Learning Styles

What helps me be a good learner?

This Trojan question engaged children and young people who may be struggling with aspects of schooling – to think about: What helps me to be a good learner?

71 young people responded to this question from 9 projects.

In pulling together the views of children and young people we use a number of pieces of text or art work which they have sent. To see more artworks and larger versions please go to the Groups Taking Part pages.

What the young people told us about how they like to learn

Via a questionnaire young people were offered a variety of preferred learning styles, in response to each statement they were asked to indicate whether this was true or false when it came to how they like to learn. Their responses, both collectively and through an examination of some of the individual responses, give us insight into what needs to be considered when planning and delivering both collective and individual learning experiences.

In terms of classroom management and pupil behaviour the questionnaires tell us that:

  • Nearly 4 in 5 young people like to work in groups, but about half of them also like to work on their own
  • Only 2 in 3 like to be on time at the start of a lesson
  • Only 3 in every 5 like to make sure they finish their work on time
  • 3 in every 4 young people like to be able to get up and walk about in a class
  • Just under half like it to be quiet in the classroom
  • 3 in every 4 like to have their say about what rules there are in the classroom

In terms of experiences that are about life beyond or after school:

  • 4 in 5 like to do work placements or go to college for some of their learning
  • 9 in 10 like classes that will hep them prepare for life after school

And nearly every young person who responded:

  • Likes to be able to talk with friends
  • Likes to take part in visits out of school

And in relation to their learning experience in the classroom we can see that:

  • 4 in 5 like a teacher to tell them what a lesson is about before its starts, and to tell them what work they are to do
  • 4 in 5 like to be in classes where they learn something new
  • 3 in 4 like having discussions in class
  • Only 2 in 5 like to read
  • Nearly all like to use computers


  • Only half the young people indicate they like to ask lots of questions
  • More than half do not like to write or to read
  • 1 in 4 indicate they do not ask for help when they need it
  • 2 in 5 do not like one to one help in the classroom
  • Nearly half the young people do not like it when a teacher speaks to them.

How I like to learn
Young people were given some suggestions about how they might like to learn. They were reminded that there are no right or wrong answers. They had to decide if the statements were True or False when it comes to how they like to learn. 71 questionnaires were returned, totals for questions do not always add up to 71 as some children did not answer a small number of questions.

The responses from the group, in full, are presented below:




1. I like to work in groups

56 (79%)

15 (21%)

2. I like classes where I learn something new

57 (80%)

14 (20%)

3. I like to be on time for the start of a lesson

47 (66%)

24 (34%)

4. I like to be able to get up and walk about in a class

57 (81%)

13 (19%)

5. I like to go to different classrooms for different subjects


10 (14%)

6. I like it when we do visits out of school

66 (94%)

4 (6%)

7. I like to leave the classroom if I am angry or upset

60 (85%)

11 (15%)

8. I like to be able to talk with friends

70 (99%)

1 (1%)

9. I like to have my say about what rules there should



be in the classroom

57 (80%)

14 (20%)

10. I like to do work placements or go to college for some of my learning

50 (82%)

11 (18%)

11. I like classes that will help me prepare for life after school

61 (87%)

9 (13%)




12. I like to ask lots of questions

36 (54%)

31 (46%)

13. I like doing experiments

56 (81%)

13 (19%)

14. I like solving problems

39 (58%)

28 (42%)

15. I like to work things out for myself

51 (76%)

16 (24%)

16. I ask for help when I need it

53 (77%)

16 (23%)

17. I like having discussions in classes

49 (73%)

18 (27%)

18. I like it when we go back over things to help me remember what I have learned

41 (61%)

26 (39%)




19. I like to write

31 (45%)

38 (55%)

20. I like to read

30 (43%)

40 (57%)

21. I am good at remembering things

41 (59%)

29 (41%)

22. I like to hear stories

47 (66%)

24 (34%)

23. I like to tell stories

27 (40%)

41 (60%)




24. I like drawing

53 (77%)

16 (33%)

25. I like designing things

56 (81%)

13 (19%)

26. I like to watch videos at school

61 (87%)

9 (13%)

27. I like doing puzzles

43 (63%)

25 (37%)

28. I like to use computers

63 (90%)

7 (10%)

29. I play an instrument

14 (21%)

54 (79%)

30. I like to listen to music

65 (93%)

5 (7%)

31. I like to sing

25 (36%)

44 (64%)




32. I like working on my own

36 (53%)

32 (47%)

33. I like it to be quiet in the classroom

30 (44%)

38 (56%)

34. I like working with worksheets

35 (60%)

23 (40%)

35. I like to make sure I finish my work on time

42 (62%)

26 (38%)




36. I like a teacher to tell me what a lesson is about before we start

54 (77%)

16 (23%)

37. I like the teacher to tell me what work I am to do

55 (79%)

15 (21%)

38. I like one to one help with my work in the classroom

40 (59%)

28 (41%)

39. I like it when visitors from outside agencies come to the class

44 (64%)

25 (36%)

40. I like it when teachers speak to me

37 (54%)

31 (46%)

From the returned questionnaires we can also identify some individual descriptions of how young people said they like to learn.

Here are some ‘pen pictures’ taken from individual responses to the questionnaire.

Names have been changed to assure confidentiality, but ages, gender and some background where it has been supplied are given. In the context of work to promote inclusion, positive behaviour and personalised learning the young people’s self reported preferred styles of learning help us to consider real scenarios and challenges.

girlSharon is 13 years old. As well as going to school she also attends an off site unit, she was referred there as a result of behavioural difficulties in school. When she is in school Sharon says that likes moving about the school for different subjects but she doesn’t worry about getting to classes on time.

She doesn’t like to work in groups, or to take part in class discussions, but prefers to work on her own. She doesn’t like it to be quiet though. She likes to be able to get up in the class and walk about, and wants to be able to leave the classroom if she is angry or upset. Sharon likes to have her say about what rules there should be in the classroom.

She likes to do work placements and go to college for some of her learning, but she doesn’t like classes in school that are about preparing her for life after school. Sharon likes to read and write, she also likes to draw and design things. She doesn’t like it when the teacher shows a video in class; she would prefer to use the computer herself. She likes to listen to music but doesn’t play an instrument.

In the classroom Sharon likes to work things out for herself, she doesn’t like to ask for help, nor does she like going over things that have been done in the class. She says she doesn’t like it when teachers speak to her although she will accept one to one help if necessary. She likes to be told what a lesson is about, and what she is expected to do at the start of the class.

boyJoe is 9 years old and he is involved in an early special support project for families whose children (aged 8-11 years) are, or are at risk of, developing anti-social or offending behaviour with the aim of reducing identified risk factors and enhancing protective factors.

Joe likes to work in groups and learn new things. He can also work on his own. He likes to be able to talk with friends while he works, but he can also work on his own. He is on time for class, and likes to finish work he is given. He sometimes needs to leave the classroom if he is angry or upset. He doesn’t like to have his say about rules in the class, but he does generally like to have class discussions.

Joe doesn’t like to ask questions, or ask for help, he likes to work things out for himself. He likes to write but doesn’t like reading. He’s good at remembering things and likes to hear and tell stories. He also likes drawing and designing things, and using the computer. Joe doesn’t play an instrument but he does like listening to music and singing.

At the start of the class he likes the teacher to explain to the class what they are doing, but he doesn’t like to be told individually what he is to do. He doesn’t like one to one help but likes speaking to teachers in general.

boy2Stephen is in S4 and now attends a special school. He says he learns best when he has a choice about what subjects he is doing, and when he does them. In general he likes to work in groups, and likes to learn new things. But he isn’t bothered about getting to classes on time.

In the class he likes to be able to get up and walk about and be able to talk to friends. He likes to have his say about rules in the classroom. He asks lots of questions, and likes solving problems and having discussions in class.

He asks for help if he needs it. But he doesn’t like going back over things the class has done. He likes parts of the day which are about preparing for life after school. He enjoys work placements and going to college. Whilst he likes to read, he doesn’t like to write. He likes to hear stories and he’s good at remembering things. He also likes to draw and design things but he doesn’t like to use the computer.

He doesn’t like to work on his own but he does like it to be quiet in the classroom. He likes work sheets and tries to finish his work on time. While he doesn’t like the teacher to tell him what a whole lesson is about he does like to know what work he is expected to do. He likes one to one help, and likes it when teachers speak to him.

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What the young people told us about what they enjoy learning

Young people used two different props to help communicate what they liked to learn and why.

The first prop was used to create  ‘ideal school timetables'. The timetables gave a picture of what an ideal week at school might look like. Most of those who completed the timetables used traditional subjects, currently part of their curriculum. A total of 46 timetables were submitted.

The second prop was a ‘barometer’ on which young people could indicate what subjects were top, and what were not. A total of 55 barometers were submitted.

Here is a flavour of the subjects discussed:

English was one of the most suggested subjects on timetables because reading was seen as critical to life and a way of broadening your mind. Most felt it helped you to get a good job. Reading and writing help you to understand a lot more and to hear other people’s opinions and one young person singled out story writing as being great for keeping their imagination going.

Only 36% of young people who listed English in their barometers of top and least liked subjects said it was in their top five, while 64% rated it in their bottom five giving reasons including too much writing and not liking reading.

Maths was also frequently mentioned on the ideal timetable and again seen as very important in helping you to get a good job. Most of the young people identified that Maths is a key life skill as we need to understand figures so “we don’t get ripped off” and that we can learn to budget. Another young person said it was important to be able to count dinner money.

Where Maths appeared on their barometers 34% rated the subject in their top five with one young person pointing out that “It’s a challenge and I like challenges”, while 66% rated it in their bottom five, making it the least favourite subject. The main reasons given for this were that it is seen as “too much like work” and “boring”.

ICT/Computer skills
Computing skills were seen by most as very important today as computers are “more and more popular”. The main use of computers was given as staying in touch with friends (by email) and most liked the opportunity to use them in school. In their barometers of top and bottom subjects 14% of young people rated computing in their top five subjects with only 6% relegating it to the bottom five.

30 % of young people rated science (including chemistry and biology) in their top five mentioning the fun of doing experiments, while 24% said they didn’t like doing experiments and put science (physics, biology and chemistry) in their bottom five.

PE in various forms was a big feature of most young people’s ideal timetables, largely because it keeps you fit and active. Other benefits highlighted included:

  • Gets you motivated and ready for the rest of the day
  • You learn about the body and how to keep fit
  • It helps develop teamwork

Specific sports like tennis and skating were referred to, but football was mentioned on most of the timetables; obvious benefits such as hand/eye/foot co-ordination, getting fit and exercise making you happy were mentioned, as were the social aspects of football.

Where PE made it on to young people’s top and bottom five subjects 64% of young people rate PE in their top five saying they like doing sports while 36% put it in their bottom five, saying it was boring or they got enough exercise.

Outdoor Education
Some groups of young people mentioned outdoor education as part of their curriculum and the enjoyment and enthusiasm came through in their descriptions of the benefits; fun, good exercise, adrenalin, feeling over the moon, team work and trying new things were all highlighted. No young people rated outdoor education on their barometers.

Home Economics/ Hospitality
Learning to cook a good meal was seen by many young people as a very important life skill: “People need tae eat!” was how one girl put it. Another described not wanting to poison anybody while others felt that it prepared you for later in life when you had your own house. On the barometers 18% rated home economics in their top five while 8% put it in their least favourite subjects.

CTD was described as very practical and great for learning to work with tools and wood. All those who mentioned it described it as a useful life skill particularly related to getting a job or being able to make or repair things when you had your own house. Where it was rated as top or bottom five 28% of young people located it in their top five subjects and 10% as one of their least favourite.

PSE appeared in the barometers of top and bottom subjects. 26% of those who mentioned PSE rated it in their bottom five with the main reason being given as too much group work. 8% of young people responding rated it in their top five.

One small group of respondents included childcare in their ideal timetable with a variety of reasons as to why this was an important area to learn about:
It helps you to realise what its like to be a Mum
You learn how to work with children
It is the beginning of a career as a nursery nurse

Religious Education
In referring to RE the importance of finding yourself and learning to respect others beliefs was mentioned. Young people also highlighted the importance of specific religious education as it related to their faith and understanding of their backgrounds. Religious education was generally viewed as not having too much hard work involved. For those who rated it, 32% included it in their top five with 16% relegating it to their least enjoyed subjects.

A number of respondents mentioned liking to listen to music with others describing music sessions as a time for chilling out and relaxing as well as broadening the mind. Music was only mentioned by 6% in their top five, usually related to playing musical instruments with 8% describing it as one of their least like subjects because it was boring.

Art was seen as a way of expressing yourself, particularly through drawing. One girl described how she likes art because it allows her to be creative and calm down. Art was one of the most mentioned favourites after PE, with 52% rating it in their top five and only 16% putting it at the bottom of their list.

Primary School Priorities
A number of primary children completed timetables and they came up with the following subjects they liked, with some reasons why also given:

  • Maths – to get a job
  • Talking – leads into reading when you get older
  • Friendship groups
  • God and Jesus
  • Children in Need - learning about poorer children
  • The moon and space etc
  • Gym, football, riding

Other things young people said they would like to learn about
A number of other topics were suggested for inclusion in the timetable/curriculum. These included:
Stop smoking: It can kill me and I don’t want to die early
Cars and bikes: So you can fix them when they are broken
Political debates: Express your opinion, listen to other people’s view and get your point across
Sex education: So you don’t get your girlfriend pregnant.
One to one time: When you can tell them if something is wrong and they can keep it to themselves.
Other influences on what young people like and don’t like
 When it came to rating subjects that were either top or bottom of young people’s lists, there were a number of common features other than subject itself which were identified.
Those who rated topics highly also mentioned:

  • They liked the people in the class and the teacher
  • Practical subjects were fun
  • The teacher was fun
  • They liked the subject
  • They were good at it
  • When subjects were rated at the bottom of the list:
  • They didn’t like the teacher
  • Didn’t like the subject
  • They weren’t good at the subject
  • It wasn’t fu

The following graph represents the subjects mentioned in young people’s barometers of top and least liked subjects; the blue line reflects positive/top 5 status, the red line negative/bottom 5 status.

A large number of responses came from young people engaged in XL programmes in 2 locations; clearly young people rate these programmes as a positive part of their school timetable.

Top subjects and bottom subjects


And finally the Crannog Central project received a small grant from the Trojan Project to employ a Potter to work with their young people in producing a series of clay figures in response to this question.

Some of the subjects highlighted were:

  • Doing things that you like doing in a comfortable environmen
  • Having food to eat and having a good nights sleep before school as in the bed opposite
  • Energetic things and doing things where you move about
  • Using your brains
  • Feeling relaxed as in the figures opposite
  • Learning about real things – the experience of learning to look sfter a baby on the’real care baby programme’
  • Doing things that interest you
  • Teamwork – represented by the cup opposite which was made by 3 people who each made different parts
  • A safe house, safe haven and the importance of family

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Curriculum for Excellence

The Scottish Government wants all young people to be successful learners. There is currently a review of the school curriculum called ‘Curriculum for Excellence’. It aims to help schools and authorities create a curriculum which is flexible and can be adapted to the needs and aspirations of all children and young people. (If you are interested there is more about the Curriculum for Excellence at:


Being a successful learner means having enthusiasm and motivation for learning, determination to reach high standards and openness to new thinking and ideas. A successful learner is able to use literacy, communication and numeracy skills; use technology for learning; think creatively and independently; learn independently and as part of a group; make reasoned evaluations; link and apply different kinds of learning in new situations.

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