Tag: teaching

4/28/13 “Learning”

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!


© Copyright 2013 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.

7/29/12 “Learning How To Learn”

Good morning, team.

This week’s challenge is about learning how to learn. That may sound redundant, but honestly, now that I’m trying to learn something new, I’m realizing some things about how I learn.

I’m learning about horsemanship. That is, I’m learning how to ride a horse, how to care for horses, how to speak horse language, how to relate to these amazing four-legged animals. Call me crazy. A friend of mine recently commented, “Wasn’t falling down a flight of stairs last October scary enough? Now you want to ride a horse? Isn’t that dangerous, particularly for someone your age?” I know this doesn’t sound like something a friend would say, but her comments did come from a deep concern for my well-being. I tried to make the case that since I haven’t done so well on two legs, perhaps being on something with four will actually be safer. I’m not sure I’ve convinced either of us yet.

Truth be told, part of why I’m learning to ride a horse is to get over my fear of falling from high places. Getting on a horse for the first time last weekend was scary — shaking in your boots kind of scary. As I sat there in the saddle, feeling my whole body quiver, I realized that the only way to get beyond this was to be patient enough to just sit there until it stopped. If I could wait and the horse would just stand there, I knew the shaking would stop eventually. Of course, it did, and I embarked on my first horse ride in 40 years.

It’s been a long time since I last learned how to do something brand new, and I have to say, I’m really not fond of being a novice. I’m one of those people who grows quickly impatient if I can’t do something well right out of the gate. I don’t like how it feels when something is foreign to me — all that new information can be overwhelming. I quickly think, “This just isn’t worth the time or effort. It’s going to take too long to learn how to do this.” Part of why I never learned how to play a musical instrument is because it takes an enormous amount of time, practice and patience to become good at it. I have great respect for musicians because I have no idea how they have the persistence to keep at it year after year.

When I’m learning something new, it helps if I can find small accomplishments within the larger experience of the learning. For example, when I rode for the second time yesterday, I could already get on the horse better than the week before. I gave myself a little nod of encouragement by saying to myself, “You see, you’ve already learned something new.” Between that and my teacher giving me kudos for a few things, I’ve been able to overcome the negative attitude that I can’t do this.

When I was in grade school, teachers weren’t aware that different children learn in unique ways. It was all about delivering the information in the curriculum so that we could complete our lesson plans. But the fact is, a lot of us didn’t get it. For one thing, all of the information was delivered either via the teacher talking to us and or through our own reading about it. For many people, these methods are the least effective to learn. They are boring. How many of us remember sitting in school and listening to the teacher begin to talk about something? After about three minutes, the mind would go blank. On the other hand, I clearly remember every moment of my sophomore biology class when the teacher allowed his pet boa constrictor to crawl all over us. I’m an experiential learner. I like to learn as I’m doing rather than reading about it first.

I’m sure my computer skills have suffered because of my aversion to reading manuals. Short instructions that come from recipes, I can handle. But just looking at the front page of an instruction manual gives me a headache. I can’t keep my attention glued to a written step-by-step process. But throw me into the pool with a vague idea of how to keep my head above water, and I’ll figure it out.

When I was in college, my physics teacher realized that I wasn’t learning anything in his class. Maybe it was how I always sat in the back row hiding behind the tall guy. Eventually, my professor asked to meet with me after class. I dreaded the meeting. I knew I was in over my head, but I needed the science credit to continue majoring in anthropology.

“Not getting much out of this, are you?” he asked.

I could feel my face redden. With down cast eyes I replied, “Nope.”

“Do you know how you like to learn?”

“I’m not sure I know what you mean,” I said.

“Well, he went on, everyone learns a little differently, and the trick to learning isn’t so much about the subject you’re trying to learn but rather about how you like to learn things. Once you figure out how you like to learn, you can learn just about anything.”

This was a new idea for me.

“Let’s try an experiment,” he said. “Let me explain centripetal and centrifugal forces to you, and you can tell me what you’ve understood once I’ve finished.”

He proceeded to explain the two forces and how they work. As much as I tried to listen, he lost me at, “a mass underdoing curved motion, such as circular motion, constantly accelerates toward the axis of rotation.” What?? He might as well have been speaking Greek to me. When he went to the blackboard and wrote out an equation illustrating his point, I was truly lost. He could clearly see that I wasn’t getting it.

“Okay,” he said patiently, “let’s do it your way. Come with me.”

I followed him down the hallway to his classroom. He asked me to get on the stool that he generaly sat on during class. It had a rotating seat, which made it easy for him to turn toward his students and then back to the blackboard when illustrating a point. He asked me to get on the stool and hold my arms in close to my body. Once I did this, he came over and gave me a spin. “This is fun,” I thought as I spun around in circles on the stool.

“Now, hold your arms out,” he instructed. I did this and immediately began to slow down. He came over and spun me around again, this time asking me to bring my arms in and to extend them out as I spun around. Each time I held my arms out, I slowed down. When I brought them back in again, I would speed up. He explained, “When I spun you around, the energy I was using created centripetal force upon you. When you extended your arms out, the opposing centrifugal force created by your extended arms in space slowed you down.”

He went on to explain that there were other laws of physics at work here in regard to Newton’s laws of motion, but this was one small illustration of some of these physics at work.

“Does it make more sense to you now?” he asked.

I had to admit that it did. “Why can’t I always learn it this way?”

“You actually can,” he replied. “You just need to ask for more of a demonstration so you can see how it works. It’s called ‘visual learning,’ and for some of us, seeing how it works is the only way we can learn it.”

When we made it back to his office, he went to the bookcase and handed me a textbook. “Here,” he said, as he handed it to me. “This is my gift to you. Do the exercises in this book, and I’ll pass you in my class.”

The book was called “Physics for Poets.” I laughed. How appropriate, I thought. A book about physics written for people like me!

As I turned to go after thanking my professor for teaching me a lifelong lesson, he remarked, “Promise me that you won’t take physics again. I don’t think it will be your area of expertise.” With a great sigh of relief, I assured him that I wouldn’t take physics again but that I would never forget what he really taught me: how I like to learn.

This week, take a look at how you like to learn things. If you haven’t learned anything new in a while, choose something. Do you like to read about it first, assimilate the information and then try it out? Or maybe you’re like me — you’d rather learn about it as you’re doing it. Perhaps you enjoy the interaction that comes from learning from someone else. Do you prefer doing this in a larger group or one on one? Maybe you’re someone who enjoys going online, watching a video of how someone does something while you take notes and then try it yourself. Some people learn best by telling someone else about what they are learning. My horsemanship instructor suggested I tell my husband what I’m learning. She understood that if I have to explain it, I’ll learn it more quickly.

However it is that you like to learn, this is the week to experiment with it. As Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

Have a good week!


© Copyright 2012 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.

8/9/10 “Learning”

Good day, team,

This week’s challenge is about learning and appreciating the variety

of ways people learn and understand things.

Last week, my husband sent me this paragraph from a great article he

read that touches on this subject. It’s by Pete Warden @typepad.com

from his article “Harness the Power of Being an Idiot”:

“I learn by trying to build something; there’s no other way I can

discover the devils-in-the-details. Unfortunately that’s an incredibly

inefficient way to gain knowledge. I basically wander around stepping on

every rake in the grass, while the A students memorize someone else’s

route and carefully pick their way across the lawn without incident. My

only saving graces are that every now and again I discover a better

path, and, faced with a completely new lawn, I have an instinct for where

the rakes are.”

I find that I learn in much the same way. I recall my high school algebra teacher,

Mr. Johnson, trying to explain the concept of A + B = C to me without success.

He finally sat me down at a desk with 3 different sized boxes and encouraged me

to move them around and assign different values to them. Only then did I begin

to understand the concept.

If Mr. Johnson hadn’t taken the time to try to discover how I learn, I might have

failed my course. And, more importantly, I might never have discovered

how I learn. It’s a real eye-opener to realize that not everyone learns in

the same way. I have had clients, for example, who have suffered from dyslexia

or some other learning disability, and because the way they learn is not readily

accepted, they struggle for many years in school. Making the discovery of

how they learn and adjusting the way they take in information is very liberating

for them.

There’s no doubt that the best computer applications are written by

software designers who take the time to understand how their users learn and

experience their products. Don’t we all want technology that easy to understand

and use?

Your challenge this week is to think about how you and others learn. Do you

take in information and easily find ways to apply it without a lot of show and

tell? Maybe you learn by participation like I do: I have to be

actively involved with the thing I’m learning or participating with

others in an active exchange of ideas to increase my understanding.

Some people memorize information easily and can immediately come up with

the right answers from their vast storehouse of facts and figures.

They learn by lots of input and can often recall all that information at

a moment’s notice. And then there are people who learn things through

their senses and experience the world through sight, sound and touch.

Take a master cooking class sometime, and you’ll discover what I mean.

Most master chefs don’t measure, and they don’t read recipes: They cook

by taste and feel.

If you’re trying to explain something to other people, don’t be afraid to ask

them if they understand you. And don’t be surprised if they take in the same

information in a completely different way. There are as many ways to learn

as there are ideas, and no one way is better than another. Assuming that

we all learn in a similar fashion is one of the unfortunate characteristics of

most educational systems, and when you find a teacher or manager who takes

the time to help you discover how you like to learn, a whole new world opens

up to you.

This week, try exploring how we learn. You might just learn something new!

Have a good week,


Kathleen Doyle-White

Pathfinders Coaching

(503) 296-9249

© Copyright 2010 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search, Inc., all rights