At school, we learn a lot about a lot. For years, we studied so many different subjects but what’s ironic is that we never learnt how to learn. Instead, we regurgitated information for exams – much of which has never be used again. But if we could learn how to learn, we could increase our confidence, maximise our learning potential, inspire greater curiosity or even a life-long love of learning.
Well, we are all unique learners and learn in different ways and there certainly isn’t a right or wrong way to do it! You might already know which style suits you best but don’t quite understand why. So, let’s explore what the three main learning styles are and how they’re useful.
It is generally agreed there are three main ways of learning. These styles are known as VAK learning styles:
Visual learners like to learn through language, particulalry and reading and writing tasks. They are more likely to remember information they have written down even if they do not go back and read it. Visual learners also tend to do better with other visual modes of presentation such as watching demonstrations, looking at charts and drawing or doodling notes. They are usually quite imaginative and can easily visualise places – often forgetting names but always remembering a face!
If you are a visual learner or have visual learners in your team, try implementing the following to help in the working environment:
- Use handouts for reading and taking notes
- Include graphs, charts, illustrations, or other visual aids
- Leave areas on handouts for notetaking or space in the margins for drawings
- Eliminate potential distractions
- Include illustrations alongside key textual information
Auditory learners learn best by listening and talking and understand something better when it is explained to them. It might even be they have to say something out loud once they have read it, or they moved their lips while reading to ensure the information is absorbed. They usually love music and singing, and can remember names easily, but can’t always put them to a face. When it comes to remembering a lot of information, they might record notes and play them back later.
If you are an auditory learner or have auditory learners in your team, try implementing the following to help in the working environment:
- Ask questions throughout important presentations to encourage spoken answers. If the auditory learner isn’t answering, they are still listening.
- Encourage debate
- Include group activities such as mind mapping
- Make time for regular catch ups rather than sending out emails or meeting notes
You might remember from your physics classes, that the kinetic energy of an object is the energy it possesses due to its motion. Therefore, it isn’t surprising that kinaesthetic learners learn best by doing and moving around; perhaps touching things to aid memory. When listening in meetings, they take notes for the sake of moving their hands but also go back and highlight particular details they deem important. Like the visual learner, they also like to draw diagrams or doodle on the page – not so much because they learn from the image but rather they remember through the act of drawing itself.
If you are a kinaesthetic learner or have kinaesthetic learners in your team, try implementing the following to help in the working environment:
- Use activities that get the learners up and moving
- Use coloured pens or highlighters to emphasize or underline key points on flip charts or projected material
- Allow for frequent ‘refreshment’ breaks
- Role play activities or reading and acting out scenarios can also help embed learning
While there are three main learning styles, you might find you embody more than one: perhaps you are visually dominant with elements of kinaesthetic learning or auditory with elements of visual.
However, identifying which suits your needs is a simple way to take control and harness the full power and benefits of learning.