Engaging Learning Modalities in Training to Make Learning Stick

Engaging Learning Modalities in Training to Make Learning Stick

Engaging Learning Modalities in Training to Make Learning Stick

Most trainers, facilitators and adult educators are familiar with differences in the way adults learn. Even so, some struggle with finding ways of engaging learning modalities in training. Often, this is due to the fact that we all have a comfort zone that influences the way that we share information. This approach is often rooted in our own learning modality (style) preference. If you are not aware of your learning style preference(s), you may end up delivering information that addresses your preferences; not your adult learners.

People take in environmental stimuli through the primary senses (seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and smelling). In a classroom, three dominant learning preferences are evident (visual, auditory and kinesthetic/tactile). Your knowledge of these preferences and how to effectively address them can aid you in engaging learning modalities in training sessions that you facilitate.

The following three ways that adult learners typically prefer information be delivered and some suggestions for engaging learning modalities in training. The percentages shown next to each modality indicates how dominant preference is in a given classroom. According to Laurie Ellen Materna in her book Jump-Start the Adult Learner: How to  Engage and Motivate Adults Using Brain-Compatible Strategies these numbers are a range, based on various studies on learning modalities. A key point to remember related to learning modalities is that while most people have a primary preference, they also learn through other senses as well. For that reason, your session design should include a variety of techniques and strategies that continually alternate between the modalities so that all learners remain engaged.

Visual learners (40-65%). People with this preference get the most benefit from the information that they see or can visualize. They typically have strong spelling and organizational skills and take a lot of notes or use mind mapping techniques to make information visual for themselves. To help visual learners maximize their learning experience, you might build in the following types of opportunities when designing your session:

  • Written instructions on a flip chart, handout or slide that is visible for the duration of an activity.
  • Illustrations, graphics (e.g. pictures, cartoons, caricatures, photos, or clip art), diagrams and charts in handouts, on a flip chart or writing board, or in slides.
  • Demonstrations that show the operation of an item or process.
  • Organized lists or process diagrams that step-by-step procedures.
  • Visioning exercises in which you have melodic music playing in the background as you have learners close their eyes and envision a situation that you describe. They are then asked to imagine a solution or alternative to what you have described when they open their eyes.
  • Quotes with accompanying images related to the session topic posters, flip charts, or slides throughout the session.
  • Multimedia in the form of movie clips, slide shows, and webinars or other online visual aids.

Auditory learners (25-30%). People with this learning preference typically gain more from hearing information. They often like things verbally shared or explained and do well in situations where there is a verbal exchange of information. Provide multiple types of auditory stimulation for this group of learners. Some possibilities include:

  • Provide verbal instructions (coupled with written for the visual learners) for activities.
  • Eliminate excessive background noise which tends to attract their attention (e.g. side conversations that are not a topic relevant in the room)
  • Having them or others read information aloud.
  • Small group discussion, brainstorming, and dialogues.
  • Recordings of information played to the group.
  • Question and answer (Q&A) sessions.
  • Panel discussions.
  • Roleplay.
  • Debates.
  • Breakout groups.
  • Session related music before the program starts and during breaks.

Kinesthetic/Tactile learners (5-15%). The third learning modality that you will encounter in your session prefers a physical engagement. Sitting without moving for long periods of time is extremely difficult for these learners. Movement helps them process information more effectively. Some strategies to assist them in maximizing their learning potential include:

  • Group activity that requires them to physical relocate or move to engage with others.
  • Manipulative toys or items on their table that they can quietly “play” with throughout the session (.g. Koosh Balls, foam stress toys, pipe cleaners and Play Doh that they can use to fashion items or figures.
  • Field trips.
  • Stretching/energizers.
  • Role play.
  • Writing activities (e.g. journaling, charting and note taking)
  • Drawing or doodling.
  • Demonstrations that they have to conduct.
  • Games.
  • Simulations.
  • Stand up discussion groups in which learners capture ideas on a flip chart or note pad.

These are just a few of the ways for engaging learning modalities in training. For additional ideas on the subject, search this blog and the Internet. Also check on Energize Your Training: Creative Techniques to Engage Learners, Training Workshop Essentials: Designing, Developing and Delivering Learning Events that Get Results, and The Creative Training Idea Book: Inspired Tips and Techniques for Engaging and Effective Learning.

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