Most trainers are familiar with the term “Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP).” In its simplest form, this term identifies the three preferred learning styles most individuals have. They are as follows:
Visual—learners prefer to “See it.”
Auditory—learners prefer to “Hear it.”
Kinesthetic—learners prefer to “Do it.”
The key word here is preferred. It is sometimes thought that individuals learn by only one style; however, studies have shown we learn by all three. We may clearly have a dominant or preferred style but that does not negate the others. For example, I know my preferred style is that of a visual learner; however, I also want to hear it and clearly want to do it.
I am frequently asked, “How can we determine every participant’s learning style?” and “How do we design training for each style?” If you have the time and resources, you can collect this data by adding it as a question on a survey and by conducting interviews. However, most of us may not have the opportunity to do this for every training session. Therefore, my response is that we should always anticipate encountering all three styles in our training and we should design our courses with that in mind.
Here are three tips for appealing to all learning styles:
1. Select a variety of presentation methods. Use methods that will enhance two-way communication, and stimulate all styles instead of just traditional lecture that will only appeal primarily to the auditory learner.
2. Incorporate a variety of application methods. This will allow all learners an opportunity to practice what has been taught. The kinesthetic learner will definitely be pleased.
3. Use a variety of visual aids. Most learners, particularly the kinesthetic learner, will tune out during a “Death by PowerPoint” presentation. It is important to mix it up by using flipcharts, whiteboards, handouts, and participant manuals—a few favorites of the visual learner.
Everyone is looking for the magic bullet for working with each learning style and if there was one, I would still hang my hat on using a variety of methods. The more we integrate different methods and mediums, the more we can appeal to different learning styles in the training environment.
We explore and model these principles in many of our workshops, including How Adults Learn. Hope to see you in one of those workshops soon!