Anna Preston

Recognising and adapting your training for different types of learning styles

When defining learning styles, there are four main categories: Visual, Aural, Verbal and Kinaesthetic. Most people fall into one category. There are also four additional categories which can offer anyone delivering training courses an additional insight into the way in which people might learn. This means trainers can adapt their material and delivery style to be more effective, leading to better retention of training material, and hopefully, better feedback on your training programmes.

In order to help you do so, let’s look at each of the four main learning styles in detail.

Visual

This is the most common style of learning, and people in this category prefer graphs, pictures, maps, colour and images when learning. In other words, they absorb information better if it is in a visual format. This type of learner can be good at recalling images in their mind and spatial thinking; they are very detail orientated.

According to Social Science Research Network, around 65% of the population are in this category, which means if you are not considering adapting your course to fit other styles, you’ll more than likely appeal to the majority if you set out a classroom in this way.

Visual learners do better when listening to a lesson in which visuals are involved, even if they are slides of the presentation. Most professional training courses are likely to be carried out in an environment most suited to this type of learner – whether that’s in a traditional classroom setup or, more often now, in a virtual classroom setting. The most typical setup is usually geared towards a visual learner with visual aids such as whiteboards, pictures, and graphs.

Aural (Auditory)

Those individuals who fall into this category love sounds and music but are particularly interested in spoken word and rhythms. It is unsurprising that they retain information best through hearing it. They can repeat information they have heard with ease, and the good news is that they can retain information from longer lessons. Around 30% of learners fall into this category. It is worth noting that they will also respond better to assignments that are handed out verbally rather than visually. If you’re teaching learners of this style, don’t worry if they don’t seem to be making as many notes; if you’re delivering your course verbally, they are likely to still be retaining the information.

Verbal

This learning style refers to reading and writing. These learners differ from visual learners; they are not deterred by long blocks of text, and they love language in all forms. They can absorb information that is written down, turning lengthy pieces into easier-to-digest smaller pieces. The number of people who fall into this category is not known, as it is a little harder to pinpoint. These are the people who prefer lectures and like taking notes. They are also good at written tests and assignments. This is the type of learner who loves a good written handout to accompany any learning.

Kinaesthetic

This type of learner learns through physical action. They prefer a learning style that is more hands on and practical. Kinaesthetic learners pick things up best through active participation and tend to enjoy things like sports, drama, and building. They can learn by watching someone else and have great hand-eye coordination and motor skills. This group only make up around 5% of the population and a more traditional classroom set up doesn’t work well for them - they might seem as though they are not paying attention. Longer lessons with too much verbal or written learning can cause them to struggle.

The 4 lesser styles of learning

• Logical learners are problem solvers. They like to look at the cause and effect behind something. Maths is something of their forte.

• Social learners are the people who tend to learn well in a group. They shine when a social learning option is suggested such as teamwork. They have strong communication skills.

• Solitary (intrapersonal) learners are the opposite of social ones. They most certainly learn better alone and are better when given plenty of time to approach a topic. If you are planning teamwork, then they will be better given a portion of the work to tackle on their own.

• Naturalistic, like a kinaesthetic learner, this category like hands on learning, however they prefer this learning to take place outdoors. They are natural observers and comfortable around nature and animals.

While you can’t please all learners at all times throughout a course, it is worth getting to know these learning styles so you can include some learning material that appeals to each different style. Perhaps when setting assignments, you could give options as to how the assignment is to be completed, in order that you can allow the learners to demonstrate how well they’ve taken in your teaching in the way they feel most comfortable with. During every course, having a mixture of visual aids, explained verbally, as well as role-playing opportunities to demonstrate important information could mean you have most, if not all of the bases covered.

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