There’s more than one way to learn

Recognizing the three methods of learning opens the door to creativity

Creating a working environment where employees are given the freedom to go outside the normal parameters can open the door to creativity. By removing the rigidity and limitations that stifle ambition, companies can guide and assist the employee to discover his strengths and abilities and to recognize weaker areas.

There are three main learning styles:

•auditory, which comprises the listening and the verbal learner;

•visual, which includes the print learner as well as the picture learner; and

•kinesthetic, which incorporates the tactile way of learning.

Most individuals are dominant in one of these learning styles. However, some will demonstrate the same scores in all three learning styles. In this case, when approaching the task at hand, the more appropriate style will be used. The employee who demonstrates a dominant way of working should, from time to time, be encouraged to try channeling his abilities and strengths through the two remaining learning styles. This is important to help the employee branch out and become more flexible. Depending on the task, employees may have to switch their learning style to please their employer. Suffice to say, patience and understanding will be acknowledged and appreciated by the worker.

Specific questions during an interview may determine which way the candidate learns best and how he may be more effective in his work and in his interaction with colleagues. Most job descriptions, with careful planning, organizing and effort, can be adapted, modified and implemented to suit the worker’s preferred way of learning new concepts and applying them in a way that will benefit the company.

Identifying, addressing, respecting and using the individual’s learning style is the beginning of a journey that will open the door to unlimited potential.

The three learning styles

The auditory style. There are two types of auditory employees: the employee who prefers to listen and the one who prefers talking. The verbal employee is much more aggressive in his approach to the given information. He will speak the words that represent exactly how he understands it. He can usually solve problems by talking about them. He should be given the opportunity to work with a colleague.

The listening employee may prefer to learn new concepts by listening to the information that is being presented and explained. If given the opportunity, he will enjoy discussing the new information in his own way. He is the most talkative of all learning types. Even though he enjoys a good discussion, he can become easily distracted during the conversation.

Because this type of employee has an ear for music, he may work better if allowed to have soft music playing in the background.

When being presented with new information, this worker should listen to the information in such a way that he will be able to explain it back to the person presenting it. Too often the trainer assumes the employee has grasped the material and understood what to do with it only to discover that after losing productive hours the same process has to be repeated.

The auditory employee doesn’t usually enjoy writing or reading long reports. Presenting a report orally or on tape may also be more inviting for this type of employee.

The visual style. This employee thinks in pictures and words. When participating in a meeting or attending a presentation the picture learner will appreciate diagrams, illustrations and graphs. His picture note-taking will help him to organize and store the information that is to be retained. On the other hand, if the employee thinks in words, visual cues may confuse him. He is more likely to ignore the pictures and concentrate more on the written information.

For this reason, it might be best if he reads and writes the information. Because he loves colours, he may want to underline or highlight the important parts of the report. Contrary to the auditory employee whose work performance is better when he works with someone else, the visual employee will usually prefer to work alone in his own space. He is usually very organized in his work and his working area is kept clean. His writing is neat and so is his appearance.

The kinesthetic style. This employee needs to use a whole-body approach to work more effectively. This way of learning and producing incorporates a tactile method of learning. This employee can be more productive when allowed to use a combination of styles. Often he may first need to listen to the information and then look at it with the help of visual aids. He may then need to repeat his own interpretation to one of his colleagues to make sure he understands it and retains the most important facts of the presentation. He may then need to write it down or type it out.

Because he needs to move a lot, this employee is likely to walk around or will prefer standing while working. Concentrated blocks of time are difficult for him. He performs and produces more when working in short spurts. Because of his pent-up energy, he often gets restless and fidgety. Sitting at a desk for long periods of time is extremely demanding on this type of employee. A sense of time is also difficult for him.

He most likely will not be a visionary as he tends to see the present moment. This employee often appears to be disorganized but to him everything is more like “organized confusion.” Most times his system works best for him. If asked to research a specific topic, his best teachers are films, audio or video programs. Because the tactile way of learning is part of the kinesthetic style, this type of employee will best understand and retain the information if he is given the opportunity to touch it, manipulate it and build something with or from it. Hands-on projects are the best learning tools for him.

Build on styles

Identifying, addressing and using a person’s preferred way of learning is almost always gratifying. Most importantly, the employer will see great improvement in an employee’s work performance.

As the employee understands and discerns how he learns best, he can build a solid foundation on his strengths and develop strategies to address his weaknesses.

Diane Lamarch-Bisson is a workshop presenter on learning styles and an author of self-help books for children and home education manuals. She can be contacted at [email protected] or at

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