Learning & Development

Understanding Different Learning Styles in the Workplace (Part 1)

It’s easy for trainers and learning and development (L&D) professionals to get so preoccupied with securing funding, technology, supplies, and staff for their initiatives and courses that they overlook the intricacies of their main audience: their learners. But learning programs can’t be truly successful if they don’t address learners’ intricacies, especially the various learning styles that each learner possesses.
Continue reading to better understand the different possible learning styles learners can bring to the table, as well as how you can design programs and learning materials that will address each different style.

Source: PeopleImages / Digital Vision / Getty

Brief Overview of Different Learning Styles

In 1983, Howard Gardner, PhD, professor of education at Harvard University, proposed there are eight different types of intelligence:

  1. Linguistic intelligence (“word smart”)
  2. Logical-mathematical intelligence (“number/reasoning smart”)
  3. Spatial intelligence (“picture smart”)
  4. Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence (“body smart”)
  5. Musical intelligence (“music smart”)
  6. Interpersonal intelligence (“people smart”)
  7. Intrapersonal intelligence (“self-smart” or “self-aware”)
  8. Naturalist intelligence (“nature smart”)

Gardner stated that everyone’s learning potential is based on those types of intelligence he or she knows or taps into as he or she is trying to learn something. And over the years, professionals have continued to dwindle those eight types of intelligence into more general learning styles:

  • Visual learners who learn by reading or seeing images
  • Auditory learners who learn by listening or speaking
  • Tactile or kinesthetic learners who learn by doing something themselves

Types of Learning Content and Approaches for Each Learning Style

You don’t have to necessarily tap into each of the eight types of learning intelligence Gardner uncovered to develop learning content and approaches that will stick with your learners. But you should at least focus on the basics and create learning content that encompasses the visual, auditory, and tactile learning styles.
For visual learners, you’ll want to create a lot of videos and presentations that have slides with high-definition images. You should also create visualized graphics for any data you present so that it’s easier to view and remember. And don’t forget to include captions in videos, as well as downloadable notes and documents for those who learn best by reading.
For auditory learners, you’ll want to include videos with sound, as well as modules where there is someone reading text in a document aloud. You’ll also want to give these learners a chance to speak their answers when completing assessments and quizzes instead of always requiring them type out their answers.
For tactile learners, you’ll want to offer opportunities for them to complete projects on their own that they can submit to you instead of simply telling them how to do something. You’ll also want to offer them plenty of chances to handle objects. For instance, if you want your marketing team to learn about a new product your company is offering, allow them to hold it with their own hands.
[Part 2 of this article appears in tomorrow’s Advisor.]