What You Need to Understand About How Your Team Learns

In training (as in life) not everyone is created equally. Everyone absorbs and processes information differently. Some people are learn best by listening, some by reading, some by doing. It all comes down to their individual learning style.

Knowing the difference between learning styles is important if you want to give your team of learners the best chance of retaining what they learn so they can use it on the job. Plus, offering appealing training opportunities is much more interesting and makes happier learners.

What Is VARK?

VARK is an acronym that stands for the four types of learning styles from educational theorist Neil Fleming’s model. 

  • Visual: Learn best through imagery, such as images, maps and charts.
  • Auditory: Prefer to learn through listening and speaking, such as lectures or group discussions.
  • Reading/Writing: Like to learn with words -- reading or taking notes.
  • Kinesthetic: Prefer hands-on instruction in which they learn by doing.

Train Everyone Individually—Together

In our courses, we like mix up our instruction to appeal to people of all learning types. (We find out by asking the same set of assessment questions at the beginning of every course, which gives us a baseline.) This has the benefit of reaching everyone in their preferred style, but also keeps things generally more interesting and easier to remember.

Here's an example from our course High Blood Pressure (Hypertension). In the section called "Why Is Hypertension a Problem?" we provide text to describe all the different parts of the body that hypertension can harm, in a list like this, which appeals best to the reading/writing learning style:

Then we give a graphic that shows how hypertension effects different racial and ethnic groups in a colorful chart (for those who prefer visual learning):

Finally, we give participants a research activity, in which we give them a few websites and tell them to look up correlations between lifestyles choices and hypertension (kinesthetic learning).

Ideas for Ongoing Learning

When it comes to choosing training for your team, follow our lead and pick a few ways to present new information. This will let you snag learners with their preferred learning style, and also give you ample opportunity to reinforce skills.

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