If you enjoyed school, then you’re probably a terrible trainer
It’s also highly possible that:
- If you enjoyed school, you’re really bad at communicating.
- If you sailed through university, you’re a terrible presenter.
- If you like to follow all the steps to get things done, you’re failing half your team.
This might just be me playing devil's advocate.
I found out there are different styles of learning. Yes, I knew, at least in theory, that you can be a visual, or a kinaesthetic learner, or auditory. When it remains abstract though it doesn’t help any of us.
So it had never made much difference to what I did.
But I’m in the middle of creating a new kind of online course. I needed to learn how other people learn, and in the process, I found out some things about myself.
I found out why school bored me.
Why I need to be more structured as a manager.
Why the chatty people at work HAVE to be chatty
And why some of the team want to be left alone in silence to read the manual.
It turns out there are strong learning preferences. It’s based on how we learn as babies – essentially, our modes of discovery.
“all babies gather information by actively testing their environment, much as a scientist would. They make a sensory observation, form a hypothesis about what is going on, design an experiment capable of testing the hypothesis, and then draw conclusions from the findings” (John Medina, The Brain Rules).
The brain is wired to keep learning as we age.
Jason Teteak has a nice way of putting it, based on years of teaching students – that we have four learning preferences. It's possible you'll be a combination of these:
Read/Write - Research learners
Learn most effectively by doing what you are doing right now: researching and investigating on your own. Research learners are up for debating & discussing the information in small groups after they have read and built up some expertise on the subject.
Visual – the Step learner
Step Learners. Need to have an agenda, write all the steps down, have a strong desire to stay organised at all times. Using visual aids to the big picture, especially those that address multiple ideas at once to show the relationship between them all.
Need to create the answers - they figure out things on their own. They don’t learn when they just write down the steps, they require synthesis – in that they need to put the information in their own words. They need to use their imagination
Talkers process information verbally. By talking through ideas, experiences, and concepts in groups they get it It helps them to work with a partner. It’s almost as if they need to have a silent 1 on 1 conversation with the person they are learning from. Basically, thinking aloud.
School is not for some of you
Research learners and Step learners do just fine in school – in fact, it’s totally geared for them. Unfortunately, it’s not the place for Talk/Create learners, which is how I would categorise myself. Given that, I realised why I spent years staring out of the window in school and why chemistry was fun (experiments are perfect for the create-learner) but maths was lost on me (too conceptual and very little practical creation).
When we discussed this in the office we realised that we’re a combo of different styles, as you might expect.
What you want ain’t what they want
What I realised is that I wasn’t giving enough direction to the step learners. That the research learners needed to have everything written down.
And most of all, I realised that the courses we make to teach people online, need to be very different. In training, you need to hit every learning style.
It’s especially hard for the talk learners to learn online – but video is good and video backed by an interactive forum (where you can make friends to chat through topics) is great.
The step learners need clear instruction and they love a checklist.
The research learners want to read it (as well as watch it), so you need a downloadable written guide for them to follow.
And the create learners? They need to put it all into their own words. They need synthesis. You need to ask them to re-write or re-create content for them to get it.
The most crucial lesson - is that we naturally teach others how we learn ourselves – so you need to be aware of how to help others understand, in the way that they actually process information. It takes patience and planning. If you excelled in school then you’re probably teaching in the way that worked for you - and totally failing the Talk/Create learners.
The benefit to your business is that once you know how you all learn, you can all contribute to creating brilliant training, and better marketing. When team members know to say: “I need this. It’s what would help me learn”, all of us benefit.
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