Teachers have long recognised that some students learn best by watching and doing, others by listening and repeating. Since the 1970s, psychologists and educators have classified learning styles and recommended different approaches for the different learners.

And while there’s debate about how many styles there are and how to identify them, the consensus seems to be that there are four main groups of learners: visual, auditory, verbal and kinaesthetic or ‘hands-on’.

It’s clear that people do learn in different ways; some of us like to talk about our ideas while others prefer to work alone, making notes. But what can we internal communicators learn from that? The idea of individualised learning styles has influenced teaching in classrooms and colleges and should no doubt become integral to helping communicators deliver a great employee experience.

Now, with your colleagues in mind, take a look at the categories below and see if any of the descriptions are familiar.

Visual learners 

like to use pictures, diagrams and charts and have good spatial understanding. They will probably say things such as ‘I see what you mean’ and ‘that looks good’.

 

Auditory learners

like to hear stories and anecdotes and benefit from hearing key words and phrases repeated. They enjoy sound, music, discussions and listening to others. They are likely to say ‘that sounds OK’ and ‘that rings a bell’.

Verbal learners

focus on reading, writing and the spoken word. They often prefer to learn and work alone and are not so keen on discussions. They retain what they read and like to make notes. They will say ‘I’ll make a note of that.’

 

Kinaesthetic learners

prefer physical activities and hands-on tasks. They like to use their bodies and touch. They learn by repeating actions and need to take breaks and move around. They’ll say things like ‘that feels right’.

 

 

You are likely to have all these types of learners within your organisation. So it’s clear that IC professionals should use a variety of methods to get their messages across. Video blogs and team talks for auditory learners; online reports and printed publications that people can read at their leisure; infographics to get lots of facts across to a visual learner.

Research suggests that that each learning style uses different parts of the brain. Learning in the ‘right’ way for you means you are more likely to take in and retain information.

 


RESEARCH
SUGGESTS THAT
EACH LEARNING
STYLE USES DIFFERENT
PARTS OF THE BRAIN.
LEARNING IN THE
‘RIGHT’ WAY FOR YOU
MEANS YOU ARE MORE
LIKELY TO TAKE IN AND
RETAIN INFORMATION.”

 

Of course people aren’t that simple to categorise and there’s some overlap – you might, for instance, learn a foreign language by listening but learn physics by reading. And one day you might be in an ‘auditory’ mood and at another time you might be more receptive to visual, but people do tend to have one preferred style of learning.

At Sequel we’ve worked with many clients to produce materials and campaigns to appeal to people who absorb information in different ways.

For kinaesthetic – practical – learners there are hands-on sessions with games and activities, such as the boxed team games we produced for City & Guilds.

Visual learners will appreciate animated videos and poster or postcard campaigns. Posters we designed for Bupa stressing the importance of hand washing went down well because they were bright and light-hearted, adapting the lyrics of pop songs.

Podcasts are an obviously good fit for aural learners. One university we worked with found that more students retained information by listening to a podcast than being at the actual lecture.

Our Digital Diaries project with NHS Digital helped highlight the potential in digital channels for health and care communication. We wrote and designed eight case studies under the series title #DigitalDiaries in a ‘storytelling’ format that appealed to verbal learners.

 

 

How do you learn best?

We know that whatever your age or experience level, there’s always more to learn. In fact it seems there’s never been more change in internal communications and more for IC professionals to get to grips with.

Identifying your own learning style or styles might make your training a little easier and more enjoyable. Augmented Reality (AR) has made the leap from the world of gaming to training. Devotees say it helps people learn better and faster. With AR, technology immerses you in a situation, helping you feel you are really there rather than just watching or listening. It’s ideal for kinesthetic leaners who want to experience not be told.

Or would you prefer to shadow someone, watch and learn through webinars or do it ‘old school’ with a book and notepad? There’s no right or wrong way – choose whatever suits you best.

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BRICK by BRICK

Sequel’s BRICK (Building Real Internal Communication Knowledge) training courses use a mixture of training methods to suit everyone.

Check out BRICK whether you want to learn how to measure your existing channels or you’re a total newbie looking for a crash course ‘immersion’ in comms. Topics, from better writing to getting to grips with Microsoft O365, cover theory and practical skills.

VAK or VARK?

VAK stands for visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learning styles, while VARK adds ‘reading’ to the list.

David Kolb was came up with one of the first learning style definitions in the 1970s. Then Peter Honey and Alan Mumford (yes, they sound like a pleasant folk duo with beards) revised it and defined styles as activist, reflector, theorist and pragmatist.

Their definition of the learning process is still used: havingan experience, reviewingthe experience, concludingfrom the experience, and planningthe next steps.

Fiona Allison