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Learning Styles

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Understand different learning styles,
with James Manktelow & Amy Carlson.

James Manktelow: Hello. I'm James Manktelow, CEO of MindTools.com, home to hundreds of free career-boosting tools and resources.

Amy Carlson: And I'm Amy Carlson from Mind Tools.

JM: Have you ever gone on a course, or gone through a training class, where you and the instructor seemed to be on different wavelengths?

No matter how hard you tried, you just couldn't grasp the concepts that she was trying to teach?

AC: Whether you're the instructor, or the student, this has likely happened to most of us at some point in our life. And, it can be a frustrating experience.

All of us learn differently. Some people learn best when we have visual cues, like graphs and diagrams, to see.

Others learn best when we can get involved with the learning, and perform experiments or work with a group.

JM: These are just two examples of the different learning styles we all have.

By taking the time to learn about different styles, you can help yourself learn more easily.

If you're teaching others, knowing about the different styles can help you modify your approach so everyone can grasp what you're teaching.

AC: One of the best ways of thinking about this is to use Felder and Silverman's Index of Learning Styles.

According to this model, there are four dimensions that affect the way that people learn.

JM: For instance, the first dimension looks at the differences between people who learn in a Sensory and Intuitive way.

Sensory learners do best when information is taught in a factual and practical way.

Intuitive learners are the opposite. These learners love to learn concepts or theories.

AC: The next dimension looks at the difference looks at the differences between people who learn in a Visual and Verbal way.

Visual learners do best when they can see the information in pictures or graphs.

Verbal learners do best when they can read the information.

JM: Active and Reflective are the next dimension.

Active learners are happiest when they get involved by building models or by role-playing with a group.

Reflective learners do best when they have time to think about new concepts, and solve problems on their own.

AC: The last dimension looks at Sequential and Global learning.

Sequential learners like to have information laid out in an orderly manner. They learn best by focusing on the details in order to understand larger concepts.

Global learners do best with a more holistic approach. They're the opposite of Sequential learners in that they see the big picture first, and then focus on the details.

JM: As you might have guessed by now, most of us fall somewhere on each dimension.

For instance, you might learn best using a combination of the Sensory, Verbal, Reflective, and Sequential learning styles.

The benefit of Felder and Silverman's Index of Learning Styles is that once you've learned your own distinct style, you can structure your learning so that you receive it in a way that suits you.

For example, if you know that you prefer the Verbal learning style, you'll take notes when there is no written material for you to read.

AC: The Index is also helpful because it allows you to see where your weaknesses are. When you understand the learning styles you naturally shy away from, you can work on making your learning more balanced.

And, if you're training other people, you make sure that you deliver this training in a way that suits people with a variety of learning styles.

You can find out more on how to apply Felder and Silverman's Index of Learning Styles in the article that accompanies this video.

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Comments (3)
  • Over a month ago Dianna wrote
    From what I know of learning style, individual preference is probably more influential than age. However I did a quick google search and learning styles do change as we grow and develop. Babies will have more similar learning styles than children or teens. And we even as adults our learning style can still change but that change is very slow and probably has more to do with the situation than our personal preference. It's quite a fascinating topic. I think it really helps to know your own learning style preference and those of the people around you. It makes for much smoother and effective teaching moments that tend to crop up during everyday life at work and at home.

    Dianna
  • Over a month ago athletebydesign wrote
    Does this also apply to children and teenagers as well? Do different age groups go through different styles of learning?
  • Over a month ago Midgie wrote
    This is yet again another great tool! In addition to learning how you learn, it can be used when developing presentations to ensure you are able to capture all the different learning styles of the audience.

    I'm just in the process of putting together a motivational talk and I'll be using this tool as a guide to 'tick off the boxes' of different learning styles! I know it will certainly add some extra 'oomph' to my presentation! Even as an experienced presenter, I think its a good idea to review and reflect on what I'm doing and how I'm doing it so that I do not fall into the habit of only using a limited number of learning styles!

    Midgie