ICS Magazine

Learning How We Learn

November 5, 2002
Learning takes on many different forms

I cannot overstate the importance of believability as a prerequisite for learning. A quote from a book I recently read says it best: “Most of the conflicts and disagreements among men result from misunderstanding.”

Much of your training efforts’ lack of success occurs for the very same reason.It boils down to communication failures. People will not believe what they cannot understand; if they do not understand the lessons, they will not learn them.

It becomes apparent that that the key reason it is difficult for us to effectively communicate is our lack of understanding of how a person’s individual differences and behavior patterns influence how he thinks, learns and communicates with others.

In my efforts to become a better communicator, one of the most enlightening discoveries I have come upon is the fact that all of us learn and communicate through sensory learning preferences. It seems every person develops one of these processes as his or her “preferred,” or predominate, learning sense.

The base sensory learning preferences are:

  • Visual
  • Auditory
  • Kinesthetic

    Show Me
    People with visual learning preferences make up 55 percent of the population. They take in information through print, video, pictures and observing demonstrations and visual aids of all types. In other words, through things that they can see and be shown.

    They prefer to watch how-to demonstrations or instructional sequences rather than participate. They study best by re-reading notes and important data. However, they don’t represent the majority of your technicians.

    Tell Me Unfortunately, this group is also not representative of your technicians, so audio tapes won’t cut it.

    Let Me Do It
    Kinesthetic people make up about 24 percent of the population. This group relies on touch, taste, smell, and feelings. They learn best by doing. They try to take notes during a seminar and will never look at them again or they use highlighters as the program moves along, just to feel involved, but they will never review the notes. But showing them how to perform a task and letting them do it for themselves will produce outstanding results. A whopping majority of people who like to work with their hands for a living are kinesthetic learners

    This is the group that represents your employees.

    Now, at about this point you may be thinking, “Wait a minute. I use all my senses during my learning processes.” or, “The sense I rely on depends a lot on the situation.” You are right. We all do the same thing, but we also use one of these sensory languages predominately, and our learning is strongly affected by our predominant learning preference, especially in adults. And as an owner/operator or manager, you may not be a hands-on learner.

    As business people, we have a serious problem in that we tend to communicate with employees and customers using our preferred sensory language. That is exactly why we wind up saying things like, “ I don’t know what’s wrong with him. I’ve told him a dozen times and he still doesn’t get it!”

    If you would like more information on this subject, go online to your favorite search engine (I like www.google.com), type “hands-on learners” and start surfing. What you find may surprise you.