28 October 2007

Learning Styles: Do You Know Yours?

If you have encountered a primarily tactile learner in one of your classes, the discussion in this post may be familiar. If you haven't worked with a kinesthetic learner, this post will be interesting because nearly 10% of all adult learners are primarily kinesthetic learners and their learning style is very different from those of us who learn visually or aurally. The simplest way to describe a kinesthetic learner is that she learns by performing the task, and not by watching someone do it or having an instructor describe it.

I am an aural learner for the most part. I hear something and retain it fairly easily. I was completely baffled the first time I had someone with a kinesthetic learning style in one of my classes. Further, this individual was dyslexic, which meant that I couldn't rely on visual learning as a solid back up strategy and her aural skills were weak.

What do you do in a situation like that? I experimented with a combination of classroom instruction and peer coaching, with the coaching portion scheduled first!

On a Larger Scale

Our client was rolling out a new, online employee expense tracking and reimbursement system. The training course that the training team had designed was 2.5 hours duration. As a consequent, we were delivering 3 classes each day in 2 rooms for 11 weeks to ensure that all employees were reached by the time the system was in place and the new policies and procedures were in effect. We had identified just over 200 employees who were tactile learners. Some of them were in the sales department. Others were in operations. A few worked in the warehouses.

We selected folks from the classes who were in the kinesthetic learners’ department to “walk” the tactile learners through the new system and have them perform the exercises we designed. We also suggested to the “coaches” that they be creative with the exercises. Once the coach observed that the learner was comfortable with the system, he was instructed to walk the learner through diagrams that we provided, which described the new policies and procedures. Finally, we enrolled the tactile learners in classes that occurred during the 9th through 11th weeks.

Granted, this was a solution that involved additional time –- from the instructional designers, the trainers, and the designated coaches. It worked, however. Our client’s workforce experienced less than a 10% drop in productivity with the new expense system. When you compare our client's productivity impact with the standard 25%, the additional time was cost effective.

I’ve seen numerous discussions about simulation software and its advantages for tactile learners, but we didn’t have it available then. Has anyone tried using simulation software for training kinesthetic learners? If you have, post a comment here. It would be useful to hear about how it worked.