So, What About the Auditory Learners?

My family thinks I’m insane.  I can open a streaming movie on Netflix, get it going, then minimize the movie, then insist they all be quiet so I can”watch” my movie in peace.  My principal thinks I’m not paying attention at staff meetings because I’m the one sitting in the back of the room, grading papers and/or leafing quietly through my Flipboard while she explains for the 7,000th time what needs to happen to improve grades.  Then I ask a crucial question that no one seems to notice wasn’t answered. “Oh, you WERE paying attention!” (duh)

I’m an auditory learner.  I hear every single word being said; I just don’t have to see what’s going on.  Being so in tune to my world drives my students crazy as they can never figure out how I know what they’re talking about or doing when I’m way across the room while they’re planning their newest attempt at mutiny.  I tell them I have great hearing… I can hear ants fart during a riot.  I can, seriously.

Ok, so that was kinda gross, but it gets me thinking about all the other people out there, the learners, who also seem to be slightly more aware of the world around them and how they fit into this new digitally literate world.  If you’d rather hear the lesson than watch it, does anyone care? If you focus better with music playing in the background, why does everyone else think its a distraction?

I have yet to “watch” an ETMOOC webinar. (sorry guys)  I log in, say hello, put my headphones on to block out the noise around me, then minimize the window and just listen; usually while writing lesson plans.  What is being said is a billion times more important to me than the pictures, comments, power points, etc.  I want to HEAR and understand. I can easily visualize, in my mind, what I need to “see”.

How do we bring learning to the student who will happily remind you that you SAID one thing on Monday, and then something completely different on Tuesday; “which one do you want us to do, Mrs. Stone?”  What DO I want them to do?

I have introduced a couple of my auditory learners to  SoundCloud.  They both have smartphones and simply downloaded the app.  They get permission to record my lecture, or if we’re working on a project and they’re with their team, they simply pull out the phone, go to the app, and record the entire conversation.  They can play it back as many times as they want, making sure they “got it”.

I use SoundCloud to record meetings I attend.  Its easier for me than taking notes, and if I’m leading the meeting, I now have a record of what I said (and am able to correct myself if I said something completely insane.)  I send the recording to all the participants, there’s no complaint about what was or wasn’t said, and I listen to it 2 or 3 times and basically commit my own thoughts to memory.

Auditory learners work well at the computer with the ear buds on or are the ones shushing the room as an audio book is playing.  We learn very differently from others.  I’ve been trying to find research on how to use educational technology effectively for listeners.  I am afraid there’s very little out there.  (prove me wrong, please.)

How do we teach the listener, the one that tells everyone to be quiet so they can hear?  How to we  differentiate our lessons and add auditory to the list of multiple intelligences our students have?

7 Replies to “So, What About the Auditory Learners?”

  1. I’m not good with listening to words, but I can make sense of the smallest sounds. I can sometimes tell the way a person is feeling just by their foot step. It’s true people literally have a lighter step when they are happy.


  2. What an interesting question. Certainly, you’re unusual in having such a strong preference for auditory learning. It seems like most students these days do prefer the visual routes to learning that you’ve described. It would be fascinating to do a study to see what percentage of our learners have this preference. So often we have to teach them how to listen and pick out meaning.

    In terms of differentiation, I think one thing that can work is remembering to adapt our talk for different students, introducing more complex vocabulary where a student is ready. So, for those like you with a preference for auditory learning we could build learning through using more complex language within discussions. Also, lots of use of auditory input on stereos/MP3 players. I’ve also used sound effects within the classroom alongside texts which can work very well.


    1. the really sad thing is, from an ed tech pov… being auditory is a negative. unless you’re sitting at a desktop, most frown on children working at their desks with earphones on.


  3. I am that learner…never took notes in college unless I was so bored I had to do something to get through the lecture (can’t draw so doodling was out). Hardest part of teaching…to realize only a few of my students were like me and that I had to make things visual for most. I have students echo back the most salient points to help out those few auditory learners. I encourage them to talk to themselves when trying to remember and when trying to solve a problem. I offer earphones to them when other noises are too distracting (background).


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