Three Things Every Trainer Should Know About Learning Styles Any trainer who has logged a few hours in front of a classroom or read through the diverse spectrum of responses that show up on a post-training reaction survey recognizes that learning differences are real. A Google search on “learning styles” recently displayed over 16,500,000 results. Clearly, there are many people out there talking about how to address learning styles. What should a trainer know to address learning differences? There are three things every trainer should know about learning styles:
What is a “learning style”? Learning style refers to personal preference for how you like to take in and process information. The most recent brain research confirms that when we learn new information, the activity in our brain follows a defined cycle. This path is universal, regardless of learning style. Your learning style describes the part of the learning process you enjoy most and default to in new learning or problem-solving situations.
How should I address learning styles? When you first discover that different people have unique preferences, you might think it would be advantageous to group learners by style and teach to their preference. Some learning styles models advocate this. Brain research shows us that for learning transfer to occur, the learner must move through all four parts of the learning cycle. The 4MAT model provides a framework for addressing the needs of all learning preferences while also ensuring learning transfer.
There is a difference between using “style strategies” and brain-based teaching. In the recently released book Evidence-Based Training Methods: A Guide for Training Professionals by author Ruth Clark, learning styles are referred to as a “myth”. The idea that we should group learners by style and teach only to their preference is indeed a myth. This book brings forth a healthy distinction in the conversation around learning styles. To engage each learner, we must address their unique needs. To fulfill the learning objective, we must lead the learner through the learning cycle. When you apply the 4MAT model, you accomplish both.