31 Jan Teaching Adults with Different Learning Styles
Teaching adults is sometimes seen as the easy alternative to teaching children. However, as anybody who’s walked into a classroom full of grown men and women and attempted to teach them will confirm, it can be every bit as nerve-wracking as teaching a group of five- and six-year-olds. But that doesn’t have to be the case.
We’re here to give you some hints and tips on teaching adults, making your classes more enjoyable for you and your students. So let’s get started.
Knowing your students’ different learning styles will help you more than you can imagine.
VARK stands for Visual, Auditory, Reading and Kinaesthetic – different types of learners whose preferred methods of learning are by looking, listening, reading and doing.
Honey and Mumford referred to The Activist, The Reflector, The Theorist and The Pragmatist. Activists learn by doing, Reflectors take time before making a decision and trying something out, Theorists prefer rules, reading and thinking and Pragmatists tend to try new things, particularly where those things can be immediately put to use.
Knowing the learning styles of the students in your class will help you immeasurably when you start putting lesson plans and learning programs together and get on with the practical work of actually teaching.
How do you find out their different learning styles?
Back in September, we looked at the Teaching and Learning Cycle, an “endlessly repeatable cycle which you will use in your teaching career and which consists of five steps, from getting to know your pupils, right through to looking at how well you have delivered your teaching.”
The first step, Identifying Learning Needs, is the crucial part of the cycle for discovering learners’ needs.
There are a number of ways to help you – from any one of various multiple-choice questionnaires, to the more relaxed approach of just having a conversation with your students, either individually or as a class.
The great advantage of a more formal method – such as Honey and Mumford’s learning style questionnaire – is that some students may think they know their own learning styles when, in fact, they don’t.
How do I teach a classroom full of different learners?
Putting together an effective teaching plan for a group of adults when some of them learn by listening, some learn best by doing and some learn best by watching might seem like an impossible task.
However, research has shown that adults actually learn better when they are forced to employ other learning styles in addition to their own. In fact, many enjoy it more, too.
It’s all about variety. The auditory learners in your class, who absorb information best by listening, speaking, and hearing, will learn more when you stand at the front and talk them through the subject matter. You can then open it to the floor, asking your class to discuss what they’ve just learned and take part in brainstorming sessions.
You can also consider webinars, videos, or podcasts to teach your auditory learners – sending them links to watch or listen to at home if that works best.
Like the auditory learners, visual learners enjoy learning from videos and take in information best if it is taught in a visual format of some kind such as PowerPoints.
Providing your students with highlighters and colour stickers will help them get organised, as will encouraging them to visualise their learning by using phrases such as “Picture this” and “What would you do in this situation?”
Reading learners will often be best served by the use of textbooks, blogs, online articles and more, but may be happy to learn in their own time. In class, using AI or another transcription tool will enable you to provide written information to accompany any videos you might use.
Kinaesthetic learners, meanwhile, learn best by getting stuck into an activity – which works particularly well if you are teaching the likes of first aid or carpentry.
However, teaching kinaesthetic learners well doesn’t have to be the sole preserve of practical subject teachers.
Inviting students to put their thoughts onto pen and paper is one good option, as is role-playing and teaching via real life examples like case studies. You might even ask them to take your place, delivering some of the teaching to the rest of the class.
Return to the teaching and learning cycle.
However good a tutor you are, you can’t teach all of the people all of the time. The best you can hope for is to teach in a way that appeals to most of your pupils most of the time.
Going back to the teaching and learning cycle, you will continue to identify your learners’ needs throughout your time as a teacher.
Regular self-assessment – analysing which lessons have gone well and why – combined with class assessment – asking your students what you did well and what you could have done better – will lead to even better results which you can apply not just with your current class but going forward too.
We hope you have found this guide to how to teach students with different learning styles useful.
If you’re looking to pursue a career in adult education, we’d love to talk to you about the Level 3 Award in Education and Training – the initial teacher training qualification that allows you to teach adults in the UK.
To give us a call and speak to one of our expert trainers, ring 0151 546 5151 and ask for John or Kris.
Alternatively, send us an email at email@example.com and we’ll get back in touch as soon as we can.