There are many cognitive and learning models that help to categorize how we process information and apply it – in effect, how we learn. I like to start with this one: are you visual, auditory (hearing/reading) or kinesthetic (movement or hands-on oriented)? I call it the eyes, ears, hands model. Or, you may have heard the multiple-learning style approach: SHOW ME / TELL ME / LET ME TRY.
Here are some guidelines to determine what you preferred learning style might be. Keep in mind that although you lead with one style, you probably can use a couple of them effectively, and all of them in some form.
Visual: “SHOW ME”
When you approach a subject, do you prefer to see images, the high-level concept, or enjoy a metaphor? Does a chart or diagram stick in your mind after you’ve seen it? Particularly one that paints a picture in your mind? You are probably a visual learner.
Auditory: “TELL ME”
Or would you rather listen, hear or read instructions? Do you feel clearer when you have been provided with supporting facts and detail? You might find yourself thinking –“Just give me the documentation, or let me ready the article or book.” If this is the case, you are an Auditory learner.
Kinesthetic: “LET ME TRY”
Or are you the person who just wants to dive in and try it? “Let me get my hands on it!” you might say. You’d rather have movement, interaction, and even failed attempts, than to have to sit and read about it, or watch someone else do it. You are a kinesthetic or hands-on learner.
Want to get a better view on your learning style preference? Check out this online one-page assessment provided by the University of San Diego: http://people.usd.edu/~bwjames/tut/learning-style/stylest.html
Why is learning style important?
As it turns out, people teach how they learn. Understanding your own natural style will help you recognize the patterns you are using to teach others (even in e-learning or coaching – we’re not just talking instructor-led training here.) Then, understanding the other styles will help you balance out your approach, and appeal to the learners who do not match your natural style. And you, and your audience, will have more than one learning style – they just tend to prefer one or two. In fact, learner retention expands dramatically when you use all three learning styles. And higher retention means better results!