Your training and development initiatives will be most successful if every participant can learn and apply what you teach them. To do that, you must implement training approaches that accommodate different learning styles.
Here are some guidelines to help you navigate your participants’ learning preferences.
What are learning styles?
Learning style theory refers to the differences in how individuals learn. According to many theories, people can be classified according to their preferred learning style. These styles of learning differ based on which learning modalities best fit the individual when taking in new information.
Not everyone prefers to learn the same way. Some individuals prefer hands-on activities, while others might choose to listen and absorb information that way.
4 Different Types of Learning Styles
There are four different learning styles that span the senses and methods through which people learn best. This is referred to as the VARK model, which stands for: visual, auditory, reading and writing, and kinesthetic.
It’s important to understand these learning styles and to be able to adapt instruction for each of the common sensory modalities.
The best training program will assume that you have trainees that fit the different types of learners.
Here are the four styles of the VARK model:
1. Visual learners
A visual learner (aka aural learners) is best able to absorb information if it is presented via pictures, videos, charts, visual cues, and infographics. Create or select a training curriculum that contains a mix of different visual media.
2. Auditory learners
Auditory learners (aka verbal learners) get the most out of training that they can listen. This includes live or recorded lectures, podcasts, and training videos with accompanying audio.
3. Reading and writing learners
Individuals that prefer reading writing are the most traditional learners you will encounter. They do best when reading the written word, such as manuals, wikis, guides, and FAQs. These training participants will also engage well with slide presentations that use text and handouts.
4. Kinesthetic learners
A kinesthetic learner (aka tactile learners) is hands-on. They do well when taking part in participatory exercises. Many take to training better if they have some freedom of movement.
Other individual learning styles
Besides the four learning styles we mentioned above, there are a few more individualized learning styles, such as:
- Logical learners - depend on logic and analytical skills to search for connections, patterns, causes, and results from what they've learned.
- Social learners - prefer to learn in a social setting with other peers through conversation, group discussions, participation, and interaction.
- Solitary learners - aka "solo learners", learn best when training alone and not interacting with other learners, the opposite of a social learner.
- Nature learners - excel when in the presence of nature, which creates calm and relaxing learning environments, such as outdoor training sessions, educational hikes, or field trips.
How to accommodate different learning styles
Now for the challenging part. How do you create and deliver training that benefits every type of learner? Should you create a separate curriculum for each specific learning style?
Fortunately, you don’t have to do that. There are ways to incorporate instructional methods to ensure that students learn and engage with the training material.
Step #1: Mix instructional methods of delivery
You will find that you get great results by simply using different methods to communicate the material to your employees. Here are a few examples:
- Try videos with both audio and closed captions
- Use slide presentations and verbal instructions
- Give printed handouts to accompany visual aids
- Mix content in presentations to include both images and text
- Follow live or recorded lectures with immersive exercises or role-playing
Most importantly, be prepared to pivot as needed. Don’t show frustration if a training participant doesn’t seem to get it. Instead, find a way to deliver the information to them in a way that makes sense.
Step #2: Offer choices to learn
Fortunately, many adults know how they learn best. If they understand the learning objectives and have choices, they will select the method that matches their learning style.
Wherever possible, give them agency and autonomy by allowing them to select learning paths and methods. Then, focus on outcomes by collecting feedback after the learning process has been completed.
Step #3: Learn what engagement looks like
If you modify training to incorporate different learning styles, your participants will be engaged. Just be aware that engagement may not look the same for every trainee.
- Auditory learners may be intently tuned into your lecture
- Visual learners tune out a bit until you show a video
- Reading and writing learners may use their devices to take notes or read the material you’ve handed out.
Remember that eyes forward and devices put away aren’t the only signs of engaged learners.
Step #4: Assess learners often
The best way to gauge learner engagement and mastery is to divide learning into smaller chunks. Then, embed a variety of assessments that allow trainees to demonstrate their understanding.
Mix up your assessments to accommodate multiple learning styles, just like you do instruction. Have trainees walk through exercises that force them to use what they’ve learned, give short written assessments, and engage in a bit of Q&A to engage your auditory learners.
If a team member struggles to get through the assessments, get their input. They may be able to tell you where they are getting stuck and how you can adjust your training approach.
Create a learning strategy that works for everyone
While you should really consider different styles of learning when you create and deliver a curriculum, this should also be a part of your overall learning and development strategy.
This will ensure that every worker has a great chance of succeeding in your organization, regardless of their learning style.
A training platform for all learning styles
To accommodate different learning styles, you need a powerful curriculum-design tool, knowledge base, and the ability to use different methods to provide instruction.
Continu is a learning management system that enterprise organizations use to support their training efforts. Our modern LMS allows instructors to cater to a variety of learning styles, with features such as:
- Design entire training programs with powerful eLearning authoring tools
- Create assessments and quizzes to gain feedback from learning initiatives
- Deliver training and materials to anyone, anywhere, anytime
- Generate detailed reports on learner data and metrics
- Mix up learning styles with training videos, workshops, podcasts, and presentations