Learning styles are like cracking a nut with a sledge hammer - it gets the job but is unnecessarily messy! Learning styles have fallen out of vogue in recent years, perhaps they are overkill when really we just need to be aware that everyone learns differently. Furthermore, is it now an outdated idea with advancements in technology and the digital age? Learning is becoming more instant and rather just adopting the role of a learner, learners are now developing their own materials or customising existing resources. The idea of neatly falling into a pigeon hole to benefit from the learning experience seems rather old fashioned and the way we want to learn is constantly changing. Depending on if we experience learning for business or for pleasure, our preferred style may be different. Time, motivation and opportunity also affect the way we learn, yet traditional learning styles don't allow for this.
Perhaps we need to think differently about learning rather than just consider 'how we learn?' Understand why we are doing it in the first place, what is our motivation? This has a significant impact on what the appropriate training approach should be? We can learn a lot from the fashion industry and the way the sector designs and markets clothes - there is no point in advertising duffel coats in the summer; swimwear and shorts are marketed instead. The timing and demand influence the product and the industry listens and responds. Timing and demand are important factors in learning and this is often more relevant than the actual style of learning. In fact, these motivational influences can dictate the approach and make learning more relevant and meaningful as a result.
Like clothes, getting the right size for the right fit is important. Knowing what you need, the purpose it has to fulfil and your own measurements is a good place to start. Understanding the purpose of the training, how much is needed and the existing knowledge of your learners are critical questions to ask during the training design stage. As our learning evolves and we change we need to continue measuring for fit regularly.
'The only man who behaves sensibly is my tailor; he takes my measurements anew every time he sees me, while all the rest go on with their old measurements and expect me to fit them.’ George Bernard Shaw
This quote sums up the idea of regular review of the learners training needs perfectly. Let's file away the learning styles and bring out the wardrobe! This is my capsule wardrobe for training design:
The purpose of learning?
Measure what is needed,
Appreciate everyone is different
Revisit and re-measure regularly.
Learning styles may not address the critical questions for designing training but by asking questions and listening to our learners needs, a better and more tailored training provision may emerge.