Learning Styles

Video Transcript

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.

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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.

  • 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!