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How Learning Styles Affects Learners

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As a trainer, you already know that different people learn differently. This can make developing and presenting material difficult. However, by incorporating earning styles into your activities, you can better accommodate your learner’s differences. 

Learning Styles and How You Take in Information

Your senses take in information from the outside world. Your nervous system transports this information and sends it to your brain. Your brain then decodes this information so you can make sense of it.

For example, you pick up a lemon and smell it. Your eyes pick up the visual signals so your brain can compare the lemon you have in your hand with its database of what a lemon should look like. Your hand sends the signal of how the lemon in your hand feels in comparison to your feel database. Your nose picks up the signals for the lemon’s smell and compares them to your database of smells. If you take a bite, your mouth will send the taste signal it’s getting to compare with your database for tastes. From these diverse signals, your brain identifies what you are holding as an “authentic” lemon. 

The Three Learning Styles – Plus One

Just as different people rely more heavily on one sense than another to determine if a lemon is really a lemon, different people often rely on different learning styles to take in the information you teach. This leads us to learning styles.

There are three distinct learning styles or modalities, plus one.

The first learning style is visual, learning through looking, seeing, viewing, and watching.

The second learning style is auditory, learning through listening, hearing, and speaking.

The third and final way to learn is the kinesthetically, learning through experiencing, moving, and doing.

The plus one is Multimodal where a learner prefers a combination of two or more learning styles. Many learners fall into this category, depending on the learning situation.

Let’s take a quick look at each of the learning styles.

Visual Learning

Visual learners are the most common learning styles. Visual learners prefer to take in information through their eyes. They glean the most from a lecture by seeing an instructor’s facial expressions and body language. To avoid visual distractions, visual learners like to sit in the front of the class. 

Visual learners think in pictures. They learn best from visual descriptions and displays. They take detailed notes during lectures and discussions. 

If you were to explain a movie to a person who has a visual learning style, you would tell them how the actors looked. You could provide them details about the scenery.     

Visual learners use words such as: look, picture, focus, seeing, visualize, reflect, focus, illustrate, see, show, watch, reveal, hazy, shine. If you hear these a learner primarily using these words, there is a good chance they are a visual learner. 

Auditory Learning

Of all the learning styles, auditory learners seem best suited for traditional classroom learning. This is because they learn best when they hear people talking. They like lectures, discussions, audiobooks and brainstorming. To interpret underlying meaning, they listen for voice tone, pitch, and speed and other speech nuances.

These learners prefer hearing information before reading it. They learn best reading aloud and listening to sound recordings.

When describing a movie to an auditory learner you would tell them about how an actor’s voice sounded. You might tell them how loud the explosions seemed.

Auditory learners use words such as say, listen, tell, ask, loud, clear, remark, vocal, discuss, deaf, accent, audible, clear, vocal, quiet. When a learner primarily uses these words, there is a good chance they are an auditory learner. 

Kinesthetic Learning

The best way to describe kinesthetic learners are that they are hands-on learners. They learn best when they are actively involved. They like to touch, smell and taste things to get a better ‘feel” for them.

Of all the learning styles, the kinesthetic learning style can be the most difficult to accommodate in a traditional learning environment.  This is because kinesthetic learners enjoy exploring their environment. As a result of their need for activity and exploration, kinesthetic learners often become distracted. They also have difficulty sitting still for a long time.  To mitigate this, have them move around from time to time and give them things they can do with their hands.

To describe a movie to a kinesthetic learner, you might tell them how a scene made you afraid. You could explain how the explosions shook the room.

Kinesthetic learners use words such as touch, cold, pressure, heavy, rough, warm, solid, pressure, push, gentle, hold, solid, concrete, smooth, or tackle.

Using Learning Styles

By understanding the different learning styles, you can develop better methods to communicate and engage with your learners. You will find that by mixing the learning styles into your activities, your learners will pay more attention and learn the knowledge, skills and behaviors you are teaching them. 

Take a few minutes a day to pay attention to your learners learning styles and then try applying them during the course of the day. Within a short while, you’ll be incorporating learning styles into your activities automatically. This will allow you to get the results all trainers want, increased engagement and better learning.