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November 13, 2015

Learning: What's Your Style?

Jo Jones

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©iStockphoto/Jelena990
©iStockphoto/Jelena990

What's your reaction when your manager tells you that you're going to be doing some training? Do you jump for joy, and think about all of the new things that you're going to learn and how they'll help you do your job? Or do you shudder at the very thought, and picture yourself sitting in a warm, airless room, listening to someone talk endlessly about something that means nothing to you?

In the same way that people have different learning needs, everyone has his or her own preferred style of learning. You might find it easier, for example, to grasp a new concept when someone talks it through with you from beginning to end, step by step. Your colleague, on the other hand, may prefer to go away and read up about the topic on his or her own.

I've experienced several different types of training and so I have a good idea about my preferred style of learning. A successful learning experience for me is not just about learning something new, for example how to read HTML code. It's also about understanding the context of the "something new," like what HTML code is for and how I can use it.

My preferred learning style is to discover how the "something new" fits in with everything else around it and to recognize how it fits in with me. I would say that the three key elements of my learning style are:

  • Time – to process new information.
  • Examples – to aid my understanding.
  • Questions – to cover any gaps.

The learning method that includes these features and that seems to best match my learning style is a workshop, or Active Training. This kind of training uses a mixture of teaching, discussion and activity to explore a topic. The subject is introduced at the beginning of the session and is generally followed by role-play, games and opportunities to "break out" and discuss particular points with other learners. You can ask questions as you go, or save them until the end.

I find this interactive way of learning insightful. I can gain a clear perspective on the topic, I have the time I need to digest it, I can follow examples to support my understanding, and I have an opportunity to ask questions.

One type of training I don't find as fulfilling is in a classroom setting, or Instructor-Led Training. I often find that being given lots of information in one big chunk is overwhelming, and I don't feel that I can ask questions when I need to, without interrupting other people.

It's a good idea to think about which methods of learning are most effective for you, and why. This can help you make decisions about the kinds of training that are going to be the most beneficial to you and that can help your manager identify the best training to provide you with.

It's also important to remember that training isn't the only way we can learn. The 70:20:10 model suggests that 70 percent of learning happens through experience, 20 percent through conversations, and 10 percent through formal training

I learn from my experiences every day, through performing day-to-day tasks, completing projects, and looking back on how they went and finding ways to improve them in the future.

I learn from conversations with my manager and colleagues, about their take on particular issues and the methods they use to get their work done.

We all need to learn different things to do our jobs, and there are lots of different ways to learn them. You need to decide on the learning style that is most effective for you, the one that you'll get the most out of, and the one that will enable you to use whatever you've learned to progress further in your role.

Today's article talks about what a manager can do to develop his team, including matching team members' learning styles to the right sort of training to get the best out of them and encourage high performance.

What's your learning style? What makes a positive learning experience for you? What's the most worthwhile training session you've ever attended and why? Join in the discussion below!

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9 comments on “Learning: What's Your Style?”

  1. i like to be a member, in Nigeria we are still doing things the old way. i love to change the atitude of people around me for better tomorrow. My biddest problem is to get the right way to pass the skill to others.

    1. Hi Babatunde,
      We'd love to have you as a member to share your ideas and thoughts with our community, in addition to receiving lots of ideas, suggestions and resources that can help you.

      Have a look at our signup page in the upper right hand corner and try us out. When you join, come into the Forums and introduce yourself as we'd love to meet you.

      Midgie
      Mind Tools Team

  2. My most worthwhile training session...Initial instruction was given on a new computer system for immunotherapy. After the instruction, it was hands-on and implementer was present to ask questions while we were working on mock entries. Afterwards, we gave input on strengths, as well as irregular occurrences of the new program. It was visual,tactile,auditory, all one beautiful package.

    1. Hi Sally,
      What you describe is exactly the way I like to learn! Present some of the facts, then let me have a 'play' myself to figure it out, push all the buttons and see what happens!

      Midgie
      Mind Tools Team

  3. "Hello Admin! Thanks for this article, very good information, I will be_ forwarding this to some friends, if you’re ok with that. Greetings from Germany!"

  4. A further issue is that video games are usually serious as the name indicated with the major focus on knowing things rather than fun. Although, it has an entertainment part to keep the kids engaged, just about every game is normally designed to work on a specific skill set or curriculum, such as instructional math or technology. Thanks for your article.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I am hearing more and more about the use of 'gamification' in business and in school to help engage, motivate and teach. Certainly adds a new dimension to learning!

      Midgie
      Mind Tools Team

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