Learning Styles – Include ‘em all!

August 19, 2022
Dave O'Connell
Sometimes when training is over and you realize you didn’t get very much out of it, you’ll overhear comments from your fellow trainees (and yourself!), “I wish the trainer had spoken slower, I really couldn’t keep up at the speed they were going”, or “the training was ok, but I wish there were some leave-behinds so I could replicate what I learned”, or “I wish we had done some reinforcing exercises, or the training had been more interactive”. Comments like these, are usually a clear indication that the trainer did not take into consideration that not everyone learns the same way. There are MANY learning styles out there – Google it –and most of them have some degree of validity to them; all of us learn in different ways…and most of us learn across multiple styles.

For the sake of this post’s length though, let’s narrow them down and offer some brief descriptions to three main methods: Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic.

Visual – SEE the material to learn it. Visual learners are usually organized, like agendas, study guides, and can easily follow written/typed directions.

Auditory – HEAR the material. Auditory learners like lectures, they can sense meaning from a speaker’s intonation, they like working in groups, working with partners, recording class notes and replaying them.

Kinesthetic – TOUCH and to be physically involved. Kinesthetic learners want to participate in exercises, try out the software, like to keep moving, follow along, try it themselves.

That’s the baseline, now here’s the kicker – almost all of us like some combo of all three…and not even at different times… most of us want a smorgasbord of all of them! Sometimes, using myself as an example, I like to sit back and watch the software on the screen - Visual. Then I like to ask questions of the presenter - Auditory. And finally, I really enjoy – once I understand the basics, getting my hands on it and trying it – Kinesthetic. Sound familiar?! Yep, that’s most of us. And yes, some like to read more, some like to hear more, and some like to kick the tires more.

So how do you get all styles in a class? Well, as an experienced educator, you combine them, every day, in every lesson. You present the material. You ask, and sometimes pull out of your audience kicking and screaming, some questions and get a dialogue going (Yes, 10x more difficult in a virtual training world!), and let your audience try it…or have them follow along interactively. In other words, treat your audience as you would want to be treated…I mean, if you were buying a car, you’d want to hear about it, you’d want to see it, and you’d definitely want to test drive it!

And although this seems to be an obvious question: should it be recorded? Absolutely! But those recordings should be broken into bite sized chunks and topically labeled – THAT makes them digestible. And Agendas and Quick Reference Guides and/or SOWs are a must, as well. This level of preparation and attention to detail – recordings and reinforcing docs – creates the needed repetition of the many learning styles. Let’s face it, a good training session should inspire and create foundation, but great training is created NOT only for the “classroom” experience, but for AFTER. As in, AFTER the trainer leaves.

So, do you want to come to the end of a training session where you didn’t learn or don’t remember what you needed to do your job? No, of course not. You want training that is effective, accommodates different learning styles, and leaves behind tangible, repeatable lessons that can be used immediately and often. Now that’s learning, not just one-off training!
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