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A Career Guide for the Kinesthetic (Hands-On) Learner

UTI Profile Image Universal Technical Institute Jul 17, 2018 ·
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Do you regularly crack your knuckles? Can you have a detailed conversation while performing a physical task like playing catch? Do your feet or hands tap a constant rhythm when you’re focused? Do you think most clearly when you’re exercising?

If any of these describes you, there’s a good chance you’re a kinesthetic, or hands-on, learner. Keep reading to learn all about this learning style and how you can use it to your advantage in your career.

What Are the 4 Learning Styles?

Before we dive into kinesthetic learning, let’s break down the four different learning styles:

  • Visual: This type of learner processes information best when it’s presented in a visual way, whether it be a graphic, chart, diagram or photograph.
  • Auditory: These learners are most successful when they can hear information. For example, they may prefer to just listen in class instead of taking notes.
  • Reading / writing: This learning style involves using reading and writing to retain information. This may be through the form of note-taking, reviewing handouts and PowerPoint slides, or researching online.
  • Kinesthetic: Last but not least, kinesthetic learners need to take a physically active role in the learning process. These learners thrive when they are able to touch and engage with the information they’re learning. For example, they may find hands-on labs more effective than sitting in a traditional classroom.

What Type of Learner Are You?

So how do you know what learning style you are? After reading through the different styles, think about the one that best describes you. It is possible to have more than one learning style, but you most likely have stronger tendencies toward one.

There are a variety of different assessments available online that can help identify your learning style, such as the VARK Questionnaire. This assessment will walk you through a series of questions to help identify your tendencies and which category best suits you.

What Is the Hands-On Learning Style Called?

When people refer to the hands-on learning style, they are referring to kinesthetic learning.

Kinesthetic learners are quite complex, and they make up just 5% of the population! This means they are quite rare — and they have a special set of skills that can be a valuable asset in the workforce.

What Is a Kinesthetic Learner?

Being a kinesthetic learner means you learn best by doing. You’re hands-on, and you don’t mind getting dirty.

You probably get fidgety sitting in class lectures. The things your teachers say and show you probably don’t sink in at first, but you’re intently focused when they assign you something to draw, build or create.

Does This Sound Like You?

Kinesthetic learners are often successful in classes where they can explore the subjects with their physical senses, such as:

  • Shop: wood, auto and metal
  • Art: painting, music and sculpting
  • Science: physics and chemistry

This doesn’t mean kinesthetic learners are limited in what they can learn, only that some subjects may come more naturally.

Student is a kinesthetic learner hands-on

Characteristics of Kinesthetic Learners

Here are a few signs you might be a kinesthetic learner:

  • You’re always on the move — you don’t like to sit still.
  • You find yourself touching objects, such as when you’re at the store.
  • You problem-solve by doing.
  • You prefer to do things rather than just read about them.
  • You talk with your hands.
  • You connect with real-life examples when concepts are explained.

How Do Kinesthetic Learners Learn Best?

Kinesthetic learners have a highly developed tactile system. That means they have a strong connection between their brain and the sensory information they receive from their tendons and muscles.

Their brains absorb information from the things they touch and the movements they make in a heightened way. It’s why hands-on projects are so effective for this type of learning style.

Kinesthetic learners might be described as having great muscle memory, which is a type of long-term memory that is developed through repetitive physical activity. Muscle memory often applies to sports, but may also be developed through doing things like building, crafts or writing.

What Are Examples of Kinesthetic Learning? Kinesthetic Learning Strategies

If you’re a kinesthetic learner, it can be helpful to map out specific learning strategies to incorporate into your routine. Whether you’re studying for an exam in school or are practicing for an upcoming presentation at work, the following activities can help ensure you absorb the information:

  • Practice by repeating motions.
  • Walk while studying.
  • Take periodic breaks to stretch.
  • Write concepts on a whiteboard.
  • Study for short time periods and go for a walk or stretch in between.
  • Use hands-on activities with things that can be touched.
  • Make flashcards.

The Strengths of Kinesthetic Learners & Their Challenges

Kinesthetic learners thrive in the right learning environment. They typically excel in art, science and shop classes where the concepts are learned hands-on. 

In the wrong learning environment, kinesthetic learners may be misunderstood as not being good students. Just because someone learns best through physical activity doesn’t mean he or she can’t develop other skills for learning as well.

What Hands-On Learners Do Well:

  • Quick to learn concepts that involve touch or movement
  • Gifted at using tools, ranging from wrenches to paint brushes to lab equipment
  • Highly curious and eager to explore their environment

What Hands-On Learners May Struggle With:

  • Slower to grasp concepts when they’re explained visually or audibly
  • Find it difficult to listen and comprehend without interaction
  • Restlessness

Welder putting two pieces of metal together

Kinesthetic vs. Tactile Learners

The term “kinesthetic learning” is often used interchangeably with “tactile learning.” There is a lot of debate on this topic, as some believe the two are the same, while others believe there are key differences.

In general, kinesthetic learning has to do with moving the body — such as by jumping, walking and running. Tactile learning refers specifically to the feeling of touching something, such as building an engine in the lab. Both involve actively doing something while learning.

The Best Careers for Kinesthetic Learners: What Are Good Hands-On Careers?

Identifying whether you’re a kinesthetic learner can help you throughout your life. When deciding on a field of study or a career, you can quickly identify paths where your style of learning may be an advantage and have the awareness of where you may have some challenges.

Careers in the skilled trades are often ideal for kinesthetic learners. They tend to be hands-on, appeal to the naturally curious, and keep the brain and body active.

Good career paths for kinesthetic learners can include:

Does this sound like you? If you learn best when you’re hands-on, you may want to check out Universal Technical Institute’s programs. Most of these programs can be completed in less than a year!

Check out this day-in-the-life video to get an idea of what it’s like to be a student at UTI:


Related Questions


What Are the Highest Paying Hands-On Jobs?

There are a variety of hands-on jobs with great income potential, and many of these require little schooling, which means you can enter the workforce sooner.

When it comes to salary, it’s important to keep in mind that wages can vary depending on the employer, industry and skill level, and experience of the employee. For accurate, up-to-date salary information, we suggest referring to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Below are median annual salaries for jobs in the transportation industry in May 2019, according to the BLS:

What Are Some Tools for Kinesthetic Learners?

There are a variety of tools kinesthetic learners can use to maximize their learning style. Some of these include using flashcards to study material, drawing things out (such as diagrams or charts), incorporating movements to remember concepts, or doing role play with others to walk through information.

When sitting down to study material, it’s important for kinesthetic learners to incorporate breaks, even if they are just for a few minutes. The act of walking or stretching will allow you to return to the task with full focus.

How Do Kinesthetic Learners Learn Best?

Kinesthetic learners process information best through touch and movement. They prefer to take an active role in the learning process, versus sitting back and listening to information being presented in a lecture hall. Being able to interact with the material, like in a hands-on lab, is often the most effective way for them to learn.

Get Trained for a Hands-On Career

Are you a hands-on learner looking for an exciting career? UTI trains technicians for careers in a variety of industries, including:

Let us show you jobs in demand and how you can get trained in less than a year.7 To learn more, request information to get in touch with an Admissions Representative today.

Updated on February 17, 2021

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By submitting this form, I further understand and agree that all information provided is subject to UTI’s Privacy Policy available at uti.edu/privacy-policy

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