Training Design Consultant Keystone Development
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Learning Styles and the Fear Factor

18th Aug 2011
Training Design Consultant Keystone Development
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 It’s the school holidays, so I’m doing less work and more trying to entertain/wear out the children. Last week we went to Waterworld and the week before we went to the Crocky Trail. Both excellent days out, and worth the trip if you are in the North West/North Midlands.

Now keen readers of this blog will be aware that I have 2 children, and they couldn’t be more different, so it will be of no surprise to hear that they both start their learning cycle in different places and have very different preferred learning styles.

Kolb’s Learning cycle is familiar to many, and if it isn’t, here’s a very quick summary. People learn not by one instance, but by having an experience that takes them through 4 phases: Having an experience (or experiencing a need), reflecting upon and thinking about that experience (or need), generalising and conceptualising to decide how and why things happen(ed), and planning the next experience, and testing it out. For a far better (and more detailed) explanation, try this BusinessBalls page.

At the Crocky Trail, my 5 year old son came face to face with 6 very high, very steep slides. He immediately spotted the highest, steepest one, and set off to go down that one. My 7 year old daughter spent 5 minutes watching people come down the slides before deciding to start of the lowest of the 6 slides. Fifteen minutes later, she was on the highest, steepest one too, and having a great time.

The same thing happened at Waterworld: My son headed straight for the flumes, and my daughter headed straight for the pool where she could take in everything that was happening. After a little encouragement (and about 20 minutes) she was ready to try the flumes for herself, and then we couldn’t keep her off them.

Great trainers (and training designers) take these different learning styles into account and make sure that their training programmes allows learners to join in how and when they feel most comfortable. We’ve all experienced those courses where the first thing is a video role play...great for activists, but terrifying for reflectors, pointless for theorists (they want to understand good practice first) and frustrating for pragmatists (who want to be able to plan properly). Of course with some skills like coaching, interviewing and presentation skills, people have to practice. If we remember that training is for the learner, NOT for the trainer, we will make sure that there are different opportunities at different points in the day for different people to be actively involved and get to that ‘experience’ point in the learning cycle.

Even when writing bite-sized training sessions, I always ensure that all learning styles are catered for. People learn best when they can do it in their own way, and good training is designed to make sure this is possible.

Sheridan Webb

Keystone Development - Specialists in training design

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