Learning Styles and Personality: Part 1


Probably any mother will tell you that each child is different and requires a slightly modified method when addressing behavioral problems. What teaching or disciplining technique works with the oldest, will not works with the second, or the youngest. There are several reasons for this, but one of them has to do with different learning styles.

Somewhere in school, or for a job, you have probably taken some sort of ‘learning styles’ assessment, looked at it, and perhaps tossed it aside without giving it a second thought. I think I did that the first time I was presented with the concept. There are several different models, but they all generally break down into four or five groups of different learning styles.

If you have ever taken such a test, you might want to give it another look. Understanding learning styles is about more than some vague sense of self-awareness; it can show you how to improve your grasp on a subject and your retention of information. If you know what angle to attack from, you can even inform others how to convey information to you in a way that will really stick. This can be a valuable tool in your profession, in your home, and—if you find yourself in such a position—in leadership.

Learning StyleRecently my husband and I both took a quick version of the test. He found he was an emphatically “logical” and “physical/kinetic” learner. I found that I was a “verbal” and “physical/kinetic” learner. What this means is that when one of us is teaching the other something by doing it physically—demonstrating how to use a new appliance, for instance—both of us understand. But I want to learn by verbal processing—hammering the finer points of the issue out through discussion and conversation—and he wants to learn by internalized logical plotting.

Unsurprisingly, these differences can breed miscommunication and frustration! Now take that same dynamic and throw it into the workplace. What do you get? PowerPoint demonstrations are great for visual learners, but—depending on the style of the presenter—they don’t do much for aural or verbal learners. Communicating important work details through stories and anecdotes will help a verbal learner (I can attest to that!) but may frustrate a logical learner. Explaining how to use a piece of machinery without giving a physical demonstration may be useless to a visual or physical/kinetic learning.

It may or may not come as a surprise that most studies show that men and women in particular trend quite differently in learning styles. This has to do with a myriad of factors including things as simple as hearing (very odd fact: women have better hearing) and as complex as brain functions; there is a great deal of debate about the extent and nature of the differences between male and female neurology, but not about the fact that those differences do exist. Women are also famously more communicative by a dramatic extent, with girls generally learning to speak earlier than boys.

So what to do with all this? As a co-worker? As a woman? As a mother? As a leader? In day-to-day life?