The 4 Learning Styles


OK, think of the best film you ever saw… now think of the worst film you ever saw… Done that… What was the difference between the two? Quality of acting might be one factor, production values might be another… but one thing that people remark upon over and over again is… “how the story was presented”.

And presentation of material is also highly relevent in the world of teaching as well. And that is true of face-to-face teaching as much as ecourses.

No one wants to be taught by a boring or disengaged teacher, no matter how much we like the subject being taught.

We tend to think of all the best teachers we have known, all the ones who inspired us (i.e. Dead Poets Society) as having won us over with their dedication, their passion, their eloquence… and this may be all true to some degree.

But what also made those teachers great… is that they took the time to learn and pitch to our particular “learning style”.

Usually, in the teaching literature, there are 4 learning styles:

  1. Verbal – We learn through talking and interacting with people, communicating, sharing experiences
  2. Auditory – We learn through listening
  3. Visual – We learn through seeing, diagrams, text, watching a demo
  4. Tactile / Kinesthetic – We learn through doing

Teachers who vary their teaching to accommodate the different learning styles of their students (as well being passionate etc) are the ones who tend to do better.

Now, what has any of this got to do with ecourses? And on an ecourse (especially a pilot), I don’t have time to find out the individual learning styles of all of my students, how can I apply this?

All good questions, and all true. But something I have noticed online, those courses where the tutor provides / accommodates for different learning styles are the ones where the students tend to do better.

And if students do better, then they are more likely to do another of your courses, and also recommend you to others. So it makes sound commercial sense to try to maximize and support their learning style by:

1) If verbal communication is important to an individual’s learning style, then the course can get people to buddy up, so that they can Skype each other, and so discuss the course material between them, probably through defined tasks / assignments.

2) If auditory communication is important to an individual learning style, then the course can allow download of the audio / video material, so the student can listen at their own leisure (i.e auditory people like to listen several times over in order to “get it”).

3) If visual communication is important to an individual’s learning style, then the course can provide downloadable PDFs to read, the document can include pictures, there can be diagrams… or example online demonstrations.

4) If kinesthetic communication is important to an individual’s learning style, then the course can get them to do things. Between sessions, give them a task to perform… independent research online say, right through to making something.

Now, I am not saying that an ecourse should / must include all of the above… I have experienced many ecourses that don’t.

But if you are teaching a course which tends to attract more verbals, or kinesthetics say (and there are whole professions which tend to lean in a certain direction) then it would be a good thing to play to the strengths of those types of people.

And so getting a rough feel for the average learning type of your Customer base may be a good thing.

I have heard some truly horrendous online ecourses, where the tutor assumed that just by shouting loudly at the microphone would somehow make the information enter and lodge in my brain that much easier. And these disasters usually tend to occur because the person teaching hasn’t thought about the needs of the person on the other end, and how their needs / learning style might be different to their own.

So if there is one thing I would say to those who are new to the weird world of teaching… think about the material / information you are delivering online, and consider incorporating a few methods which support different learning styles (as outlined above).

And strangely enough, finding some different ways to get your information across might turn out to be fun and creative in its own right.

(c) Brian Parsons, August 2016


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