Join Jeff Toister for an in-depth discussion in this video Aligning training with learning styles, part of Instructional Design Essentials: Adult Learners.
Adult learners have different preferences when it comes to how they learn. Surprisingly, research shows that adapting training to individual learning preferences has no impact. However, researchers do agree that incorporating a variety of learning styles into training programs can make training more effective for all learners. Let's take a look at the three basic learning intake styles or modalities. The visual style prefers seeing. This includes pictures, demonstrations, and video. The auditory learning style prefers listening.
This includes lectures and group discussions. The kinesthetic learning style prefers doing. This includes hands-on practice and activities that require movement. Learning often improves when you use more than one style at a time. The GPS system in a car or on a smartphone is an excellent example of all three learning styles at work. It gives you audio directions to alert you to the next turn. A display gives you visual cues about where you're headed, and the guidance system gives feedback based upon where you actually drive.
So it will provide the next turn if you're on track, or reroute you if you get off course. Using multiple approaches also adds repetition without being boring. We know that repetition helps learners retain information. But repeating the same activity over and over again isn't very fun. For example, let's say you wanted people to learn the PASS acronym for operating a fire extinguisher. You could use multiple learning modalities to repeat key lessons while making the topic quick and engaging.
I have two challenges for you while you watch the following example. One, is to count how many times the four steps in PASS are repeated. The second, is to see if you can identify the different learning modalities that are used. In this lesson, I'm going to show you the PASS method for operating a fire extinguisher. P.A.S.S. is an acronym for Pull, Aim, Squeeze, and Sweep. First, pull the pin. This unlocks the trigger mechanism. Next, aim the nozzle at the base of the fire. Squeeze the trigger to discharge the extinguisher.
And sweep from side to side. You may have noticed that the four steps in the PASS procedure were shared three times. They were displayed in an on-screen visual. I said them out loud while they were on screen. And then I described each step one at a time while demonstrating with the fire extinguisher. That's a lot of repetition for a very short segment. But using various modalities makes it possible. Let's look at the different modalities used. I used a verbal explanation to introduce steps, and I gave a verbal description of each one.
The four steps were visually displayed on the screen, and then I provided a visual demonstration of each one. Now, you might be wondering, what about kinesthetic? That part was up to you. If you were counting the number of times the past steps were repeated, you were actively involved in the training. Trying to spot the different learning modalities used was also active learning. I encourage you to try this activity with one of your own training programs. Look at a particular module and see how many different learning approaches are used. Try to determine whether each one is an example of auditory, visual, or kinesthetic.
You may want to download the Learning Styles worksheet as a guide. It contains additional examples of activities for each learning style. I've also included a link to an online assessment where you can learn more about your own preferred style.
- Adult learning theory
- Understanding the four stages of learning
- Comparing active vs. passive learning
- Overcoming learning barriers
- Turning theory into practice