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Learning Styles

Little geniusHow Do We Each Learn Things?

Each person learns in a slightly different way to everyone else, and many theories have been put forward to explain these differences; in fact there have been over 70 theories postulated!

Each theory has its strengths and weaknesses, with plenty of evidence either supporting or refuting it.  Let’s explore one of the more long lived theories shall we?

One of the most widely used learning theories is the VARK model, developed by Neil Fleming.  This has been widely applied to educational settings and influenced materials used by teachers.  Suffice to say it’s quite popular and it’s likely that we and our children have been taught with this model in mind.

In this model, four types of learning styles are identified: visual, auditory; read-writing and kinaesthetic.  Fleming argued that each type of learning requires a different approach, for example, visual learners learn best with pictures, visual aids and diagrams.  Others will benefit from learning approaches such as movement, acting, experiments or listening to lectures and podcasts.

As this model is so widely used and referred to, it is possible that the use of learning styles could increase delegates’ awareness of their own individual approach and therefore benefit their learning.  But that sounds like a training course on how to go a training course!

Totem Lollipops

It’s important to remember that when you’re designing any workshop or training course, you’d do well to integrate a variety of exercises that touch upon these VARK learning models.  Nobody learns a great deal from a full day of Power Point slides…

Learning styles are arguably, too simplistic an explanation for learning, which is inherently a complex process.  You’ll often here the term ‘blended learning’ – it means slightly different things in different contexts, but for us it’s about creating a learning journey using a range of different, but blended exercises.

Quite critically, blended learning relies on the skill of the training deliverer to recognise the needs of the individual delegates and to adapt their approach to teaching within that context.

So what’s the secret sauce to effective learning for all?

Quite simply, there isn’t one.  Learning is as individual as the people teaching as those learning.  The best approach going forward is to expect to be flexible, and change the methods of teaching accordingly.

If delegates are included in the process and teachers are willing to be that bit more flexible then the perfect learning situation should be created.  However, this really is an idealised version of learning and how practical and applicable this is in the work place on a daily basis is a whole other question.

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