Posted by Lora Boiago on Oct 4, 2013 8:54:00 AM

Training Consultants: Learning Styles and Strategies

Introducing a new technology or strategic ideology across an organization can be a daunting task.  Training consultants are faced with many challenges when constructing corporate training programs, including a limited time frame, conflicting learning styles and differing learning strategies.  To accomplish desired results, consultants must make sure the learners are engaged and comfortable with the material and delivery.    

Learner engagement is so important that, in recent years, we have seen a significant growth of research into the subject of learning styles.  An individual learning style is defined as the way in which a learner takes in information, processes that information and applies it to solve and understand problems.  

As a training consultant, you will invariably be faced with many different styles and learners.  It is important to identify the underlying style of your audience before diving too deep into the creation of lesson plans and activities.  Depending on the size of your group, identifying the learner's preferred learning styles can be approached through having a discussion with the learners themselves, their managers or distributing a learning style questionnaire.  Being aware of the preferred styles will avoid a mismatch in style between yourself, the training consultant, and the learners.    

Once a clear picture of the preferred physical learning style is understood, lesson plans can be easily structured to specifically address some or all of the styles.  In most cases, a combination of two or more styles will be needed.      

To help you dive quicker into the creation and introduction of material, we’ve listed the 4 most common learning styles along with suggested teaching strategies to help engage each group.


Learning Strategies

Learners with a visual style prefer to use their eyes to learn.  That is, they must see something in writing, through pictures, time lines, watch a demonstration, and so on.  In order to organization information and communicate it to others, visual learners need to have new content presented both visually and verbally.  

Common phrases would be “I can’t picture it” or “let’s draw a map of it”.

How Can Training Consultants Engage Visual Learners?

If the learner excels with a visual style, the training consultant should introduce the material as something to ‘see’.  Maximum use of visual aids will greatly enhance the learning of this audience.  Try finding photographs, flow charts, tables, sketches, or any other visual representation of the course material.  Draw boxes and circles around key points, use arrows and lines to shape dependencies and connections, highlight important thoughts and incorporate concept maps.  These visual aids are sure to engage the learner and drive higher results!


2. AUDITORY LEARNERSLearning Strategies

Learners with an auditory style prefer to use their hearing to learn.  That is, content is better understood and ingested when it is verbally explained, as in a class lecture, than in a written format.  These learners are the type that ‘talk to themselves’ and are the first to want to discuss the material with others.

Common phrases would be "that rings a bell" or "that sounds about right to me".

How Can Training Consultants Engage Auditory Learners?

If the learner excels with an auditory style, training consultants should consider incorporating group work into the instruction.  One by one, have participants verbally explain material as others listen.  Ask challenging questions that prompt outside-the-box thinking and group discussion.  Auditory exercises are effective as learners will gain understanding of material by verbally explaining it or hearing their peers’ explanations.


Learning Strategies

Learners with an active style tend to retain and understand information best when they are
actively doing something with it.  These learners are thought to be more ‘hands on’.  That is, they absorb information best when they are applying it to a scenario, explaining it to others or purposely manipulating it in order to learn more effectively.

How Can Training Consultants Engage Active Learners?

Like auditory learners, active learners benefit most when put in a group work setting as sitting through lectures and taking notes is particularly difficult and ineffective.  Have participants take turns explaining the different topics to each other.  Take part in experiments and create role playing scenarios to have them apply what they have learned.  They will always retain information better if you find ways for them to do something with it.


4. REFLECTIVE LEARNERSLearning Strategies

Learners with a reflective style prefer to first think quietly to themselves as they receive new information.  An initial response for this type of learner would be to first think through content before applying it or coming to any conclusions.  These learners tend to prefer working independently.  Traditional-style lectures favor this type of learner as the process is more conducive to allowing the learner to reflect first and act second.

Common phrases would be "I'd like some time to think it over" or "I'll get back to you on that".

How Can Training Consultants Engage Reflective Learners?

Make sure to allow for periodic ‘pauses’ during the instructional delivery of new material.  Allow learners to ingest the new information by having them write short summaries on the material in their own words.  As these learners prefer reading material over group work, make sure to include pauses in the material.  After presenting a chunk of information, have the reader stop and ingest the new information and deliberate possible questions or applications.  Time allowance for reflection and ingestion will enable these learners to retain the material more effectively.


Topics: training consultant, training consultants, corporate training program, corporate training programs

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