CXO

Good trainers teach for a variety of learning styles

Life as an IT trainer would be easy if everyone absorbed and processed information in the same way. But, since this isn't the case, instructors can reach the most people by teaching for a variety of learning styles.


Do you have next-to-perfect recall of conversations? Can you add numbers in your head better than on paper? Do you have to perform a task in order to understand it? Do you feel compelled to write down lists of instructions? These are all examples of different learning styles or ways of processing and absorbing information.

In a perfect world, instructors could choose a classroom full of people with similar learning styles and alter their training with that in mind. Instead, most are faced with a room full of diverse individuals who have different learning methods. But good instructors will present information in a variety of ways. Not only does this help reinforce class objectives, but it provides ways to spice up your routine.

What are learning styles? The University of Western Michigan’s Web site provides a list of terms and definitions for many different learning styles (see below). If you really want to go the extra mile, search for learning styles at About.com. It offers a plethora of links to related sites with advice on teaching to different audiences.

From the University of Western Michigan’s Web site.


Instructor: Know thyself
Knowing your own learning style can improve your productivity when preparing to teach or learning any new information. If you’re interested to find out how you learn, Howtolearn.com offers a simple online test. It takes only a few moments to make a discovery that can save you hours of study.

Playing to the crowd
TechRepublic has offered many articles about adjusting for different learning styles in the classroom. “Spread information, not ennui” provides tips about how to make a boring lecture a productive learning experience for your students. While some students do not easily learn aurally, Bruce Maples’ rules for when and how to use lectures can help improve your classroom technique.

If you’re worried about how to best structure your lectures to relate your objectives, remember to “Teach concepts before details.” Following Jeff Davis’ advice to “tell ‘em and show ‘em” will emphasize course objectives for greater student retention. He also recommends using lots of metaphors to explain concepts before launching into detailed information. If you’re having trouble coming up with your own comparisons, read my “Mighty metaphors make training a piece of cake.”

If you’re one of the lucky few who are able to observe your students at work before you teach them, “Stacking the deck in your favor: Creating the right class mix” by Veronica Combs will help you keep your interactive learners from interrupting your print learners while they’re trying to read the manual.

With a little forethought and consideration, you can create a class that offers a diverse variety of learning opportunities. Your students will thank you. And should you choose to ignore these different types, the olfactory learners may tell you, “You stink!”
What techniques work best for what type of students? How do you diversify your presentations to include something for everyone? Be an active member of TechRepublic! E-mail us with your experiences, tips, or questions, or simply post your comment below.

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