Give Better Employee Training: Know the Four Learning Styles

Picture of Gina Blitstein Gina Blitstein combines her insight as a fellow small business owner with her strong communication skills, exploring topics that enhance your business efforts. That first-hand knowledge, matched with an insatiable curiosity to know more about just about anything, makes her a well-rounded writer with a sincere desire to engage and inform.

Give Better Employee Training: Know the Four Learning Styles

It’s the boss’ job, oftentimes, to enlighten employees with new information and conduct trainings on new procedures, policies or equipment. When it’s time to take on the role of teacher, you want your words of wisdom to resonate with your audience. That’s why it’s particularly important to make an effort to be the best instructor you can be for each and every employee.

An essential part of being an effective teacher is to ensure that your presentation of the material aligns with the ways your individual students actually learn. In fact, it’s a common complaint among employees that a single method of teaching new material leaves many with a poor understanding of the lesson. That’s because different people have different styles of learning. That is to say, different methods of presentation resonate with different brains. When the teaching method is not one an employee can grasp, he or she will experience difficulty learning.

Science and education to the rescue! According to the VARK theory of learning, there are four types of learners: those who learn best Visually, those who learn best Auraly, those who learn best by Reading/writing and those who learn best Kinesthetically.

Four basic learning types:

Visual learners require something to see to cement ideas in their minds and help them visualize relationships, concepts and procedures. They need images, charts and graphs and step-by-step illustrations because the part of their brain that processes visual input is hardwired to their learning center. They will remember the information in terms of the images imprinted in their memories from the presentation, so the clearer, the more visually striking and impactful the better. Requiring them to read a list of instructions, “listen closely” or to take copious notes are not effective ways to engage and teach these individuals. Likewise, a hands-on, kinesthetic, approach may be less effective for helping these students absorb new information.

Auditory learners’ ears are the windows to their attention and long term memory. They must be stimulated through sound; first by hearing the material presented, then by having the opportunity to repeat it back. Discussion of the material is also helpful, as is putting it to music. Podcasts and books on tape are strong examples of the best ways to teach an auditory learner. These students are less inclined to retain information via visual presentation. They won’t remember what they read as effectively; writing notes won’t help them to learn the material as well as having heard it. Even an opportunity to physically interact with and/or experience the lesson is not the most direct route to educating these learners.

Reading/writing learners process new information best when they’re given the opportunity to learn it by reading text and taking notes. They appreciate the opportunity to read the material themselves or follow along with a script because the written word has a greater impact on these learners. Note taking is an important part of their information-absorbing process, as is the opportunity to transcribe the lesson in their own words (think - answering an essay question on a test). Visual and auditory content has less of an impact on these learners. They gain less benefit from the opportunity to experience the content of the lesson first-hand, preferring to process it through the verbal regions of their brains.

Kinesthetic learners employ their physicality to learning. They prefer - and benefit most from - the experience of touching, trying out, taking a “test drive” to help them learn new material. These students will benefit from the opportunity to have a personal interaction, be it hands-on, face-to-face or role playing, to really grasp the new information. Educational methods employing visual, auditory and reading/writing elements will not prove as effective to a kinesthetic learner.

Of course there’s no “better” type of learner. They each have merit and make sound educational and scientific sense. It’s only logical that with the vast differences among people that each of us would be “wired for learning” a little differently than the next individual. Truth be told, many people probably are a combination of types. That’s why it’s important to include all four learning modes in your educational toolkit.

When you’re the teacher as well as the boss, you’ll want your trainings to be received, understood and retained by your employees. Encompassing a variety of teaching methods is a smart way to reach - and teach - your employees in a way that will make a positive, lasting impact.

How do you train your employees?

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