Essential Learning Styles for Training

In my previous post, Identifying the Seven Deadly Sins of Corporate Training Programs, I outlined some of the most common sins (or mistakes) we see made in the context of training and professional development. That post was the first in a series of indefinite length, written through a lens of the challenges we witness CADD Microsystems clients face as they work to provide training and professional development to their teams that have a lasting and meaningful impact to both the employee and the organization. Guiding us through this journey is the top-rated class, Overcoming the 7 Deadly Sins of Corporate Training Programs, presented at Autodesk University 2017 by my colleague, Jason Kunkel and myself. If you wish to read ahead at any time, I invite you to view the recording of our session on the Autodesk University website.

Understanding the institutional dynamics of training, I’m going to focus on the most essential element of any training and professional development for the second part of this series. That element? It’s quite simply the people we wish to train. The desire of most clients who approach us for training is to provide the best possible professional development solution to their team. When we talk about solutions in the context of training, that conversation is almost always intertwined with talk about things like format, whether a class should be customized, how to deliver a course and a myriad of other topics. Although each of those is meaningful conversations to have, and we’ll indeed have them during this series, it’s a discussion that’s premature at this juncture.

How do your learners learn?

Instead of talk about format and delivery, the more constructive conversation at this stage is about learning itself. More specifically, the way your learners learn. There are four styles of learning; Visual, Aural, Read/Write, and Kinesthetic. Of these styles, most have a preferred way of learning. More importantly, that preferred way of learning is typically complimented be one or more secondary learning styles. Despite this need among your learners, many professional development programs align with just one of these styles of learning.

Visual Learners

Individuals favoring a visual style of learning prefer to see the information they’re learning. Through this process, they try to visualize the relationships between concepts and ideas.

Visual learners prefer charts, graphics, and other multimedia elements throughout the learning experience. Although graphical components are critical for this style of learner, the more critical factor to consider is the visualization of relationships. Merely making a PowerPoint isn’t enough for this style of learner. Whatever visual format you choose, it’s imperative you clearly map out any links for the topic you’re presenting.

Auditory Learners

Individuals favoring an aural (auditory) style of learning prefer to hear information rather than reading or seeing it displayed visually.

The preference to hear information shouldn’t be confused as a passive style of learning. While listening is, of course, a meaningful way to understand information, auditory learners also need to recite information out loud to retain it. That means a monodirectional lecture isn’t going to cut it for this style of learner. Instead, a presenter will need to be dynamic, and able to ask questions of the audience where the response will repeat critical points from a presentation.

Read/Write Learners

Individuals favoring a read/write style prefer to, well, read or write what they learn. In other words, they prefer to interact with text over sound or visuals.

Appealing to this type of learner can be difficult for many, as the style is often regarded by non-read/write learners as one of the most passive styles. Though reading text is a very engaging learning method for this style of learner, it doesn’t mean you should just write a long workbook and tell this learner to read it blindly. You should still work to introduce some form of interactivity. A quiz is one popular way to engage this type of learner as it inherently requires interaction. Another common strategy is to prepare fill-in-the-blank handouts where key terms must be written by the learner to complete the handout.

Kinesthetic Learners

Individuals favoring a kinesthetic style of learning are your hands-on, experiential learners. Put simply, these are the people who learn by doing.

These are the dynamic learners who frequently challenge even the most energetic presenters. In the context of learning software, the hands-on exercises built into most classes are squarely aligned with this style of learner. Other strategies for this style of learner is to have them demonstrate a topic, or represent it as they see it. Though not always conducent to software training, role-playing exercises are often a wonderful tactic that aligns with this style of learner.

Bring it together

Dynamic instructors, like the instructors on our training team, goes a long way towards delivering classes in a way that reaches all learners. In many ways, the dynamic delivery of training curriculum in the classroom could be seen as the first step to accomplishing such a feat. Though classroom learning serves an integral part of any training program, learning should be a continual process, and occur in many different ways if your goal is to reach all the learners within your organization truly. We’ll discuss some of those methods in the subsequent posts in this series. In the meantime, what tactics does your organization leverage to reach learners of different learning styles? Share your ideas in the comment section below.

With over 15 years of industry experience, Donnie is a recognized Autodesk design solutions expert. His extensive knowledge of the technical requirements for completing design and engineering projects empowers his clients to fully realize the power of their technology solutions.

Donnie is also a published author, having written the Autodesk Official Training Guide -AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT: No Experience Required. He is a regular instructor at Autodesk University each year, delivering critical information to address specific needs of Autodesk users.

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