Everyone has their own way that they NEED to learn, right? Well, maybe not.
The Three Learning Styles
We have all heard of the three major learning styles and the idea that every one of us, because we are such different individuals, has a way that we need educational information presented to us so that we can learn. Some people are visual learners and learn by seeing. Some are audial learners and learn best by hearing the information. And others are kinesthetic learners who learn by doing, and working with their hands. When I was in college we actually took a quiz to see what learning style we were, and were coached on how to “manage’ in a course where the information was presented in a way that was not conducive to our personal abilities for learning it. Imagine being an overwhelmed college student and being presented with the idea that if the class was not hands on, the deck was stacked against me.
Learning Styles Debunked
Imagine my surprise, many years later, when preparing my master’s thesis in education to come across study after study by leading researchers saying that the learning styles theory is, well, a myth. Furthermore, it is a problem for educators to believe that we need to tailor teaching methodologies, learning materials, and classroom situations to each learner’s preferences. There is a big difference between the way a lesson should be taught in order to lead to effective retention and actual learning of the information and the way that a person prefers to be presented with the information.
According to Olga Kahzan in her article for the Atlantic this April, another study published last year in the British Journal of Psychology found that students who preferred learning visually thought they would remember pictures better, and those who preferred learning verbally thought they’d remember words better. But those preferences had no correlation to which they actually remembered better later on—words or pictures. Essentially, all the “learning style” meant, in this case, was that the subjects liked words or pictures better, not that words or pictures worked better for their memories.
What does this mean??
So what does that mean for us as course creators? A lot actually.
We have to be aware that every learner has a particular preference for how they consume their content, and we don’t always know what those preferences are. Many learners only want video content in their courses. If they can’t see it and hear it simultaneously, they likely won’t complete the lessons, or perhaps won’t even buy them. Others really prefer audio only, they get their content on the go and won’t take the time to sit still and watch video lessons. Still other learners would much rather process the information by having a workbook that they can read, with photos or infographics to help them navigate learning at their own pace. And, much to our chagrin, there is a large majority of learners who want all of the above. I understand those learners because I am one of them.
The Goal is Creating Raving Fans
So you need to make sure that you are offering your lessons in the ways that your learners prefer to consume them, but you also need to make sure that you are employing certain tactics to make sure that the way you are presenting the information using teaching elements and learning theory to ensure that your learner actually learns the thing you are teaching. Just because your learner prefers a different style of learning, doesn’t mean that they learn best this way. Employing the proper learning elements will make sure that regardless of how your ideal client likes their learning content presented, that they will find value in your training and will become a raving fan so that they return to you when you create your next course, and your next.