We each have a unique combination of strengths and weaknesses in how our minds take in and use information (click here to learn more about these mental processes). Your particular collection of these strengths and weaknesses shapes how you learn, and is often referred to as your “learning profile.”
Trained educators and clinicians can help uncover the learning profiles of students by observing their schoolwork and how they act in different situations. But you can also begin to see what you “look like” as a learner by exploring the information and suggested resources on this website—and by using our Learner Sketch tool.
The Value of Understanding Your Learning Strengths and Challenges
Understanding your own learning strengths and challenges can help you be more successful. You can make the most of learning activities you’re particularly good at, and also find ways to draw on your strengths in challenging situations. Identifying your learning challenges can help you pinpoint why certain things are difficult for you and develop strategies for being successful despite those challenges.
For example, perhaps you have trouble reading long reports. Is it because you tend to forget what you read at the beginning by the time you get to the end (active working memory)? Or do you have a hard time staying focused on what you are reading (attention processing controls)? Or perhaps you find it difficult to understand words and sentences (receptive language)?
Once you understand what your challenges are, you can develop strategies for managing them. You might seek out activities that help you strengthen a particular area of learning (such as games that sharpen your active working memory). Or you might find ways to compensate (such as using an index card with a cut-out section to help you focus on a few words at a time when you read if you struggle with attention issues).
A Changing Portrait
Your learning profile is like your physical appearance. Just as aspects of your physical appearance change in different situations and over time (for example, with what you wear or how you style your hair), so too can your learning strengths and challenges. The subjects and ideas you feel most drawn to—your affinities—also influence what you look like as a learner. Your learning challenges may be less obvious when you are doing something that deeply interests you.
As with your appearance, some parts of your learning profile might be relatively set. But just as a shorter person learns to stand in the front row of a group photo, you can learn to manage your own learning and be an advocate for your own learning needs.
Your learning strengths and challenges might serve you well at some ages and under certain circumstances, but less well at others. School places particularly strong demands on certain learning processes. For example, almost all aspects of school require students to apply attention, memory and language in their learning. Many students struggle because of a mismatch between their strengths and these demands.
Adults have more choices. If you have a job or are following a profession, chances are you were drawn to that path by how well the demands of that job match your learning strengths.
Learn More:

  • Two books by Dr. Craig Pohlman provide additional insight into how understanding student learning profiles helps address classroom struggles: Revealing Minds: Assessing to Understand and Support Struggling Learners (Jossey-Bass, 2007) and How Can My Kid Succeed in School: What Parents and Teachers Can Do to Conquer Learning Problems (Jossey-Bass 2009).
  • David Sousa and Carol Ann Tomlinson’s book for educators, Differentiation and the Brain: How Neuroscience Supports the Learner-Friendly Classroom (Solution Tree 2010), offers another look at the concept of learning profiles and suggests strategies for varying instruction in the classroom.

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