Prometheus Training, LLC

Issues of Style: What You Need to Know About Learning Styles

How do you learn best? Each of us has a preferred learning style – the style in which we can learn most efficiently. That style is often defined using these three dimensions:

  • Active or Reflective? Active learners attain understanding by doing or applying information. Reflective learners like to think things through before doing.
  • Sensing or Intuitive? Sensing learners like facts, are rule-oriented, and feel comfortable with repetition and routine. Intuitive learners are more interested in the relationships between facts, resent repetition, and like to innovate.
  • Visual or Verbal? Visual learners are more likely to retain what they see. Verbal learners remember words – spoken or written.

Do all of these descriptions sound a little bit like you? Most adult learning styles fall somewhere in the middle on all three dimensions. If you would like to check your own style, here is a good site: http://www.engr.ncsu.edu/learningstyles/ilsweb.html.

As training and education professionals, our challenge is to create learning experiences that will work for a wide range of adult learners – not just ourselves. How? One way is to incorporate a variety of instructional strategies into your course design. For example, you may wish to present “how-to” information in written form for the verbal learners, as well as streaming video demonstrations for the visual learners.

The chart below lists instructional strategies that work best for each category of learning style. You will find strategies for both classroom and online learning modalities. Just mix and match strategies to create training that is effective across a wide range of learning styles.

Someone with this Learning Style: Is likely to learn effectively from these types of Instructional Strategies:
Visual
  • Charts and graphs
  • Illustrations
  • Videos
  • Live demonstrations
Verbal
  • Written descriptions and explanations
  • Audio tapes
  • Transcripts of video or audio
  • Captions next to charts, graphs, or illustrations
Sensing
  • Agendas explaining timing of course components
  • Opt-in opportunities for additional practice exercises on same topic
  • Fact sheets or other reference materials containing fact summaries
  • Games or practice exercises which require memorization
  • Team exercises in which there is a role for an “expert”
Intuitive
  • Opportunities to opt out of sessions in which they are already familiar with the facts or concepts
  • Exercises in which they must find information from a reference source, rather than memorizing the facts
  • Case studies in which they must apply concepts in a new or different way
  • Games or exercises which require original thinking or problem-solving
  • Team exercises in which there is a role for someone who can justify a position or explain the big picture
Sequential
  • Positioning statements explaining how new material fits into “big picture”
  • Content outlines
  • Procedural flow charts
  • Course maps which explain the best order in which to work through self-paced material
  • Lists of additional reading to fill in “missing” information
  • Exercises in which they practice problem steps in order
  • Exercises in which they practice organizing a large number of items or examples
Global
  • Self-paced material which can be accessed in random order
  • Exercises in which they must create a structure or theory, then find the proof to justify it
Reflective
  • Time to think and study before needing to perform a task or solve a problem
  • Synopses and Reviews that summarize what was learned before moving on
  • Frequent reinforcement questions and problem sets
  • Self-paced courses
  • Take home assignments
  • Reading lists
Active
  • Chance to teach or explain material to others
  • Practice demonstrations or role plays
  • Small group work which requires collaboration, then reporting back to the larger group
  • Group review and practice of facts
  • Competitive games
  • In classroom courses, activities that require physical activity or manipulation
  • In online courses, activities that require mouse manipulation

About the author

Helene Geiger is CEO of Prometheus Training, LLC.

© 2005 Prometheus Training LLC. All rights reserved. Visit http://www.ptrain.com for information and tips on making custom eLearning. easy.

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