Over the last year, we’ve all adapted towards a remote way of life. Where before, in-person meetings, classrooms, and workplaces were the norm, now, we log onto zoom calls for virtual sessions instead. And while we’ve become accustomed to logging in as part of our new commute, new challenges are being faced for students, teachers, workers, and parents.
Some individuals are going to take to online classes or meetings more naturally than others. So how can we adjust the way information is being presented to help those that may struggle more? One way to help bridge the distance we can naturally feel by looking at a screen is to understand what the individual learning styles are and adapt our communication to be sure we’re reaching our audience.
It’s important to understand that there is no one size fits all approach to communication. No matter what medium we’re presenting information in, each individual learning style won’t be highlighted or focused on. Instead, by understanding the various learning styles, we can adapt the way we help people process the information off-screen by giving them options based on how they best learn.
People who are visual learners are the observers. They rely on what they can see in order to learn. You’ll recognize these students or employees as the ones who get excited when there are handouts. These learners like diagrams, presentations with graphs or pictures, and having key points written either in a document or on a board.
The benefit of having these types of learners on the other side of our screen, is that we can send worksheets in advance or add graphics to sections of our presentation. Visual learners also thrive in quieter environments, so the ability to be in a room or space on their own can be tremendously beneficial for them.
But it’s important to realize that part of what a visual learner relies on is being able to read facial expressions and body language to interpret what they’re being told. That makes some online interactions difficult for a visual learner. Because of this, it’s important to check in and allow them to ask clarifying questions frequently to ensure you’re both on the same page.
Online learning and presentations are preferred by this group. Auditory learners prefer to listen to information, absorbing information through lectures, oral presentations, podcasts, and speeches. They’re exceptional at picking up and following the rhythm of speech, making them attuned to the inflections speakers use for emphasis in order to pick up on key points.
Auditory learners will do well being able to sit back and listen to presentations and meetings in an online forum. They also prefer learning in quiet environments, so having their own space without having distractions will be a benefit to them.
However, auditory learners will struggle with certain aspects of online meetings and classes. They enjoy listening to someone speak, but they also enjoy talking. Auditory learners are the participants who thrive in active Q&A sessions and this may pose a bit of an obstacle in online forums. It can be difficult to have hearty discussion when waiting for an admin to unmute them. Reading out loud, reciting information, and participating in group or buddy discussions are other ways to reinforce new learnings, so finding ways of providing and supporting these activities offline will help them learn.
Individuals who learn linguistically are drawn to the power of words and learn through reading and writing. These are the students and employees who read ahead of time or take notes verbatim so they can read and digest them later. They’ll prefer a textbook or user manual to a presentation, though if they’ve had the chance to read beforehand, will use their notes to supplement what they’ve read.
Linguistic learners are a blend of the strengths of auditory and visual learners. They can follow information being presented orally, picking up on inflections and changes in voice to indicate key learnings. Because they do well with language, linguistic learners will easily pick up on acronyms and will use other language techniques like mnemonics to remember important data and facts. Having these available and written down will help them learn faster and retain more.
Where visual learners benefit from photos and diagrams, these types of visual aides won’t work with linguistic learners. While they appreciate and learn from slides, putting quotes or key points that are written out will work best with them. Linguistic learners also thrive in group discussions, needing to talk through what they’ve learned or are struggling to learn in order to solidify the information in their brain.
Kinesthetic learners are the students or employees who learn by doing. They can listen to a lecture but until they have a chance to engage with the material directly, it will be difficult for them to grasp the key concepts. They’re the ones who volunteer first to participate, needing the hands on experience to really solidify their knowledge.
Online formats are the most difficult for kinesthetic learners. They’ll struggle to sit through longer lessons without tangible, tactile interactions to reinforce the information presented. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t tactics we can use to help. Asking them questions throughout the presentation helps them stay focused and interact. These learners will also do well with assignments that allow them to immerse themselves in the data, such as creating worksheets or recreating timelines. Anything that focuses on using the information in a three-dimensional way.
Kinesthetic learners learn through stories, especially if there are ways to bring the story to life. This can be harder through an online session, but asking them to take notes and hold them up to the screen or encourage them to take notes in creative and different ways. They’ll also benefit from movement breaks or by letting them know they can go off camera to walk around or get their extra energy out.
The truth is we’re all a blend of these learning styles, but most of us will lean towards one of them more than the others. Understanding these various styles isn’t important just in regards to teaching students. We never stop learning and while we’re managing people on teams, how they react and respond to online formats will be influenced and impacted by their individual learning styles. And parents can use knowing their child’s learning style to help their students thrive both online and off.