When getting students ready for the workforce, it is important to realize that there are many different types of learners. We have come to realize that people have varied learning styles and do not absorb information the same way. Gone are the days when every student who sits in a classroom is actively listening to the teacher lecturing on the lesson plan of the day, as this format does not work for everyone.
Understanding the fundamental ways students digest information and not deploying a one-size-fits-all approach could be the key to preparing them for the workforce and make all the difference.
The term “learning style” refers to the way individuals acquire, evaluate, interpret, structure, draw conclusions from and retain new information. Catering to different learning styles requires a diverse and inclusive approach to teaching and can help students develop a wide range of skills and knowledge that will be useful in the workforce. It can also help students adapt to different work environments, communicate effectively with others, and approach problems creatively and strategically.
The 4 main learning styles
While the ongoing discussion on the precise number of teaching and learning styles persists, it is generally acknowledged that there are four learning styles that apply to students in the workplace. Using the VARK methodology, the most commonly used learning styles include visual, aural, verbal and kinesthetic. Although individuals may utilize a blend of two or more of these styles, they are typically dominated by one of the four. To cater to different learning styles, it is crucial to identify and understand the different ways people learn and take in information to enhance the learning process.
- Visual learning. These students learn best through images, pictures and diagrams. They prefer to see things in a graphical representation with images, pictures and diagrams to help them understand and memorize information.
- Auditory learning. These students learn best through listening and speaking and rely on verbal explanations, discussions and lectures to understand concepts. These learners are good at remembering information that they have heard or spoken.
- Reading/writing learning. Students prefer to read and write notes to help them understand and memorize information.
- Kinesthetic learning. These students prefer to touch and feel objects to understand how they work, and they learn best through hands-on experiences and physical activities.
At National Technical Institute, we teach HVAC, plumbing and electrical trades and cater to all four learning styles: lectures in a classroom setting with note-taking, workbook activities with diagrams and end-of-chapter exercises, and extensive hands-on lab work where students learn in makeshift environments to solve various issues that can arise on the job. This varied course curriculum is vital to our student’s success. Upon graduation, most students will be working on their own, in people’s homes tackling many types of issues, and they will need to understand the fundamentals of their chosen trade in order to problem-solve and help the homeowner. Getting our students to absorb the information is key, as they will not be at a job where they can fly under the radar, but rather are put to the test every day.
America’s workforce is rapidly changing. Technology has evolved significantly in the last two decades, and it’s had a direct impact on the types of skills organizations across industries are looking for. It’s no surprise that this has changed the way we teach.
The benefits of different teaching styles
The purpose of education has always been to guide students in becoming active members of society and prepare them for a sustainable career. Utilizing different learning styles can help do that by:
- Improving retention. By incorporating different learning styles into the curriculum, teachers give students a better chance of retaining information and skills that will be useful in the workplace.
- Adapting to different work environments. Employees, especially those working in the trades, are often required to work in diverse settings, so utilizing different learning styles can help make them more versatile, and consequently more comfortable, in the workplace.
- Enhanced communication skills. Offering different ways of learning allows students to develop a better understanding of how to communicate effectively with others in the workplace.
- Improved problem-solving skills. Kinesthetic learners may prefer hands-on activities that require problem-solving, while visual learners may prefer to see the problem visually. By using different learning styles, students can learn to approach problems from multiple angles, which can be beneficial for troubleshooting in the workplace.
When it comes to teaching, it is critical to ensure that everyone is engaged, which is why offering a mix of different formats and delivery methods appeals to all students. The chances are very good that a classroom consists of at least one person from every main learning style group. Understanding this and incorporating different styles will help students develop a wide range of skills and adapt to different work environments that will be useful in real-world scenarios.
Ryan Woodward is owner and CEO of National Technical Institute, a state-approved trade school with campuses in Las Vegas, Phoenix and Houston specializing in HVAC, plumbing and electrical training. In 2022, he was appointed to the Governor’s Workforce Development Board in Nevada, where he oversees the distribution and use of federal and state dollars allocated to workforce entities and has sat on the Governor’s Community College Workforce Training and Programs Committee focusing on creating educational opportunities.
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