Learn How You Learn

Most people fall into step with a learning pattern without realizing exactly what happened to them. This random and arbitrary process serves maybe 80% of us well enough since our educational system doesn't expect much out of our learning abilities. Our educational system ignores most of our talents and abilities, and focuses upon a narrow subset of what we are capable of achieving.

So, we get along by skating past the really important talents and skills that would enable us to soar, excel and express our abilities. Our schools reward most of us into becoming complacent learners. But, for others, the kinds of learning our schools demand fall outside our learning zone. There seems to be a mismatch.

For these folks (and for anyone who wants to learn more effectively) learning by using their strengths is crucial. In fact, learning by using your strengths is the only efficient way to learn. Learning by remediating your weaknesses is a frustrating time-waster.

Learning by "working" to eliminate your weaknesses is like trying to bail water out of a boat with a spoon. Instead, turn on the electric bilge pump, or at least use a pail. Instead, discover how you learn.

The major learning strategies are:

* Auditory Learning - You learn best by hearing

* Tactile-Kinesthetic-Proprioceptive Learning - You learn best by hands-on methods

* Visual - You learn best by seeing

Of course, everyone uses a blend of these learning methods, but one method predominates.

Examples of haphazard learning (when you are trying to get rid of a weakness) include:

* A Hands-On person trying to remember some fact or formula by repeating the words over and over

* A Visual Learner listening to a lecture without creating mental pictures, without doodling and without seeing how the information relates to anything else

* An Auditory Learner being forced to complete worksheets

Learning matches occur when:

* A Hands-On learner builds, touches, moves, feels and connects learning material

* A Visual Learner converts the material to be learned into images, pictures, diagrams, graphs, charts, slide show and other visual media

* An Auditory Learner studies with a small group who talk out the ideas and concepts

Note: Only a tiny percentage of learners exhibit Auditory Learning as their major learning strength. This is true even though our schools and our teachers spend a lot of time talking. Not only is talk "cheap" but listen is an ineffective learning strategy for most learners because learning by listening is a weakness instead of a strength.

But, discovering your favored mode of learning (and thinking) is only the first step in mastering your learning. The second step is discovering what your least preferred mode of learning.

Your least preferred mode of learning (i.e., your weakness) happens to be the learning strategy that you revert to when under stress. Situations of stress can be taking a test, especially for people who have "failed" at tests in the past.

So, what happens?

The stress of the testing situation causes the test-anxious person to revert to their weakest mode of thinking, instead of relying on the strongest mode (i.e., the mode that was used for studying). This is like practicing to hit a target with a bow and arrow, but entering the target-hitting competition with a spear...a no-win situation.

So, discover your learning strengths...and your learning weaknesses...and increase your satisfaction with your performance in situations that require that you demonstrate what you have learned.


Sounds like a Multiple Intelligences approach to me. I personally embrace this approach too. Teaching to different learning styles opens up multiple areas of the brain which can lead to whole brain instruction, if you connect enough brain cells. I would like to challenge the author's implication that teachers and schools talk and that this is not helping the auditory learners. That is not true! Teachers use multi sources in instructional implementation and in assessments as well. Teachers put up Focus Walls, deliver Power Point Presentations, strategize various group placements, integrate multi-subjects. Oh yeah, they also have to do direct instruction. During this time, They talk.
I strongly feel that a hands on approach is the best method to use for both math and science. After I explain the concepts to be mastered and solve a problem step by step I hand the reins over to the student. I then ask the student to solve the problem. I'm not going to be on there when the student is taking the exam. I wait for a few minutes and ask the student what the question is asking and guide the student through the process. I provide the student with problems until I feel that the student has a grip on how to approach the problems.


Joseph C.

Tutor, Mentor and Coach

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