Thinking & Learning Styles


What Type of Learner are You?

We all have preferences for how we like information to be presented: Some like to see what you mean. Some like to hear your idea. Some like to experience or feel what you are talking about.

Similarly, we also have preferences for the way we evaluate and analyse information: Some decide by how things look to them. Others decide by how things sound to them or by how things feel to them.

Your personal learning style is a key to improved performance on the job, in training, and in interpersonal situations.

When you are aware of how you and others perceive and process information, you can make learning and communication much easier and much more effective.

Trainers, teachers and educators are realising that every person has an optimum way of learning new information. They understand that some students need to be taught in ways that vary from standard teaching methods. Knowing these different learning styles or preferences can help educators reach all of their students simply by presenting information in several different ways.

A person's learning style is a combination of how they perceive, then organise and process information. When you're familiar with your learning style, you can take important steps to help yourself learn faster and more easily. Plus, learning how to decipher the learning styles of others, like your boss, colleagues, teacher, spouse, parents, and children, can help you strengthen your rapport and influence with them.

It is often said that we were born with the most amazing computer in the Universe - the Human Brain. The only problem is, nobody gave us an instruction manual on how to work it.

NLP - making sense of learning

Now with NLP we have our first handbook for realising the potential of our mind. NLP, Neuro Linguistic Programming, is the wisdom of research over the past 25 years into how the human mind works. It was developed by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in the early 1970s. NLP goes a long way to showing you how to run your brain, how to control how you feel, how to be a more-effective human being, how to improve your learning and communication skills and how your mind influences your health.

Just as in writing some of us have a preference for using our right-hands, and others for using the left-hand. We appear to have a preference for the way we sense the world. To decipher the essence of your learning style the first step is to identify your preferred sense, or modality - whether you prefer visual, auditory, or kinaesthetic modality. As these terms suggest, visual people learn through what they see, auditory learners from what they hear, and kinaesthetic learners from movement and touching. Although each of us learns in all three of these modalities to some degree, most people prefer one over the other two.

Visual, Auditory, or Kinaesthetic?

Do you often catch yourself saying things like "That looks right to me," or "I get the picture"? Or are you more likely to say "That sounds right to me," or "That rings a bell"? Or "I like the feel of that," or "I grasp it now"? Expressions like these may be clues to your preferred modality.

If you couldn't see or hear, or if you couldn't feel texture, shape, temperature, weight, or resistance in your environment, you would literally have no way of learning. Most of us learn in many ways, yet we usually favour one modality over the others. Many people don't realise they are favouring one way, because nothing external tells them they are any different from anyone else. Knowing that there are differences goes a long way towards explaining things like why we have problems understanding and communicating with some people and not with others, and why we handle some situations more easily than others.

How do you discover your own preferred modality?

One simple way is to listen for clues in your speech, as in the expressions above. Another way is to notice your behaviour when you attend a seminar or workshop. Do you seem to get more from reading the handout or from listening to the presenter? Auditory people prefer listening to the material and sometimes get lost if they try to take notes on the subject during the presentation. Visual people prefer to read the handouts and look at the illustrations the presenter puts on the board. They also take excellent notes. Kinaesthetic learners do best with "hands on" activities and group interaction.

The characteristics outlined in the three tables below will help you zero in on your best learning modality. Or take the Learning Style Questionnaire?

Table 1: Visual Preference

  • are neat and orderly
  • speak quickly
  • are good long-range planners and organisers
  • are observant of environmental detail
  • are appearance-oriented in both dress and presentation
  • are good spellers and can actually see the words in their minds
  • remember what was seen, rather than heard
  • memorise by visual association
  • usually are not distracted by noise
  • may forget verbal instructions unless they're written down
  • are strong, fast readers
  • would rather read than be read to
  • need an overall view and purpose and are cautious until mentally clear about an issue or project
  • doodle during phone conversations and meetings
  • forget to relay verbal messages to others
  • often know what to say but can't think of the right words

It's easy to decipher the modalities of other people in your life by noticing what words they use when they are communicating. These words are called predicates, or "process words." When a situation is perceived in someone's mind, it's processed in whatever modality the person prefers; the words and phrases the person uses to describe it reflect that person's personal modality.

Once you identify a person's predicates, you can make it a point to match their language when you speak to them. Besides using process words that the person can relate to, you can also match the speed at which they talk. Visual speak quickly, auditory at a medium speed, and kinaesthetic more slowly.

Matching your modality to another's is a great way to create rapport and an atmosphere of understanding.

Table 2: Auditory Preference

  • learn by listening, and remember what was discussed rather than seen
  • speak in rhythmic patterns
  • talk to themselves while working
  • are easily distracted by noise
  • move their lips and pronounce the words as they read
  • enjoy reading aloud and listening
  • can repeat back and mimic tone pitch and timbre
  • find writing difficult, but are better at telling
  • are frequently eloquent speakers
  • are talkative, love discussion, and go into lengthy descriptions
  • have problems with projects that involve visualisation
  • can spell better out loud than in writing

Table 3: Kinaesthetic Preference

  • learn by manipulating and doing
  • want to act things out
  • speak slowly
  • touch people to get their attention
  • stand close when talking to someone
  • are physically oriented and move a lot, gesture a lot
  • memorise by walking and seeing
  • can't sit still for long periods of time
  • can't remember geography unless they've actually been there
  • use action words
  • like plot-oriented books - they reflect action with body movement as they read
  • may have messy handwriting
  • like involved games

So NLP provides us with a very useful and elegant model of how we communicate, learn and change and with this model for the first time we can develop the skills to discover how you make sense of your world and most importantly how to make it what you want it to be.

For more information on New Oceans services contact
New Oceans, New Oceans House, 39 Jennings Road, St Albans Herts AL1 4NX
Tel: 01727 869782 Fax: 01727 842181
Email: [email protected]

Copyright 2002 New Oceans. All Rights Reserved.