How We Learn, and Why it’s Important to Understand

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Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Why is it important to understand how we learn best? It has to do with our own ability to relate with ourselves, first, and to others, second. Do you know how you learn best? Not sure? That’s pretty normal.

Though deep down you know, as I once did, most people don’t actively think about it. And, neither did I. It was not until I went back to school in my early 30’s that I fully understood how I learned best.

Alright, let’s take a look at the top 4 learning styles, and see what style resonates with you most. I also invite you to think about how else you can use these learning styles in your life. Ready? Good, here we go.

Learning Styles

Visual

Visual learners like to see what they are learning. These learners are interested in the visualization of the work they are engaged with. Think whiteboards, flow charts, and large post-it boards.

They must see the work in order to fully take the information in, process it, and provide a meaningful response. Some people don’t know they are visual learners. If you are not sure, I suggest writing out your next project on one of the aforementioned tools, and see what happens.

As I am visual, I can provide an example here.

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I don’t expect this visual to make sense, and in fact, it may shock or startle some of you. What you are looking at is how someone that is hyper-visual thinks.

The importance of getting those ideas out of one’s mind and into reality, via any tool really, is extremely important to someone that is a visual learner. Without the ability to do so, the person may get stuck. I know, I’ve been there.

Aural

Someone that learns best through sound is in the aural category. Think about someone that chooses to listen to audio books, or someone that must have someone explain a particular task or project to them through verbalizing the steps. Our youngest son is an aural learner.

For those that learn best this way, having tasks or projects written out or in visual format, as in the above whiteboard example, will not work. Or, rather, visual and written instruction will not work as effectively. Sound is the key.

Here is an example.

Jeff Flesch YouTube

This is a video I created for the blog, 3 Reasons Why Avoidance is an Ineffective Strategy, and I am using it as an example of aural learning, as I am talking through a strategy in this clip. Helpful. What would not work for an aural learner, would be the written out steps to the associated diagram without the spoken explanation.

Verbal

Verbal learners need to read that which they are to work on or engage with. Being able to read instructions, for example, is imperative for a verbal learner. Think about putting something together, not with a picture in mind, but with a list of steps, 1, 2, 3.

Being able to internalize the written instruction or steps, is important for a verbal learner. What would help the above video clip for a verbal learner? Yep, that’s it. If I were to write out a list of the steps that I am talking the viewer through. That would be helpful. Think of an ordered system. More comfortable for a verbal learner.

Kinesthetic

Those that learn best with their bodies are kinesthetic. These learners like to actually do something with what they are learning. They need to actually touch, feel, and practice the new information.

Though the below picture is not the best quality, it gives you an idea of a practical tool that was created intentionally to engage those that learn best by doing something with new information.

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Alright, so can the learning styles be combined? Do some people learn best with a combination of the aforementioned learning styles? And, can people’s learning styles change over time?

Do some people learn best when learning styles are combined?

Yes. I am a great example of this fact. I learn best, by seeing, reading, and then hearing information. I also like to practice new information by either utilizing a worksheet, or more likely a whiteboard. I love whiteboards. I have a whiteboard wall in my work office. Excellent.

Yet, this is only how learning works best for me. I know people that need to have information explained first. A must. Then they can interact with visuals, and other types of learning styles. Why is knowing this important?

When we know how the people we are in relationship with learn best, we can support them in their learning and life. Important. And, when we assume we know, and offer support, that support, while well-intentioned, may not work.

It’s also important to know, as we have discussed, that some people may not know how they learn best. Asking them, in these instances, may not help. What can you do? You can offer them different approaches to learning, and see what fits them best.

Do learning styles change over time?

Yes. Here are a couple of reasons why learning styles change.

  • Because as we develop we learn new ways to process and operationalize information. We may add new learning styles to our approach to learning, and may even need to let go of approaches that no longer work.
  • Different contexts require different learning approaches, so in these contexts, you may need to adapt your learning style while incorporating new tools. Think of a new job, going to college, or graduate school.
  • You may learn, in school or at work, about a new way to learn that was previously not available to you. And, in this new learning, you may adopt a new learning style that fits you better.

Why is it important to understand how we learn?

It’s important to our own development. When we know how we learn best, we can employ strategies at home and at work that align with our learning style, which can help our retention of information and mastery of all that we do.

As I’ve mentioned in this post, I am a hyper-visual learner, therefore it will probably not surprise you to know that I have not one, nor two, but, rather, three whiteboards in my little apartment. Yep, three. Needed.

It is also important to understand how other people learn best. When we understand how our friends, family, and coworkers learn best, we can support them by advocating for, and providing learning contexts that adhere to their learning style.

We all learn differently, yet the learning process is very similar regardless of the style that fits best.

And, why did I write this post? Good Question.

Because it occurred to me that it is also important to someone that is engaging others through digital media — you, me, and many, many other people.

Whether that is via a website, social media, a blog, or some other medium. Understanding how people learn is a critical component of engagement.

In order to create the most engaging context, as many learning styles as possible should be considered, addressed, and included when possible. As I continue to develop the COVID-19 Creativity website, I will employ more strategies that include each learning style to ensure that everyone has a quality experience.

Alright, we’ve addressed the top learning styles, walked through their significance, and connection to self-development, relationship-development, and the importance of using these styles to create more engaging contexts.

Now I’m interested to learn how you’ve used learning styles in your personal and/or professional life to create more engaging contexts. What have you done; and how did it work for you, and your audience?

Originally published on covid-19creativity.com

Written by

Interests include personal and professional development, increasing access to higher education, and finding new ways to create inspiration and equity.

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