Wax On, Wax Off

It is undisputed that each person learns and consumes information in different ways. This has been the subject of many theories used to decipher the different learning styles, different methods of learning and the associated techniques to help an individual learn better.

These theories accept that it is simpler to group the common ways in which people appear to learn, and that everyone has a mix of learning styles within these groups. These groups of learning styles are based on the active/passive senses:

  • Visual (Spatial) – Prefers using pictures, diagrams, images and special understanding.
  • Aural (Auditory-musical) – Prefers using sound and music.
  • Verbal (Linguistic) – Prefers using words, both in speech and writing.
  • Physical (Kinesthetic) – Prefers using your body, hands and sense of touch to aid in learning.
  • Logical (Mathematical) – Prefers using logic, reasoning and systems to learn.
  • Social (Interpersonal) – Prefers to learn in groups or with other people.
  • Solitary (Intrapersonal) – Prefers to work alone and use self-study.

It is also generally accepted that some people have a dominant learning style with less use for the other styles, or that they use different learning styles for different situations. Nevertheless, research shows that each learning style uses a different part of the brain, and that by involving more of the brain during learning we have a better chance of remembering more of what we learn.

For example, if we were introduced to someone at a party (“Roberta”) and are trying to remember their name , repeating their name several times while creating a musical rhyming phrase (“Roberta the Flirter”) with their name and associating their name with an image (Roberta is wearing a ruby-red chiffon dress) will greatly increase our chances of remembering.

Theories that expand on this basic premise dissects and manipulates the above learning styles into more complex models. For example, David Kolb’s Experiential Learning model combines the various learning styles into experiences, creating four learning styles: Converger, Diverger, Assimilator and Accommodator. Then there’s Flemming’s VAK model which separates the learning styles into three categories – Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic or tactile learners. There is also the Cognitive Approach to Learning by Anthony Grasha and Sheryl Reichmann as well as the Honey & Mumford model uses the concurrent personality indicators of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

As you can see – a lot has been theorized and written about the way in which we learn and remember information!

In my experience I strongly believe in the following simple rules to help participants in my workshops and classes to learn:

  1. Everyone consumes information based on their value-structure. This means that an individual’s current priorities are the dictator of their attention gate-keepers. Once you get their attention, you have a better chance of being heard. A simple example concerns someone who is worried about their performance in their job. When explaining the benefits of meditation to him, using examples that show how meditation can “give you more time to do the things you enjoy” or that it will “help your body work better and promote better health” won’t open his mind to the practice. He is concerned about his job performance, so using explanations about how meditation can be used to calm him during stressful times at work, or showing him how a regular meditation practice will help clear his mind so that he is better able to perform in his job will resonate better with him.
  2. When running workshops or classes, I try to use several methods to get my point across. This includes words (by speaking and hand-out notes, debates/discussions), by images (through diagrams, videos and cartoons), through physical interaction (by using hands-on activities and role plays) and by setting individual tasks/assignments. Interaction with as many forms of learning styles will assist with understanding and remembering the lessons delivered.
  3. I take the time, where possible to understand the backgrounds, limitations, styles, comfort zones and objectives of each participant in classes and workshops that I run. I do this prior to their attendance, on a one on one basis. This creates rapport, engenders respect and gives me the information that I need to tailor my courses to that particular audience. I find that this reaps rewards later in the learning process.
  4. I always give my students access to my time so that they can debate a topic with me, or to get more detailed explanation without the presence of the other students.

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