by Oliver DeMille

Listening. Hearing. Learning.

canstockphotojapanesemotherWalter loves to listen. If you give him an assignment, he may or may not do it, but ask him about it a year later and he won’t remember much about it. But just let him listen to an interesting lecture on the topic—in person or on audio—and ten years later he can repeat the words of the lecture almost verbatim.

In fact, he’ll even copy many of the voice inflections and pauses of the original speaker.

But he’ll do even more than that. He’ll stop speaking in the middle of a point he’s making, and add in a story or example from his own life, then go back to the original dialogue. Talk to him ten years after a lecture, and he’ll add as many of his personal examples as the lecture itself. Repeat this process twenty years after the lecture and he’ll give twice as many personal examples—without losing any from the original message.

Over the years, whenever he learns something that pertains to the same topic, he’ll naturally add it to his memory—making it now part of the lecture on this subject. The longer he lives, the more he knows and can teach about this thing he heard many years ago.

Brilliance and Failed Tests

Or consider the experience of Meri, another Auditory learner, who loves to listen to audio recordings through the day and as she falls asleep at night. She listens on topics from history, science, math, leadership, literature, and a host of others. She listens to books on tape, lectures, radio interviews—anything she can get her ears on.

Ask Meri about pretty much any topic, and she’ll quickly scan her memory and start sharing facts, stories and ideas. Very often her voice will change slightly, as if she’s repeating something she heard from someone else. In fact, this is exactly what she is doing. And she’ll nearly always add her own twist to it. She learns by listening, and once she’s listened to something, her memory is incredible.

Sounds like great learning, right? Well, ironically, many Auditory learners are labeled “mediocre students” in the traditional schooling systems because they seldom test well. If they are asked to stand up in front of the class or teacher to be quizzed about their knowledge, everyone suddenly thinks they are true prodigies. They know so much about almost any topic that it’s downright amazing.

But when they are asked to take a written or multiple-choice exam, most Auditory learners don’t know how to translate what they learned (through listening) into their pen for the test.

They can talk about what they know for hours and hours, but they often give up before even finishing written tests; such exams just don’t make sense to them.

Which to Play

Learning Styles Matter-Mentors failureSome people might argue that such students should be taught better test-taking skills, but in truth the flaw is not in such bright and amazing students. It is a serious flaw in our modern educational model.

Anything that requires a child or youth to not only learn, but to learn in a specific, government-mandated way, or in any one way (whatever it is), simply doesn’t understand how human beings learn, develop, or excel.

Good parents, teachers and schools build the curriculum, tests, and system around the needs of the student, rather than requiring the student to conform to the mediocrity of a conveyor-belt style of education.

Parents who help their children by putting them into an environment where they can excel will see such children flourish at a much higher rate than those who stubbornly believe that one size should fit all.

Imagine a child with a great gift for the piano being required to only play other instruments in the band and held out of piano lessons for his twelve years of schooling in the name of “getting a good education” or “focusing on his weaknesses.” Ridiculous. Sillier still would be to take a great piano student and evaluate her virtuosity based on how she does in a test using the trombone.

There may certainly be a place for overcoming one’s weaknesses, or learning the skills necessary to do well on a written test. But in addition to such individual lessons, the system also needs to learn how to effectively encourage Auditory learners.


Auditory learners are some of the best, most studious, most knowledgeable students, yet they are often labeled mediocre simply because the schooling system prefers to reward Literary and Mathematical learners instead. Because teachers are often those who excelled as Literary or Mathematical learners themselves, this problem repeats itself generationally.

And many homeschoolers make this same mistake.

The solutions: Parents of Auditory learners in schools should step in and ensure that their children receive assignments and exams that truly reflect their knowledge and the excellence of their work—not merely their mastery of Literary or Mathematical values. Most importantly though, if you homeschool, and even if you don’t, help your Auditory learner get the audios she needs to truly excel.

How do you know if your child or youth is an Auditory learner? Simply pull out a variety of audios (most libraries have many to choose from) and offer them to whoever wants to listen. The Auditory learners will naturally use them.

Talk to your Auditory learners, a lot. Discuss things with them. And keep the audios coming. Above all, don’t see any learning style as a drawback. Every learning style comes with its own strengths and gifts, and the key to good parenting for Audio learners (and others) is to help each child truly excel—in his or her own best way.

Whatever that means for the individual child or youth, get excited about it, embrace it, and help out!

In fact, for Auditory learners, supplying them with adequate audio materials may solve a variety of other challenges as well – from mood and behavior to discipline, boredom or bad habits. Fill his or her audio queue with a variety of audio books and watch the transformation.

(For commentary on six major learning styles, see the article “Learning Styles Matter” by Oliver DeMille.)