Good day, team.
Over the past few months, I’ve been participating in a number of different coaching training and certification processes. My experience in these classes has reminded me how important it is to understand how we learn best — and this is the subject of this week’s challenge.
Research has uncovered three major types of learning styles. Auditory learners enjoy learning through hearing. They would rather listen to a subject being explained than read about it. Reciting information out loud and having music in the background while studying or reading is common for these learners.
Visual learners prefer to see examples of what they are learning. They learn best by looking at graphics, watching a demonstration or reading. For these people, it’s easy to look at graphs and charts, but they may have difficulty concentrating while listening to an explanation.
Kinesthetic learners learn by touch. These people enjoy hands-on experiences. Doing an activity can be the easiest way for them to learn. Sitting still while studying can be difficult, but writing things down makes it easier to understand.
It’s certainly possible for a person to learn through all of these methods, but many find that one is preferable. For example, I can’t concentrate when there’s a lot of background noise. I find it difficult to listen to music, for example, while reading a book. On the other hand, if someone is teaching me something and explaining it to me while giving me a visual representation of the subject, I learn far more easily.
Last week, while sitting in a training class, I noticed that the gentlemen sitting next to me was a very different learner than I am. The trainer presented the information in a number of different ways. First, she explained what she was trying to teach us. Then she gave each table of five participants an opportunity to do some activity that taught us the material. After that, we shared our experiences, and the teacher finished by walking us through the written material in our manual.
I definitely learned more by participating with the group at the table. The activity gave us an opportunity to experiment with what the trainer had presented and to learn it by doing it. I was least interested in the last part when she referenced the manual and walked us through the written descriptions.
On the other hand, the gentleman next to me made very detailed notes when the trainer first introduced the subject. His handwriting was small and neatly placed in his notebook. When it came time for group participation, he was quiet and didn’t seem very interested in participating. But when the trainer referenced the manual, he took out his yellow highlighter and highlighted the parts he found most important. Another woman at our table talked more than the rest of us during the group activity, and when we reviewed the manual, she spent her time texting. Still another person at our table seemed anxious for the trainer to move along at a faster pace and had trouble paying attention.
These observances showed me just how differently we all learn. I realized how important it is to understand what particular style works best for each of us individually. For example, I am a visual and kinesthetic learner. I often think in pictures, and the best way for me to learn something is to try it. I’m not afraid to jump right in because I believe that it’s not until you’re actually doing something that you can learn it on all levels. If I have to sit through PowerPoint presentations with more than three bullets per slide or a presentation that’s more than six pages long, I have trouble paying attention. If someone puts a spreadsheet up on the screen, I’m bored, regardless of how important the information might be. On the other hand, if someone demonstrates what the spreadsheet represents or tells me an interesting story about the information, then I can begin to learn it.
The gentleman in my class who wrote everything down is obviously not a kinesthetic learner. He found participating in our table experiments and exercises difficult, and he much preferred to read the information and pick out the specific parts he found relevant. The woman at our table who talked a lot needed to engage with the group and ask questions. She seemed to be an auditory learner and wasn’t distracted by other teams in the room or incoming text messages.
The week, observe how you like to learn. Watch your teammates in meetings and see if you can determine how they like to learn. Maybe one of them has to frequently repeat what someone else has said in order to get it. Or maybe someone on your team loves to take notes and refer to them often until he or she fully understands what’s being presented.
Do you prefer visual presentations of a topic more than reading about it in a manual? Perhaps you are like me and prefer to plunge right in before reading the manual. Maybe you like listening to audio recordings, podcasts, webinars and lectures. Or maybe you find that the tactile method of hands-on learning in labs, workshops or participatory classes works best.
Acknowledging how you like to learn can save you an enormous about of time and energy when it comes to learning something new. Don’t be afraid to let the people around you know how you like to learn. If you love to learn through visuals such as movies, presentations or whiteboards, tell your boss, your teacher and your other associates. Knowing this about you will help them decide which learning format is the one you thrive in.
Whatever your preferred style, try to create situations for learning that are enjoyable.
As Confucius advised, “He who learns but does not think is lost! He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger.”
Have a good week!
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