Youth and learning styles: Incorporating a variety of teaching methods into 4-H programming

It’s important to incorporate a variety of teaching methods into an educational experience. Explore learning styles beyond visual, auditory and kinesthetic/tactile and learn tips for nontraditional teaching methods.

Do you know what your dominate learning style is? What about the children and youth you work with? Not every individual learns the same way. In fact, while youth often exhibit one dominant learning style, they greatly benefit when other styles are incorporated into their educational experiences.  

According to the 4-H National Headquarters, learning styles can be broken down into three major categories: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic/tactile. In an earlier series of articles, we have already explored the characteristics of these three major learning styles and some ways to incorporate them into 4-H programming. Aside from visual, auditory and kinesthetic/tactile learning styles, how might a youth learn best? In “Lesson 7: Knowing and Using 4-H Curricula” developed by 4-HMilitaryPartnerships.org, authors hold that as a person who works with youth, you will be more successful if you provide a wide variety of activities that appeal to all learning styles. The lesson continues by giving examples of a variety of learning styles that include:

  • Print learners: learn by reading
  • Auditory learners: learn from hearing sounds and voices
  • Tactile learners: learn by touching or manipulating objects
  • Visual learners: learn by seeing colors, shapes and forms
  • Kinesthetic learners: learn by using their bodies through rhythm and movement
  • Interactive learners: learn by working in groups
  • Independent learners: learn by working independently
  • Observational learners: learn by watching others do something

It’s important to also consider the method(s) of teaching you use with youth. According to the Ohio State University fact sheet “Nonformal Teaching Methods,” involving youth in different activities while they learn new material strengthens their knowledge retention. This fact sheet suggests incorporating the following methods for added success:

  • Lectures
  • Demonstrations
  • Discussion
  • Role playing
  • Hands on (experiential)
  • Use of costume, dance, songs or music
  • Journal
  • Praise/rewards/celebrations

Ideas for incorporating a variety of teaching methods can be found in the “Nonformal Teaching Methods” fact sheet.

The concept that youth “learn by doing” Is a guiding principle in 4‑H. How youth learn is up to you, but don’t forget the importance of variety and creativity.

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