My passion as a pastor, leader and counselor is to equip those whom I serve to be the best they can be. One thing I’ve come to realize over the years is that an effective communicator excels at every part of life. And communication is impacted by many factors; personalities, experiences, the way we were raised, learning styles, along with other influences. My next few posts will be related to this idea of understanding communication through Learning Styles. This post will focus strictly on what learning styles are, and why they are important to effective communication. The three posts following this will drill into how to utilize the knowledge and understanding of learning styles in our marriages, our parenting, and lastly, with our volunteer teams in ministry.
There’s more to the art of communication than the use of words. It’s the exchange of information and how it connects us to people. We live life trusting and relying on the sensory cues we receive from our eyes, ears, mouth, nose and touch. Hence the tones and body language that accompany spoken words influence how communication is received. So many factors influence how we deliver and interpret communication. One of those factors is our own unique learning style. The three identified learning styles are: Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic. Understanding our own unique VAK learning style can not only help us become better communicators, but also enhance how we learn, work and relate to others. Once understood, our learning style can be used as a tool to save us time and reduce frustration. I’ve seen firsthand as a counselor how it promotes healing, understanding and purpose.
The VAK model is popular because it’s intuitive and simple to use.
What is a learning style?
Learning styles refer to a person’s preferred way to take in, process, understand and remember information. Psychologists developed this learning style model in the 1920s. The VAK learning style uses the three main sensory receivers: visual, auditory and kinesthetic (movement) to determine the dominant learning style. Everyone uses all three styles as they process and learn. However, according to the theory, a person will have a strong preference toward one or two dominant styles.
Auditory Learners: Tend to:
- Enjoy listening but can’t wait to talk. Talk to themselves a lot. Move their lips while reading as well as read out loud.
- Learn best when they hear their own voice. This is why they vocalize in the middle of a class, meeting or movie.
- Struggle with reading and writing tasks.
- Remember names, but not the face or appearance of someone they just met.
- Talk ‘a mile a minute’ and expect others to drop everything to make eye contact to listen to them.
- Sounds distract them.
- Interpret the underlying meanings of speech through listening to tone of voice, pitch, speed and other nuances. A raised voice might be an argument to them, but just ‘a discussion’ to those with a different style.
- Sometimes remember things by setting information to a tune or rhyme.
- You’ll catch them saying, “I hear what you’re saying, please describe it in more detail”.
Visual Learners: There are two kinds of visual learners.
- Visual – linguistic learners tend to:
- Learn through written language such as reading and writing.
- More likely to remember tasks if they write them down, even if they don’t go back to read them again.
- Visual -Spatial learners tend to:
- Have difficulty with written language and do better with diagrams, demonstrations, videos, maps, colorful charts and visual aids.
- A VS tends to gaze into ‘space’ in the middle of a conversation (much to a spouse’s or a teacher’s dismay) to ‘picture’ what is being said (this can appear disrespectful to other learning styles).
- Find it easy to visualize faces and places.
- Recall conversations based on where it happened.
- Easily distracted.
- Often choose to sit in the front of the class room
- They will comment, “I see what you’re saying”, “it’s clear cut”, “in light of”.
Kinesthetic Learners: Tend to:
- Learn by being involved, touching and/or moving.
- Remember what was done rather then what was said or seen.
- Have to move in order to concentrate.
- Easily distracted during a visual or auditory presentation. Will take notes so they can move their hands.
- Need to know the big picture first before getting the details.
- Having the space to draw pictures, doodle, shake their leg, chew gum and fidget while you communicate helps them hear and learn more effectively.
- Use gestures when speaking and stand close when speaking or listening.
- Often they are poor spellers and will write words to determine if they "feel" right.
- Tend to drive visual learners crazy with their constant movement.
- Attack problems and express frustration physically – they’re your door slammers and fist pounders.
- This group will say, “I’ve got a feeling about what you’re saying”, “come to grips with”.
You may see yourself and others you know exhibiting all three styles. This isn’t unusual. However, we all have a strong preference for one or two. The best way to discover your learning style is to take a test. (Your highest score is your dominant style. Your second score supports your dominant style). Once you became a student of the order of your style preferences, you’ll view people and communication differently. I found I was able to understand my responses, improve my ability to learn as well as my kids’, offer more grace, save time and be more effective at leading teams.
My next bog will focus on how to improve our marriages by understanding our learning style, and our spouses style.