Learning styles are a useful lens through which organisations can improve employee performance and customer satisfaction.
This article will not only demystify the concept but also unpack the four primary types, shedding light on how this understanding can help refine education and training initiatives.
What are Learning Styles?
Learning styles are the ways in which individuals learn best. They are influenced by a variety of factors, including personality, cognitive abilities, and cultural background.
There are many different theories of learning styles, but one of the most popular is the VARK model. This model divides learners into four categories:
- Visual learners: Learn best by seeing images, graphs, and other visual aids.
- Auditory learners: Learn best by listening to lectures, discussions, and other audio content.
- Kinesthetic learners: Learn best by doing and moving.
- Reading/writing learners: Learn best by reading and writing text.
Most people are a combination of these four learning styles, but they may have one or two that are more dominant.
What are the Different Learning Styles?
(1) Visual Learners: Grasping Information Through Images
Visual learners do well when they receive information through images, diagrams, charts, and maps.
These people are good at noticing details and can quickly understand and remember information when it’s shown visually. They often like drawing, painting, and other creative activities. However, they may get distracted easily by sound or hands-on activities.
To help Visual learners, you can try these strategies:
- Incorporate Visual Aids in Training: Utilise flashcards, diagrams, and mind maps in your training materials. These visual elements can make complex ideas easier to grasp for visual learners.
- Colour-Coding: Encourage team members to use different colours for various types of information when taking notes or creating documents. This can help visual learners quickly identify and recall key points.
- Structured Note-Taking: Introduce a standardised note-taking system like the Cornell method, which combines notes, summaries, and action items in a visually structured manner.
- Leverage Multimedia: Use videos, infographics, or interactive dashboards in your training sessions. These multimedia elements can engage visual learners more effectively than text alone.
- Scheduled Breaks: To prevent visual fatigue, include short breaks in training sessions, especially those that are heavily reliant on visual content.
(2) Auditory Learners: Learning Through Listening
Auditory learners do well when they hear information. They like to learn through lectures, discussions, audiobooks, and other ways that involve listening.
These people are good at remembering what they hear and often prefer learning in groups where they can talk and listen. They usually enjoy music and podcasts and are good at following spoken instructions. However, they might find it hard to focus in noisy places.
For teams aiming to accommodate auditory learners, the following strategies can be highly impactful:
- Active Participation in Lectures and Discussions: Encourage auditory learners to take notes, ask questions, and engage in discussions during meetings or training sessions.
- Recording for Review: Offer the option to record training sessions or meetings, allowing auditory learners to revisit the material later for reinforcement.
- Audiobooks and Podcasts: Consider creating or recommending audiobooks and podcasts that cover key training materials or industry topics.
- Audio Flashcards: Develop flashcards with accompanying audio that outlines key terms or concepts, allowing auditory learners to review these in their own time.
- Peer Learning: Facilitate study groups or buddy systems where team members can quiz each other, providing an auditory learning experience.
- Verbal Explanation: Encourage team members to articulate new concepts out loud, either to themselves or a colleague, as a form of reinforcement.
(3) Kinesthetic Learners: Mastering Skills Through Physical Activity
Kinesthetic learners learn best when they can use their hands or move around. They like hands-on activities and applying what they learn in real-world situations. These people are often good at sports and enjoy working with their hands. They prefer to learn by doing things rather than just listening or reading. However, they might find it hard to sit still for a long time.
For teams that aim to better support kinesthetic learners, the following approaches can prove particularly beneficial:
- Hands-On Workshops: Incorporate practical classes and workshops into your training programs, providing a tactile experience for kinesthetic learners.
- Simulations and Role-Playing: Use scenario-based training methods like simulations or role-playing exercises to provide a more immersive learning environment.
- Model Building: Encourage the creation of models or prototypes during training sessions, allowing kinesthetic learners to engage with the material in a tangible way.
- Use of Physical Objects: Consider providing physical objects or manipulatives that team members can interact with during training sessions, further enhancing the hands-on learning experience.
- Peer Teaching: Facilitate opportunities for kinesthetic learners to teach others what they’ve learned, reinforcing their own understanding through the act of teaching.
- Breaks: Include short breaks that allow for movement or exercise, helping to keep kinesthetic learners engaged and focused.
(4) Reading/Writing Learners: Text-Based Understanding
Reading/writing learners do well when they can read and write about information. They like learning through texts, articles, and other written materials.
These people often enjoy reading and writing and are good at putting information together in a summary. They can think deeply about what they read and write. However, they might find it hard to learn just by listening or doing activities.
For teams looking to facilitate effective learning for reading/writing learners, consider employing the following strategies
- Detailed Reading: Encourage team members to thoroughly read textbooks, articles, and other written materials, highlighting key points for later review.
- Note-Taking and Rewriting: Promote active note-taking during training sessions or meetings, and suggest rewriting these notes afterward to reinforce understanding.
- Summaries and Outlines: Encourage the creation of summaries or outlines that distil the essential elements of the training materials, making it easier to review later.
- Written Assignments: Assign essays or reports that require team members to articulate their understanding of the training topics in writing.
- Discussion and Peer Review: Facilitate group discussions where team members can share what they’ve learned and written, offering different perspectives and deepening understanding.
Other Types of Learning Styles
While the VARK model has become widely adopted, it’s not the only approach. Other learning styles also offer valid perspectives that can be useful for tailoring your training programs.
Logical-mathematical learners are people who learn best by using logic and reasoning. They are good at understanding patterns, solving problems, and making connections between different ideas. Logical-mathematical learners are often drawn to subjects such as maths, science, engineering, and computer science.
Logical-mathematical learners often have the following characteristics:
- They enjoy puzzles and problem-solving.
- They are good at seeing patterns and making connections.
- They are able to think logically and reason through problems.
- They may have difficulty with abstract concepts and ideas.
Social-interpersonal learners are people who learn best by interacting with others. They are good at communicating and collaborating, and they enjoy learning in groups and teams. Social-interpersonal learners are often drawn to subjects such as history, languages, and social sciences.
Social-interpersonal learners often have the following characteristics:
- They enjoy working with others and collaborating on projects.
- They are good at communicating and expressing themselves verbally and non-verbally.
- They are able to build rapport with others and work well in groups.
- They may have difficulty learning independently.
Solitary-intrapersonal learners are people who learn best by working independently and reflecting on their own thoughts and feelings. They are often introspective and enjoy spending time alone to think and learn. Solitary-intrapersonal learners are often drawn to subjects such as philosophy, psychology, and literature.
Solitary-intrapersonal learners often have the following characteristics:
- They enjoy spending time alone to think and reflect.
- They are introspective and self-aware.
- They are able to learn independently and set their own goals.
- They may have difficulty learning in group settings.
Naturalistic learners are people who learn best by being in nature and interacting with the natural world. They are often drawn to subjects such as biology, ecology, and environmental science.
Naturalistic learners often have the following characteristics:
- They enjoy spending time in nature.
- They are observant and have a keen interest in the natural world.
- They are able to think critically about environmental issues.
- They may have difficulty learning in traditional classroom settings.
Multi-modal learners are people who learn best by using a variety of learning modalities, such as visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and reading/writing. They are able to process information effectively through different channels and learn from a variety of learning experiences.
Multi-modal learners often have the following characteristics:
- They are able to learn from a variety of teaching methods and learning materials.
- They are able to focus on and remember information from different sources.
- They are able to apply what they have learned in different contexts.
- They may have difficulty learning in traditional classroom settings that focus on a single learning modality.
Why are learning styles important in workplace
By knowing both your own learning style and those of your team members, you can tailor tasks and training to suit individual strengths.
Here’s how an organisation can apply this understanding:
- For example, a visual learner in a sales department may create elaborate charts or dashboards to track performance metrics, making it easier for the entire team to interpret complex data.
- An auditory learner in a project management role might benefit from regular verbal briefings and prefer to discuss project updates in a meeting rather than reading through lengthy written reports.
- A kinesthetic learner in an engineering department may excel in prototyping and hands-on troubleshooting, contributing a practical perspective that complements the team’s theoretical knowledge.
- A reading/writing learner in a research and development unit might excel at conducting extensive literature reviews, synthesising data into comprehensive reports, and setting a strong informational base for new projects.
This approach maximises the individual strengths of team members, thereby improving overall productivity and job satisfaction.
How does understanding learning styles help when working in a team?
Understanding learning styles can help when working in a team in a number of ways:
- Improved communication: When you understand your own and your team members’ learning styles, you can tailor your communication style accordingly.
- Increased collaboration: When team members understand and respect each other’s learning styles, it can create a more collaborative environment. This is because everyone feels comfortable sharing their ideas and contributions, knowing that they will be understood and appreciated.
- Enhanced creativity and problem-solving: When team members with different learning styles work together, they can bring a wider range of perspectives and approaches to the table. This can lead to more creative and innovative solutions to problems.
- Improved team morale and productivity: When team members feel valued and supported, they are more likely to be engaged and productive.
Maximise Your Team’s Potential with Omniplex Guide
Understanding how people learn can help improve both how well your team does their job and how happy your customers are. By matching training to how each person learns best—be it through seeing, hearing, doing, or reading and writing—you make your workplace better for everyone.