What different types of learning styles exist and how can you, as a corporate or freelance trainer, cater to these styles to improve how you provide training?
There are many different ways of categorizing the learning styles that have been created by teachers, trainers, and researchers. So let’s take a look at each of these learning styles below and see how you can use them.
Introduction: A Mixed Methods Approach to Teaching
Before talking about the individual learning styles, i.e. the different ways in which individuals learn, it is worth mentioning mixed methods.
As learners, we learn not just in one way but in various ways.
We might learn by listening but then we also might learn from touching and feeling something, i.e. through touch. So we learn not just in one way, but through a combination of learning styles.
So in this sense, it’s all about mixed-methods and getting the chance as a learner to experience a couple of learning styles.
So, as a trainer, it is useful for you to focus on making sure that the training you provide includes variety. For example, where practical, you might want to try to include:
- group and classroom activities
- presenting (as the trainer/teacher)
- class discussion
- some self-study
So, let’s look at the most commonly used categories of learning styles.
1. Visual Learning
Visual learners are those who respond better to images such as drawings, videos, photos, colors, and shapes.
You can target this learning style by using any type of visual aids and activities that involve the use of diagrams, images, infographics, charts, etc.
Tools that can help you include:
- PowerPoint slides (see these 7 Tips on how to design Powerpoint slides for teaching)
- Flipcharts with drawings
- and any other visuals.
2. Auditory Learning
Auditory or aural learners tend to have a preference towards sounds. These include the spoken word, music, rhythms or rhymes.
You can address this style by talking to your learners and explaining concepts through the spoken word. You can also engage them in conversation, so they can hear what other people say.
A person with an auditory learning style prefers to listen to instructions, rather than reading them. Auditory learners like to hear things.
In addition to explaining things orally, you could also employ activities that include songs, music, or poetry in your sessions, to address the auditory learning style.
3. Verbal Learning
A verbal or linguistic learner prefers to learn through words, either spoken or written.
People who like verbal learning also like to process information through writing. They like to take notes and to write up information.
So, you can target this style by providing handouts with reading materials or giving oral explanations. You can engage learners in debates, discussions and presentations.
You can also use activities that include writing summaries or solving word games such as crosswords and riddles.
4. Kinaesthetic Learning
Kinaesthetic learning focuses on movement and physical sensation. So, learners who have a preference for this style respond well to manipulating objects, moving around, doing physical exercises.
You can target this style by asking participants to do activities that require them to stand up, for example. Or you can include activities that require the use of cards or to organize ideas on post-it notes that can be rearranged on a table.
If you are teaching online, this style is a bit harder to accommodate but there are activities you can use. For example, an activity that we list in our list of 21 icebreakers for online teaching is called ‘Take a picture of something’ (No. 10 on the list).
This activity requires participants to take a picture of something that is in their room or outside their window and then start a discussion with other learners. This is an activity that addresses both visual and kinaesthetic learners as they will need to interact with the environment around them and move around to take the picture.
Also, when teaching online, simply requiring participants to interact by having to click on things and move things around with their mouse, may be enough to engage their tactile sense. So, for example, flashcards, drag and drop activities, or designing mind maps can help.
You can also ask learners to create videos about what they are learning as a form of assignment, to encourage them to engage with the environment.
5. Solitary Learning
Solitary or intrapersonal learners prefer to learn by doing tasks (such as reading, researching, writing) on their own.
You can give your learners some space for individual reflection by, for example, asking them to analyse a case study or reflect on a topic on their own, before asking them to form pairs or groups and discuss together.
Alternatively, there are also activities that can be done individually, such as questionnaires or puzzles.
Solitary learning can take place before or after the classroom teaching.
6. Social Learning
Social or interpersonal learners prefer to learn through group activities.
In order to target this type of learning, there are plenty of group activities that you can ask participants to do (i.e., games, discussions, and more).
If you include group activities in any class you give, they work very well when combined with some verbal teaching and verbal learning.
In other words, a good combination is to do some talking, combined with a PowerPoint presentation, integrated with group and individual activities (much as we do in the training materials).
7. Logical Learning
Logical learners are those who prefer to break down information logically. They are logical thinkers, who analyze information step by step; they like procedures and quantifying things.
You can address this learning style by introducing sequences of logical steps, flow diagrams or logically ordered bullet points.
8. Holistic Learning
Holistic learners prefer to focus on the big picture. They like to make connections between things across different areas, rather than always following a logical sequence.
You can cater to this learning style by including activities such as mind maps, role plays and group discussions.
9. Activist Learners
Activists and those who learn by doing.
So, they like to get involved in actions and discussions and to action something before they even start reading about it.
Good activities to address this learning style include:
- and competitions
10. Theorist Learners
Theorists like to understand the theory that exists behind the action.
This style is similar, but not quite the same, as the logical style.
In order to target this learning style, you can use
- and background information
11. Pragmatist Learners
Pragmatist learners like to know how what they learn can be applied in real life.
They like to understand how knowledge can be useful for them in their practical life.
To cater to this style, you can use:
- case studies
- and problem-solving activities
Also, make sure to highlight the benefits of what they will learn for their lives. This is important to motivate any adult learner, but even more so for pragmatist people.
12. Reflector Learners
A reflector learner likes to observe what is happening from the sidelines. They also like to take time to reflect on what they have observed or experienced, in order to take it in.
To target this learning style, you can use discussions in pairs, self-reflection questionnaires and feedback from others.
As you will have noticed, some of these learning styles overlap in some ways. Also, these are just theoretical constructions but in practice, most people benefit from using a variety of learning styles.
So, you might be wondering what this means for you as a trainer and how you can apply these principles.
Well, our Train the Trainer courses delve deeper into these issues and offer invaluable tools for trainers!
Dr Valeria (Lo Iacono) Symonds
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