Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
I overheard a conversation recently bashing the use of learning styles. As a refresher, the three traditional learning styles are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.
- Visual learning involves graphs, charts, pictures, and video.
- Auditory learning includes discussions, podcasts, and also video.
- Kinesthetic learning involves role plays and hands on practice.
Honestly, I don’t see anything wrong with the concept of learning styles. BUT like a lot of models, if the information isn’t being used in a productive way, then it can make it lose its value and become the target of negative conversation. Here are a few things to consider when it comes to learning styles.
Understand the learning styles you prefer. Each of us has preferences toward learning. Some people like books. Others might want to watch a video or attend a class. All those learning activities are perfectly acceptable. It’s important to understand the types of learning that you gravitate toward.
Recognize the circumstances you prefer a learning style. I would guess that most of us like to learn different topics in different ways. For example, I might like to learn about a theory by reading a book. But I would like to learn how to make gnocchi in a hands-on class.
Use all the styles. As you’re thinking about your learning plans, make sure you consider all the styles. In fact, as you’re putting together your goals, ask yourself “What’s the best way to learn this topic?” instead of “How do I want to learn this topic?”. Maybe there’s perfect alignment with your preferences and the best way to learn the topic. But also, be prepared for the best way to learn something not to be in your preferred style. If we use the example above, I might love learning via books, but that’s not the best way to learn how to make gnocchi. If I want to learn how to make gnocchi, maybe I need to attend a hands-on class. Not my preference, but it’s the best way to learn.
Look for opportunities to venture out of your comfort zone. Some topics can be learned a variety of different ways. Let’s say you’ve been attending a few in-person training sessions lately. Does it make some sense to try a virtual program to encourage a different type of learning experience? Sometimes pushing ourselves to learn something new in a different style heightens our focus and enhances the experience.
Consider a personal debrief to understand more about self-learning. As you’re learning, remember to think about your own self-awareness. Ask yourself, “What went well with this learning experience? What did I find valuable?”. Also ask, “Is there anything I’d do differently next time to get a better learning experience?”.
The value in learning styles isn’t to understand our preferences and always use them. The value in learning styles is to understand our preferences and not always use them. Because that’s how learning happens.
The same applies when designing training. The goal isn’t to design programs that are filled with activities that the instructional designer loves. It’s to offer all the styles and align activities with the topic.
This has always been a time of year for me where I’m thinking about goals. The organizations I worked in were coming up with strategies for the next year. We were planning department goals as well as individual goals. It’s a great time to think about what you want to learn … and the best way to learn it.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while at the Wynwood Art District in Miami, FL54