historical Biblical accounts of actual characters. For example, a study on wisdom—who demonstrated wisdom in the Bible and what did they do?
  • When studying with others, discuss real life situations and case studies. Try role play.

If you have found this article or recommended resources helpful, I would love your feedback, as I am in the process of developing further studies and resources to aid people in this area. Do you know what your learning style is? Are the above lists helpful, or do you have other ideas?


Notes:

[1] Cert IV in Assessment & Workplace Training

[2] In 1987, a researcher called Neil Fleming split Visual, which originally included learning through reading, into two categories: Visual and Reading/Writing. Visual encompassed learning through diagrams and symbols, whereas Reading/Writing referred to the traditional, text-based style of learning. This distinction is helpful in examining fresh approaches to devotional study. Fleming, N.D. and Mills, C. (1992), Not Another Inventory, Rather a Catalyst for Reflection, To Improve the Academy, Vol. 11, 1992., page 137.

[3] See the following posts:

Does Your Devotional Life Need Resuscitating?

8 Signs Your Devotional Life May Be Caught In A Performance Trap

[4] I recommend the SOAP method of journaling personally. See the following post:

When Your Devotional Life Is Dry: How To Fall In Love With The Bible Again

[5] Le Fever, M. Learning Styles, Reaching Everyone God Gave You 2002.  Cook. p 11,

[6] Take the VARK learning styles questionnaire online at
http://www.vark-learn.com/

For more information on learning styles, see also

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning_styles


© Helen Calder 2011 Enliven Blog

11 thoughts on “How Using Your Learning Style Can Revitalise Your Bible Study

  1. Shane Bekker

    I recently dicovered that Darlene Chzech journals through writing songs. It encouraged me to find my own unique way of journalling.

    1. Helen Calder Post author

      So great to hear this, Shane. When I was researching on this topic, as well as the different learning styles, I also came across ‘multiple intelligence’ theory, which shows that everyone is gifted in their own unique intelligence. One of these is musical intelligence. My Mum has a Psalmist gift and has written songs from every book of the Bible–a wonderful means of reflection and journaling.

  2. Bibi Omoloju

    I get so excited when I discover new ways to improve my devotional time with God. I’m sharing this with all friends because I know this will help. Thanks so much for taking time to research and share. I’m truly blessed and enriched by your blogs. I’ll be sure to let you know what improvements I notice in the coming days and weeks. God bless you with so much more then you have room for in Jesus Name!!!!

    1. Helen Calder Post author

      Hi Bibi,
      I am thrilled to receive your comment on this post. Researching this and applying my learning style to my devotional life was a crucial turning point for me. I have benefited from it ever since. I would love to hear more from you about different things that you and others have found helpful as you try new, creative approaches to your Bible study. Be blessed! 🙂

  3. Betty

    I was looking for research about our learning styles and how this can affect us, and help us with our personal Bible Study and devotions, so was very glad to see your post.
    I have recently retired from education as a Special Education Teacher and a Consultant, where I worked with students who had learning disabilities. We tried to find their strengths and taught them how to use their strengths to help compensate for their “weaknesses”. I started to think about my own learning style and realized that my devotional time and Bible Study were not using my learning style to help me grow. When I teach, I try to reach all learning styles, but I wasn’t using it in my personal life. It has made a huge difference, and I believe we need to help others so that they are not trying to fit into methods that don’t take into account their learning style.
    Thank you for your insight in this area.

  4. Trina

    Helen,
    What a blessing to find this post. I have been using the SOAP journaling method for almost 10 years and am such a huge advocate for engaging with God through His Word. I am about to facilitate a class that will have as its foundation personal Soul Care through spending time in the Word. Because SOAP journaling has been so transformational in my life, I am very eager to share it, but I know that it doesn’t appeal to everyone because of different learning styles. I want to be able to offer specific examples for each learning style and I’ve been looking for something for quite awhile. Imagine my gratitude to find your post AND that you are familiar with SOAP. This is truly a Godsend.
    Thank you some much!
    Blessings

    1. Helen Calder Post author

      That’s wonderful, Trina!
      Thanks for leaving the note here, it’s so good to hear from someone who is like-hearted. I believe God has wired us all differently and that He delights in our unique ways of connecting with Him. It’s a truly a gift from Him to be able to help facilitate that for others.
      All the best for your class 🙂

  5. Sarah

    I find kinesthetic bible studying very hard.

    Although your ideas are good I feel there could be something better but I don’t have that answer.

    I also think that life application is where I find it easiest to understand so if I maybe converted what I am reading the bible into 2016 times I might be able to relate better…just a thought.

    1. Helen Calder Post author

      Hi Sarah, I would love to hear from you if you have any more thoughts to help others who are kinesthetic learners.
      There are devotionals online that do focus on life application. Let me know what you find

  6. Josie

    I really struggle with retention and processing of the written word. Bordering on a form of dyslexia. If you have any tips for top bible apps for audio-visual learners I’d be really interested to hear about them. Thanks

    1. Helen Calder Post author

      Hi Josie, thank you for leaving the note, we live in an extraordinary time when so many new types of learning platforms are available to us. I haven’t kept up with new Apps but if I come across anything will keep this page updated.
      I listen to a basic audio Bible App and the ‘repeat function’ is helpful to soak it in! YouTube can be a source of great bible teaching, but it’s being discerning about who you listen to that’s the key there.

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