The VAK learning style theory refers to 3 learning styles; visual, auditory and Kinaesthetic.

Visual learners: Visual learners will learn by watching therefore will rely on coaches providing good demonstrations of skills. Ideally the coach will be deliver the multiple demonstrations at normal pace and silently (ie no verbal explanation during the demo) to allow them to observe the skill clearly.

Audio Learners: Learn by hearing how to do things and therefore need to hear good quality explanations

Kinaesthetic Learners: These learners need to feel how the movements work and will need lots of time to practice.

VAK Combinations

It is important to understand that according to the VAK model, learners are not exclusively one type of learner, but exhibit a preference or leaning towards one or more of the styles. If you see the 3 styles within the VAK model as the 3 points of a triangle, different learners could be plotted at different positions within the triangle based on their learning style preference. For example, consider the 3 students plotted on the diagram below.

VAK Learning Styles Model

VAK Learning Styles Model

Student 1: Shows no strong preference for any of the three learning styles.
Student 2: Shows an equal preference for the audio and kinaesthetic learning styles.
Student 3: Shows a preference for a visual learning style.

Applying VAK To Paddlesports Coaching

In a ideal world, a coach will plan for the range of learners/learning styles and try to cater for them within their day to day practice. Paddlesport coaches are used to the concept of IDEAS (Introduce, demonstrate, explain, activity, summary) when introducing a new skill. This framework can be used to cater for the different learning styles at a basic level.

Introduce: Verbal – Audio
Demonstrate: Silent – Visual
Explain: Verbal and Demonstration – Audio & Visual
Activity: Student work on tasks set – kinaesthetic, coach 1:1 – audio, visual, kinaesthetic
Summary: Verbal – Audio

Determining Learning Styles

At a basic level a lot can be picked up by listening to the types of questions your students ask or observing their behaviour. For example:

Audio: ‘Can you explain that again?’
Visual: ‘Can you show me that again?’
Kinaesthtic: ‘Can I try that again?’


Whilst there are endless tests and questionnaires online designed to determine someones preferred learning style, the quality and usefulness of these is often very dubious. A coaches time is arguably better spent simply ensuring they cover all learning 3 of the VAK styles within their sessions and equally important ensure their delivery is not biased towards one particular learning style.

Useful Links

Understanding VAK Language – a nice article by Level 5 coach Kim Bull.