Learning Styles Copy

Learning Styles

Everyone learns, but everyone does not learn in the same way or at the same pace. In your role as a mentor/teacher for your clients, you will find ways that are most comfortable for you to use in supporting your client’s learning. This is important, because you will be more successful if you utilize your strengths in the services of your client. It is more important, however, for you to discover how your client learns best and to tailor your mentoring approach to your client’s learning style. This video presents a brief look at the most basic concept of different learning styles.

Video: Learning Styles I: Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic (4:28 minutes)

There are many other models of learning styles with more categories and distinctions, but understanding these three basic styles is sufficient for you to understand how you might use different approaches to help your clients as they learn new skills. Your understanding of these three basic learning styles can guide you to vary how you present information to your clients and what types of learning tools might best support them.

Unless they have a sensory impairment, most of your clients will use all three learning styles to acquire new skills. As a mentor, you will use the learning techniques that work best with all three styles at some point in the mentoring process. Knowing the characteristics of each learning style can help you tailor your mentoring approach for optimum success. Here are some common characteristics of each learning style.

Visual – Visual learners take in information best by seeing it. Charts, graphs, pictures or written information are the best tools to use for these learners. Reading about something or seeing it demonstrated will help visual learners to retain information better than just hearing something described.

Auditory- Auditory learners retains information best through hearing and speaking. Recordings or videos can help auditory learners to retain information. A picture without any verbal explanation will not be as effective for an auditory learner as talking them through the process.

Kinesthetic – Kinesthetic learners like to use a hands-on approach to learn new material. They learn better by doing than by seeing something done or hearing about it. Role playing new tasks or including movement and physical action while processing new information will help kinesthetic learners to retain information.

Looking at these three learning styles, you can see how important it is for you to use multiple approaches when helping your clients to learn new skills. This is especially true if you are mentoring or teaching in a group situation where the clients have different learning style preferences.

Techniques for Teaching Skills

The best way to teach a client basic living skills is to give them the opportunity to try skills in real life situations with encouragement, feedback and support. This is called in vivo practice. This means “in life” or in the living organism and should not be confused with the term “in vitro,” which means outside the organism and most commonly refers to an artificial method of fertilizing a woman’s egg.

Sometimes rehearsing a new behavior in a role play situation can help the client to gain confidence before they try out the situation in real life. You can help the client with such practice until they develop a sufficient sense of self-efficacy – a belief that they can be successful. Here are some practical strategies for skills teaching and rehearsal:

  • Make a list of the steps involved in a task. Review this list, and talk the person through these instructions while they complete them.
  • Use a variety of teaching methods. This can include individual or group practice sessions, role play or guided visualization.
  • Tailor your teaching techniques to the individual’s best learning style. Some clients will need to read instructions, some to see pictures or videos and others to see a demonstration of the skill being done correctly. In addition, some clients may need step-by-step instruction and feedback while others respond better to receiving all of the instruction at the outset and getting feedback after their attempt at a new skill is completed.
  • Use shaping by providing rewards or reinforcements when clients master each step toward mastery of a particular task or skill. Many people are not able to learn a whole skill successfully at one time.
  • Provide checklists and visual cues to remind the client about how to perform the task.

The goal of teaching skills is for the client to be able to use the skills appropriately and independently. This will take longer for some clients than for others. In order to reach the goal, the involvement of the mentor in managing or performing the task gradually decreases as the client masters more and more of the task. Here is a way to think about the step-by-step path to independent skill mastery.


Action Points – Helping Adults to Learn Skills

  • As a mentor, you need to keep in mind that adult learners
    • are internally motivated and self-directed
    • bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences
    • are goal oriented
    • are relevancy oriented
    • are practical
    • like to be respected.
  • People have different styles of learning. Three basic styles are visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Be able to provide strategies and activities that include each of the learning styles.
  • Visual learners respond best to learning by seeing. Use pictures and demonstrations for these clients.
  • Auditory learners retain what they hear more than what they see. Videos, lectures or oral instructions will work best for these clients.

Kinesthetic learners retain more when they are involved in “hands-on” activities where they are “doing” something. Using tools or props and actual practice of skills will work best for these clients.

Module 5 Activity: Choosing the Right Learning Activities

Instructions: Click the box below to complete the Module 5 Activity: Choosing the Right Learning Activities.