Have you ever noticed how the discussion about learning styles seems to travel in cycles? First there is the information that confirms that learning styles are real and next comes someone that says they are not. It can lead to much confusion and certainly can cause a trainer to wonder what they should do about it…if anything at all! It helps to take a look at what is being said more closely to find the key messages for those of us who have a role in helping others to learn.
What is “Learning Style”?
Learning styles have been described in a variety of ways by different researchers. From the 4MAT perspective, learning style refers to an individual preference for how you like to get your information and then how you process it.
How should I address Learning Styles in the training environment/classroom?
When participants in our training first identify that different people have different learning preferences, a common question we are asked is ” Should we identify the types of learners we have, organise them into groups with the same learning preference and give them a teacher with the same preference?” Your first instinct might be to say “What a great idea!” but this is where the research is useful.
What does the research say?
Much of the research into learning styles focuses on the effectiveness of identifying modality preferences of learners eg visual, auditory etc and then delivering the teaching in a way that addresses that preferred modality. On this issue the results appear fairly clear, there is no scientific proof that students learn better when taught only according to their preferred modality.
Where does this leave us?
The most recent brain research confirms that when we learn anything new, the activity in our brain follows a defined cycle. (Read the book by James Zull in our resource section for more information) This path is governed by our brain physiology and is universal, regardless of learning style. Your learning style merely describes the place in the cycle that you enjoy the most and the way you prefer to approach learning that is new or the way you operate in stressful situations.
The Difference between teaching to a learning style and using brain-based strategies
For true learning to occur ie understanding and retaining information, all learners must move through all four parts of the learning cycle. As trainers this is the key to ensuring that learners achieve the outcomes of our teaching. The 4MAT model provides a framework for meeting the needs of all learning preferences, while ensuring true learning through addressing each step of the brain learning cycle.
So, when you apply the 4MAT model, you accomplish both.
Author: Melinda Zanetich - Director & Master Trainer - 4MAT 4Learning - Asia Pacific Region