Understanding learning styles and incorporating visual learning into 4-H programming

Have you ever wondered why some youth engage in certain topics while others struggle to stay focused? We know that youth absorb information based on their learning style. This article will explore the visual learning style’s impact on 4-H programming.

Have you ever wondered why some youth engage in certain topics while others struggle to stay focused? We know that no two youth are the same, and when you work with youth it doesn’t take long to discover that how youth absorb information is based on their learning style.  Chances are that if a youth is actively enjoying a certain topic, you are teaching according to their learning style.

Let’s take a moment to explore some learning styles. According to the 4-H National Headquarters, learning styles can be broken down into three major styles: visual, auditory and kinesthetic/tactile. A catch-phrase in 4-H is “learn by doing.” However, we don’t often explain to 4-H leaders how to teach youth to “learn by doing” according to their learning style.

This article explores how 4-H leaders and youth workers can adapt their teaching style to meet the needs of visual learners. Future articles we will explore how to incorporate other learning styles into 4-H and youth programming. 4-H National Headquarters defines visual learners as those who rely on sight. 4-H National Headquarters goes on to explain that visual learners prefer demonstrations, videos, lectures, discussions and reading aloud. They remember best through hearing or saying items aloud and can be observed reading out loud to themselves.

Although there are tools that can be used to assess learning styles, it is unlikely that you will have access to such tools. There are some basic characteristics that you can look for that may help you to know what type of a learner you are working with. According to Education.com, visual learners usually:

  • Like to read
  • Are good spellers
  • Memorize things by seeing them on paper
  • Are organized
  • Would rather watch, than talk or do
  • Have good handwriting
  • Notice details
  • Remember faces better than names
  • Have trouble following verbal directions
  • Are easily distracted by noise
  • Doodle on their paper

So, how do we incorporate the visual learning style in to 4-H or other youth programming?  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Provide handouts at your club meeting
  • Include drawings showing directions for craft projects
  • Use resources such as Ohio State University Learning Lab Kits for livestock
  • Create livestock-bowl practice questions for terminology and anatomy
  • Find opportunities for the youth to take notes such as becoming the secretary of the club or filling in the blanks on a worksheet
  • Include several different colors in your projects
  • Use PowerPoint presentations which are valuable to the education surrounding the project
  • DVD’s
  • National 4-H curriculum
  • Posters

According to learning-styles-online.com, everyone has a mix of learning styles. Some people may find that they have a dominate style of learning, with far less use of the other styles. They go on to explain that others may find that they use different styles in different circumstances. 4-H National Headquarters reminds us that understanding learning-style preferences can help 4-H staff and volunteers provide a variety of experiences for youth to allow them the greatest margin of success in learning new skills and concepts.

Keep in mind that we are highlighting visual learning in this article. There are several other types of learning styles that we will be exploring in future articles.

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