by Lisa Trudel
originally published in the 2012 Winter Issue
Are you an adult learner returning to school this year? Are you worried about taking notes, completing assignments and obtaining good grades? Or are you a job seeker learning new ways of finding employment?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions then a solution might be to understand your learning style. Knowing how you learn is important because it deals with how you manage information, how you prefer to study and how you solve problems.
Everyone learns differently. Some students learn using one dominant style and others learn with a combination of styles. Your preference might be very similar to your best friend's or it could also be distinctive and atypical. Researchers have developed many learning style assessments to categorize styles and several are available at no cost online. For example, there is Service Canada’s “How Do I Learn Best?” assessment at: www.jobsetc.gc.ca under the “Training & Learning” section.
Discovering if you are a visual learner, auditory learner or hands-on learner can help immensely if you are an adult returning to school. Adult learners are often balancing busy personal and professional lives. Therefore, finding ways to manage limited time might eventually be the difference between a passing and failing grade.
Squeezing in study time at midnight using the same traditional method you applied when you were 16 years old might not be the answer to achieving today’s goal. Instead, you might want to establish how you learn and how you hear information, so you can accomplish the most from your college or university courses.
Learning styles are significant not only in educational settings but also in informal learning settings including understanding how to conduct a job search in 2012. Both Ann Luedeke and Andrea Davis, Career Specialists with Centre for Education & Training, Employment Services agree that knowing one’s learning styles are essential for job seekers.
Ludeke states “Learning styles can be unique as finger prints. Everyone is slightly different but if you know you prefer to learn using sequential order than you can organize your information in a linear, step-by-step approach.”
“On the other hand,” states Davis, “if you are a person who likes to think outside-of-the-box, your mind might gather information in chunks with no particular sequence. Some people can learn without following a plan and instead rearrange the order of the sequence while still arriving at the correct answer.” It is critical to note that no single learning style is better than the other. Each is just a different blend of abilities and strengths. Research concludes that everyone has at least one dominant learning style even though we might often use more than one.
For example, sometimes you might like to learn using an organized routine. At other times you might like to learn in a more adventurous and original way preferring to focus only on what is absolutely needed. However in times of stress, such as preparing for an important closed-book exam or job interview, your dominant style usually takes over.
Returning to school or looking for a job can be incredibly stressful. Thus, understanding your learning style can dramatically change your anxiety level and help maintain balance between all the responsibilities in your life.
Learning style also refers to the best time of day to absorb concepts or complete projects. For example, some adult learners are not able to function at full-speed first thing in the morning, while others may struggle in the early evening. Awareness of your peak learning times will enable you to complete your goals more successfully and might ultimately improve your projects or assignments so you can receive higher grades.
Another benefit of knowing learning styles is that it can be a transferable awareness you can use in school, volunteering, networking, or in the workplace. For example, if you have not been to school in a long time, you might be surprised by the number of assignments that are done in groups instead of individually.
Just like in the workplace, teamwork is a common trend so by knowing the value of learning styles you can become aware of the learning preferences of your colleagues and then find appropriate ways of working efficiently and effectively with them in order to accomplish organizational goals.
Whether you are learning in a traditional classroom environment, online through a distance education course or during one-to-one job coaching sessions, identifying your learning style can be an excellent bonus to add to your self-assessment. As an adult, learning should be fun so finding the right vehicle can be one of the keys to success.
Additional tips for successful learning include:
To learn more valuable career steps, join the 90 Day Job Challenge, being launched in September at the Centre for Education & Training, Employment Services located at 595 Parliament Street.