You have 50 or 80 minutes at a time and a room full of students. (If you're a speaker/trainer/sales or marketing pro, you have a room full of professionals. Read on, and get the bonus messages.) You do your best to reach them with active learning techniques, the effective use of technology, and/or meaningful assessments and questions. You almost feel like you have to be a superhero to ensure everyone gets it ... to ensure everyone is engaged ... to ensure everyone is positioned to see utility in the information you provide. Put some of the responsibility on your students' shoulders, and have them do this one thing - regardless of their major and regardless of what you teach - to positively influence the trajectory of their academic success. That one thing is ...
Help students discover which type of learner each one is.
To informally help a student discover which type of learner he/she is, you can ask a student to consider how he/she would go about purchasing a car: Would he/she want to read descriptions and details about the car? If so, then this student is likely a visual learner. Would he/she want to talk with others who have previously owned the car to get their opinions, or would he/she listen very carefully and closely to the salesperson's explanation regarding the car? If so, then this student is likely an auditory learner. Would he/she conduct research and create charts to compare statistics and data about the car? If so, then this student may have a reading/writing preference for learning. Or would he/she want to test drive the car, look under the hood, and kick the tires? If so, then this student may be a kinesthetic learner. Depending on the one option the student would be most likely to do, that can determine how he/she likes to take in information and how he/she likes to produce or deliver information; in short, it can determine the kind of learner he/she is.
To formally help a student discover which type of learner he/she is, direct him/her to complete any one of a number of online assessments:
BONUS MESSAGE: What if you have professionals and not students in the audience? Assume your listeners represent all of the different learning preferences.
So why bother? Do different learning styles have an impact on a student's experience in school?
In short, yes. Different learning styles have a significant impact on a student's experience in school because once a student understands his/her preferred method of information input and output, he/she can more effectively and more efficiently approach his/her studies with greater opportunities for success. However, if a student never knows his/her learning style, he/she can find him/herself using ineffective strategies and techniques - or worse yet, using no strategies or techniques at all - that can lead to failed attempts at success.
For instance, if a student is aware of his/her visual preference for learning, then he/she knows listening to an educator's lectures is insufficient in the quest to transfer knowledge. First, visual and read/write preferences tend to complement each other (just as do auditory and kinesthetic preferences). As such, it is common for someone to have a visual preference as well as a read/write preference or for someone to have an auditory preference in addition to a kinesthetic preference.
Therefore, for example, once a student knows he/she has a visual preference, he/she knows he/she needs to not only pay attention to a lecture but also have available during the lecture reference materials such as the textbook or any readings that support the lecture. This student also knows it's imperative that he/she take notes during the lecture because unlike the student with an auditory preference, one with a writing or read/write preference can listen with rapt attention to the lecturer but unless he/she takes notes, he/she can walk out of class and recall very little to virtually none of the lecture's content.
A student's experience and success in school is greatly impacted by not only whether a student knows his/her learning style but also if he/she knows how to take that information to drive how to perform inside and outside of the classroom in a manner that's consistent with how he/she prefers to learn.
BONUS MESSAGE: What does this mean for professionals who are listening to your presentations? It means they will want you to present the information in a variety of ways. Have opportunities for them to read material, opportunities for them to talk either to you or with each other, opportunities for them to write, and opportunities for them to manipulate objects or to stand and/or move.
Still not convinced? Don't think your students would be convinced? Here's the one thing I would tell incoming college students about learning styles and thriving in their own way of learning.
The single most important step you can take to set-up yourself for success - regardless of whether you attend a technical school, a community college, an online school, a four-year university, or any other institution - is to find out how you learn best. Period. When you know your learning style, you know how to take control of your education and your future. You know what works for you and what does not. You know what to do in class and how to do it. You know how to study. You know where to focus your efforts You no longer wonder what's the most effective way to spend your time after class. You no longer get frustrated about how you should prepare for an exam. You no longer need others to tell you the actions you should take to be an accomplished student. In short, you are fully empowered and have a plan for academic success.
When this happens, it frees the educator up to focus more on what you do best and that is to facilitate learning in your chosen discipline with full vigor, gusto, and POWer!
You've got this!
BONUS MESSAGE: If you make presentations but not as an educator, then visit this link to get practical ready-to-use ideas for how you can capitalize on what I discuss in this post and make your presentations more engaging than ever before!
Graphic credit: Andrew Martin
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