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What different learning styles mean for staff training

A look at the most common learning styles, and how you can approach training and staff development to make sure what’s being taught can be put into practice. Doing this will create a strong culture of learning within your business.
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Kerrie-Anne Chinn, Content & Editorial Manager
2021-12-13

Once you’ve overcome the hurdle of finding a time that suits everyone so you can provide training for your teams, you’ll face another challenge that many don’t consider: learning styles.

Just as people have different personalities, they also have different learning styles. That means, while one person can absorb through reading, another won’t retain nearly as much information. Some learn while getting hands-on, while others prefer to listen.

Below, we’re going to take a look at the most common learning styles, and how you can approach training and staff development to make sure what’s being taught can be put into practice. Doing this will create a strong culture of learning within your business.

What are learning styles?

People absorb information differently, and what works for some people won’t work for others. Think back to your school years - when the teacher was standing at the front of the class speaking, some students seemed to zone out. However, those same students would read their textbooks and learn much better than others.

There is one theory, known as VARK, which puts learners into four categories: visual, audio, reading, and kinesthetic. However, this model has been criticized, as it overlooks several other learning styles, and doesn’t consider that some people can span multiple styles.

Just like at school, different learning styles in the workplace - and specifically in training - also need to be considered. These are:

  • Visual
  • Aural
  • Kinesthetic
  • Logical
  • Solitary
  • Reading and writing
  • Verbal
  • Social

Every student can fit into at least one or more of these styles. Let’s take a look at what these learning styles mean in a little more detail.

Visual learners

Visual learners absorb information when it’s presented in a visual form, such as video, images, and graphics.

Aural learners

Aural learners learn through listening. Whether this is in person or a recording, when they’re being told information they find it far easier to take it in.

Kinesthetic learners

Kinesthetic learners retain information via experience by using their senses. When they’re able to dive in and get hands-on, using touch, sound, sight, and even taste and smell, they get much more out of the learning experience.

Logical learners

Logical learners, also known as mathematical learners, appreciate logic and structure. This type of learner is usually good at understanding complex mathematics and statistics.

Solitary learners

Social learners can concentrate on learning when they’re alone. They likely find others a distraction, which prevents them from retaining information. Many people will use solitary learning when revising for an upcoming exam, however may struggle if they’re not a solitary learner.

Reading and writing learners

Much like solitary learners, reading and writing learners absorb information through - as the name suggests - reading and writing. That means they’re far more likely to get more from reading a book than they are from watching a video or listening.

Verbal learners

Verbal learners use audio and written tools and cues to aid their learning. They use tricks such as acronyms and rhyme - in a similar way to how we were taught “my very easy method just speeds up nothing” as a way to remember the order of the planets in our solar system.

Social learners

Social learners prefer learning in a group environment, collaborating on projects with others. That way they can test their knowledge on others and retain information via discussion.

It’s important to try and accommodate different learning styles in training and development, which isn’t always possible in the workplace. However, many e-learning courses understand that people learn differently, and so have designed their courses with this in mind, allowing different learners to absorb the material.

We offer resources for learning to help you and your employees learn.

Identifying different learning styles

Chances are, most people won’t even realize they fit into one or more of these different learning styles. They may think they prefer to learn a certain way, but likely don’t associate it with being a certain type of learner.

For example, a student may dislike reading, because they can’t concentrate on the words. However, they may love watching videos. Because of this, despite having an interest in, say, World War II, they may watch a lot of documentaries but scoff at the thought of reading a biography from a soldier.

What style of learner are you?

There are ways to identify which learning style or styles you fit under, bearing in mind you may fit in more than one:

You may be a visual learner if you prefer to learn using images, videos, graphics, maps, flashcards, graphics, and diagrams.

You may be an aural learner if you benefit from listening and speaking and enjoy taking part in discussions. You may appreciate recordings, as you can listen multiple times.

You may be a kinesthetic learner if you enjoy getting stuck into tasks, and using your hands to interact. You may enjoy building models and using materials, and learning through trial and error.

You may be a reading and writing learner if you enjoy reading and making detailed notes. You may also rewrite those notes and return to them regularly to help you retain information.

You may be a logical learner if you enjoy working with numbers, mathematics, and statistics. You likely have an affinity for problem-solving, using logic over emotion to find a solution.

You may be a solitary learner if you struggle to concentrate around others. You would much rather be in your own company to learn at your own pace.

You may be a verbal learner if you enjoy learning using words and linguistic tricks. You may also be good at word games, such as Scrabble, and have a talent for public speaking.

You may be a social learner if you like to be a part of study groups, or collaborate on projects with different people. You possibly don’t like to work alone, and you have no problems asking questions.

Tailoring your training to different learning styles

When devising training for your employees, it’s important to keep these in mind so you’re catering to different learning styles. If you’re training employees and some are retaining information better than others, it’s likely because you're not using a training style that fits with their learning style.

Training styles

Just like with learning styles, there are also different training styles for employees. These are:

  • Progressive - used for problem-solving using activities and collaboration
  • Behaviorist - taught by a manager to educate for behavior changes
  • Humanistic - a facilitator will encourage self-guided learning
  • Liberal - used for intellectual development and taught by an industry expert
  • Radical - used to encourage dialogue and social change

As you can see, each training style is used to achieve a different purpose. For example, you couldn’t use a radical training style to train employees how to use a new piece of equipment. However, using aspects of the different training styles in training and development will ensure you’re able to connect with everyone.

Training methods

For employees to get the most out of their training, there are different types of training methods you can use.

Instructor-led training

This is the traditional, classroom-style learning. It's an effective way for students to learn directly from an expert, but it can be difficult to schedule and expensive.

E-learning

Online training is a cost-effective and flexible method of learning as it allows employees to access their training materials as and when it’s convenient. It’s self-directed and incorporates text, video, quizzes, and other techniques to help employees retain what they learn.

Reading

Textbooks can be a useful go-to for many employees, but retaining information can sometimes be difficult.

Hands-on training

Hands-on training encourages the employees to get stuck into a certain task and gain experience as they work while being guided by a supervisor. By learning through experience, it helps employees gain confidence quickly.

Coaching/mentoring

This is a one-on-one method that isn’t often used as it can be costly. However, it can be an effective method for training employees in all aspects of a specific task or role.

Lectures

Usually reserved for conferences or higher-education, lectures are used to teach a large number of students, however don’t offer the chance for student interaction. They can be done digitally or in person.

Collaboration

Group tasks, discussions and activities can be useful to train multiple employees. They can be self-directed, but are usually instructor led.

Role-playing

Role-playing isn’t for everyone, but can be useful in certain situations, such as customer service training. 

Simulation training

This method isn’t commonly used as it can be expensive and is only used by certain professions. It utilizes computers and augmented/virtual reality to simulate scenarios such as training for pilots or doctors.

Types of training

There are various types of training and development employees can undertake.

Induction/onboarding

This type of training is given to new employees as a way of showing them all the processes and procedures that will be required of them. This is an intensive training method as the employee learns all aspects of their new role. They may learn from various employees around the business, including managers and co-workers.

Job training

Job training is used to upskill existing employees, which can be done by senior members of the team, external instructors, or learning platforms.

Promotion training

When an existing employee is looking to progress in their career they’ll need to learn new skills and processes. This is done by senior level colleagues, and potentially institutions or learning platforms.

Refresher training

Refresher training is offered to ensure existing employees have all the relevant and up-to-date knowledge and skills. It isn’t used to upskill employees, but enable them to continue performing in their current role.

Find out more

With Go1, we offer training courses to fit different learning styles so employees can learn while not interrupting their day-to-day tasks. For more information, book a demo today. 

Go1 helps millions of people in thousands of organizations engage in learning that is relevant, effective and inspiring.
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