If we think we are in the business of delivering content then we are shooting at the wrong target. What we do is all about learning. We are in the business of facilitating deep connections between the learners and the content. As instructors, professors, teachers and designers we are relationship experts and the relationship we are experts in is the relationship the learners create with the content. Just as with any great relationship, communication is the key.
As you know, communication is a multi-sensory experience. The words (content) is only part of the story. There are many other aspects such as body language, cadence of speech, that feeling of authenticity, and so on. The same goes for learning. We need to pay attention to multiple learning pathways through the different senses to make a full well rounded learning experience that gives the learner the greatest opportunity to build that relationship with the content.
This is not a comment on learning styles this is just a thought about purposefully thinking about utilizing our different senses to give more opportunities for learners to connect with our content. Learning is not a one-type-fits-all process.
Learning by seeing and watching. The most common ways we engage this sense is through visual aids, images, videos, graphs, tables, charts, and live demonstrations. Encourage learners to take notes very systematically. Color coding, highlighting, creating symbols, using multi-level outlines, and organizing notes into visually distinct sections are great suggestions to offer them. Online K-12 schools are strong in visual teaching, so they are great options for these learners, especially solitary learners. As an aircraft mechanic, these methods were extremely powerful for me because they allowed me to engage with the content in a way that built my confidence before I tried something. This is especially true for the demonstration. The demonstration actually allowed me to engaged with my auditory sense because I was able to ask questions and listen to the demonstrator talk through what they were doing. This leads us to our next sense.
Learning through listening and language. Help learners retain new information by hearing it. Even radio marketing people say that people need to hear something at least three times before they will take action. Utilize a bit of marketing to facilitate learning by speaking to them and repeating information verbally. Even if you have created some stellar graphics, charts, and tables, make sure you reiterate the information audibly. Encourage learners to repeat the information back to you, because learning through speaking engages this sense as well. Some of us process written language better than spoken language and images. When teaching through videos, utilize closed captioning and subtitles. A close friend of mine is a math expert and he learned to love math through writing the processes he learned in English rather than numbers when he first began learning a new concept. We never know what may help someone just click with the content and begin that meaningful learner to content relationship.
Kinesthetic is learning by doing and actively participating. To help facilitate this learning, take frequent breaks from your presentation to have learners apply the information. When teaching a manual skill, let them touch and maneuver the materials. When teaching a concept, have them do activities, discuss how the information applies in a wide variety of real-life situations. Use active learning and think micro-learning to help engage multiple senses.
Social Versus Solitary Learners
Social learners solidify knowledge and application of material through macro learning techniques, like group discussions and collaborating on group projects. They quickly become bored when sitting and listening to presentations. Solitary learners earn best by sitting back and absorbing presentations. Working with too many others causes them anxiety, but they thrive on micro learning techniques, such as one-to-one instruction and answering individual questions.
Learning is not a one size fits all process. It is rare to have a whole class full of the same type of learner, but this is actually a benefit. Learners retain information longer when more senses are engaged during the learning process. Designing a lesson that fluctuates and engages multiple senses also makes the learning more interesting for those facilitating the learning connections! Lets’ step out of our comfort zones and see, hear, speak, and engage!