Identifying your preferred style of learning can make gaining new knowledge and skills easier.
Have you ever attended a course or a training session 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 he or she was trying to teach?
Whether you're the instructor or the student, this has probably happened to most of us at some point in our lives. And it can be a frustrating experience.
All of us learn differently. Some people do best when they have visual cues, like graphs and diagrams. Others prefer to get INVOLVED with the learning, and perform experiments, or work in a group.
By taking the time to understand the different ways that people learn, you can adapt your approach to teaching others.
One of the best ways to do this is to use Felder and Silverman's Index of Learning Styles. According to this model, there are four dimensions that affect the way people learn.
The first dimension looks at the differences between people who learn in Sensory and Intuitive ways. Sensory learners do best when information is taught in a factual and practical way. Intuitive learners are the opposite, and love to learn concepts or theories.
The next dimension looks at the differences between people who learn in Visual and Verbal ways. Visual learners prefer to SEE information, rather than hear it. However, verbal learners prefer the written format, and do best when they REPEAT OUT LOUD something they are trying to understand.
Active and Reflective is the next dimension. Active learners are happiest when they get involved by building models, or by role-playing within a group. Reflective learners prefer to have time to think about new concepts, and solve problems on their own.
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 to understand larger concepts. Global learners prefer 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.
As you might have guessed by now, most of us fall somewhere on the spectrum of 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 model is that, once you've identified your own distinct style, you can structure your learning to suit it. For example, if you know you prefer the Verbal learning style, you'll take notes when there is no written material available.
Once you know where your preferences lie on each of these dimensions, you can begin to stretch beyond them. This can help you develop a more balanced approach to learning and will open you up to many different ways of perceiving the world. And, if you're training others, you can make sure that you deliver information in a way that suits people with a variety of learning styles.
You can find out more about how to apply Felder and Silverman's Index of Learning Styles in the article that accompanies this video.