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3 Types of Learning Styles

Posted by Roger Hyttinen on

This post is part of the “Effective Technical Trainer” series.

There is a theory called Neurolinguistic Programming which suggests that not everyone learns in the same manner. In fact, this theory has narrowed down learning to three distinct styles that determine how people (your students) retain and retrieve information.

I can personally vouch for this theory. In my experience as a software trainer, I regularly encounter students who tend to learn best according to one of these three learning styles (some folks use a combination of two – some use all three modalities). As a trainer, it’s important to keep this in mind and to tailor your training sessions so that all learning styles will benefit from it. Let’s now look at each of the learning styles.

Learning Type 1: Visual Learners

Visual learners learn best by seeing. They prefer to see a concept demonstrated for them or displayed using charts, diagrams, videos or other visual mediums. They may have difficulty in grasping concepts when presented in lecture format or may have a challenging time following written or spoken directions. I have an acquaintance who rarely reads printed directions – he claims that he has a difficult time understanding them or visualizing them. So whenever he needs or wants to know how to accomplish a task or learn something new, he searches for a YouTube video that displays the steps visually. Using videos, I’ve seen him take an entire computer apart and reassemble it with little difficulty.

Learning Type 2: Auditory Learners

Auditory learners learn best by hearing. They might have a difficult time in following written directions and prefer to “hear it” rather than see it. These are the types of people who might prefer listening to audiobooks rather than reading books in print. Unlike their visual learning peers, these folks tend to thrive in a lecture-based environment. I have worked with many students over the years who listen to every word their instructor says. But not only do they listen, they retain what they here. These are the “tell me once, and I know it” type of people. Many of these types of students may rarely refer to a manual or instruction book, preferring instead to verbally hear the topic.

Learning Type 3: Kinesthetic Learners

Kinesthetic learners learn by doing. These are the folks who tend to jump right in, often without first reading directions. One of my friend’s favorite expressions is: “When all else fails, then read the directions”. For these types of learners, it is essential to actively involve them in the learning process. You will quickly lose them if your training sessions are strictly lecture-based. In fact, I have heard some people who are kinesthetic learners say that they simply cannot remember information when they are “talked at”. The one sure way that they can learn how to do something is to get their hands dirty and do it themselves.

Learning Considerations

So what does all this mean to you as a trainer? First, it’s important to realize that people do learn in different ways. If you are trying to explain a concept to someone and they simply don’t get it_, perhaps they are a visual learner or a kinesthetic learner. Thus, it’s important to vary your training techniques so that all types of learners can benefit. Use techniques, exercises and activities that will appeal to the visual, auditory and kinesthetic learner. In the next lesson, we’ll look at how to customize your training to meet the need of all three types of learners and look at some specific examples of how to tailor your training to all people, regardless of their preferred learning type.

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