Styles of learning; one size does not fit all

Explore the way that you and others around you learn, to improve your communication and problem solving skills.

How do people learn? Do you prefer to observe someone demonstrate before attempting yourself? Does your child prefer quiet activities, and is content to be alone completing their tasks? Perhaps you are a talker; carrying on a dialog with whoever is in listening distance (and sometimes just talking to yourself), working through a process by talking it out. Some people are very inquisitive and continually ask questions about how things work or “why” they work the way they do. Then there is the child who has to touch and feel everything, exploring each piece – manipulating all of the movable parts.

Different methods of learning are referred to as learning styles; the way we process information. They are often described in a variety of ways and are as varied as people themselves. They focus on our strengths in learning and not our weaknesses.

  • Auditory learners – Prefer to listen to an explanation for a task as opposed to having to read a manual. They may discuss a process out-loud while trying it for the first time. Auditory learners may enjoy background sounds like music while working or may be just the opposite and be distracted by background sound and need it quiet to work on a project.
  • Visual learners – Process information by reading, looking at a chart or graphic, or watching a demonstration of a task. A person who is a visual learner may become impatient if they have to listen to a long explanation or lecture. Think about the child in a classroom who begins to fidget when having to listen to a long explanation for a seemingly simple task.
  • Kinesthetic learners – Learn by doing. They doodle to understand a problem and write things down. They prefer hands-on activities. Children who learn this way touch everything! They will explore things with their hands, and mouths in an effort to learn more.

Michigan State University Extension knows that once you identify your learning style or that of a child in your life, you are better able to try different methods of teaching and learning. It is not unusual for parents and children to have different, preferred styles. You may want to take a quick online inventory of how you learn best. By being aware of the different styles you can gain insight to a co-worker, family member or friend’s preferred learning style. Remember, that most of us use a combination of learning styles. Being able to explore and use several ways to learn can broaden the way you approach your interactions at home, your family chores, your child’s homework and your communication with co-workers. It can also empower you to better understand the people in your life; how they learn, how they communicate and how you might problem solve with them. Frustration and anger can be reduced when communication is improved. Remember that learning is not “one size fits all.”

For more on caregiving or family topics that affect your family visit http://www.extension.org.