Using Learning Styles

To use your brain more fully, you need to use combinations of these methods to learn and recall pertinent information. Using a combination of visual and auditory methods creates more connections in the brain than using just one method. The more connections you use to store information, the more likely you will be able to recall it when required.

A friend of ours repeats to herself the thing she is trying to remember to do in an interesting rhyme or pattern (auditory), writes it down on a piece of paper and puts it next to her place mat where she will see it (visual and kinesthetic), and then tells her husband to remind her (auditory). The interesting thing is that she knows her husband will never remind her (he won't remember later), and he knows she doesn't really expect him to remind her (so he doesn't bother storing it). She never forgets anything! Are you surprised?

Why is it important in everyday life to be aware of learning preferences? We often think of learning as taking place in a formal environment such as a classroom or work. Nevertheless, we learn new information every day. Sometimes we are trying to learn and remember the errand we must run later in the day (and can forget afterward). Sometimes it is the new phone number of our best friend (which we do not want to forget).

Many times, we are not learning the information. We want someone else to remember something. If you notice the little signals indicating someone's dominant learning preference, you can present the information in the style that person needs.

The authors were part of a team conducting a national workshop for engineering professors. One of the things we taught them was to identify their learning style. One of the professors confessed that he was strongly kinesthetic. But what he thought so funny was that he now understood why his students would be so frustrated. They would come up to him after class, and no matter what the question was, he always tried to draw some sort of a picture to represent the question. They did not want a picture; they wanted him to clarify what he had said earlier. He needed to adjust his presentation style to match his students' learning style.

How auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learners think.

Older and Wiser

Glenn Austin, 77, learned about genealogy shortly before he retired as Director of Contracts for a division of Martin Marietta Corporation. Since then, to forward his avid interest, he has learned how to use vital records and census records (visual), paying attention to different spellings of the same-sounding name (auditory). He learned how to use the Family History Centers of the Mormon church; immigration, naturalization, military, and cemetery records; city directories; and many other information sources (visual) and search strategies (kinesthetic).

He learned how to use a computer (kinesthetic) for searching electronic bulletin board systems, e-mail, and the Web. He has met new people (auditory) and shared information through queries (visual), which are special requests made by genealogical researchers to each other.

Glenn finds the analysis of the data collected the most challenging element—a real-life detective activity.

Now he is able to apply his knowledge of computers to do new things, such as word processing (kinesthetic) to help keep minutes for his condominium board.

Glenn says, "Genealogy is the most fascinating thing I've ever done!" He is growing new brain connections at a rapid rate!

Now that you have an idea of what your dominant style is, there are two things for you to do. First, if you need to learn some new information in a quick and thorough manner, plan learning activities that maximize your dominant style.

• If you are a visual learner, feast your eyes with images and lots of text.

• If you prefer to learn in an auditory way, try books on tape or recite your lessons aloud. Use your voice and your ears to help you use this preferred style.

• A kinesthetic learner will want to devise activities where movement and touch are required. Make models, write notes, and use your hands to describe things to others and yourself.

Second, learn to develop your skills in the other two, less-dominant, learning styles. Life events often require you to use your nondominant style and still be effective at retaining information. You may be reading a magazine article, which supports a visual learner. You may be in an auditorium listening to someone speaking, which supports an auditory learner. You may be in a hands-on class, which supports a kinesthetic learner. It will be useful to you if you can benefit from all three styles.

Accommodate your personal preferences and begin to include others. If you have never been an avid reader, for example, find a subject you enjoy and start reading. The more techniques you use to store information, the more connections within your brain you'll create, and the more likely you will remember the information. (See Chapter 2, "The Intelligent Mind," for a more detailed explanation.) Exercise those brain cells! HUP, two, three, four. HUP, two, three, four ...

DENDRITE DISCO TONIGHT!

DENDRITE DISCO TONIGHT!

"No pain, no gain, no brain!"

One of the goals of the exercises in this book is to promote your development of all three modalities so that whatever situation arises, you will be able to maximize your acquisition and retention of information. In later chapters, you will have an opportunity to practice each of the three learning styles and increase your ease of use. In the meantime, fill in the following table with specific methods you can use to remember everyday examples of learning. Sometimes you need others to learn and remember something pertinent to your life, so we have included a few of those situations. Write as much as you can about how you will use these styles. We did the first one for you as an illustration. (Take a peek at that now.) You can use a combination of methods if you want, such as writing the item on a sticky note (kinesthetic) and sticking it where you will see it after work (visual reminder).

Learning Application

Pick up bread after work.

New phone number

Lunch order for 10 visitors at work

Friend's anniversary is next week.

Car location in huge parking lot

Your spouse needs to come home to meet the plumber.

A friend is to pick you up at the airport.

Visual

Create a mental picture of picking up bread.

Auditory

Repeat to yourself: put it into your head to pick up some bread.

Kinesthetic

Write it down three times on a piece of paper—get bread.

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