Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on March 31, 2020

How Connecting Different Learning Styles Leads to Career Success

How Connecting Different Learning Styles Leads to Career Success

How we define our career success is different from one person to the next, or at least should be different.

Many define career success through wealth symbols likened to those glossy images of The Robb Report containing pages of plush houses, luxury cars and superyachts. Others such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett seek other measures of career success, now giving significant amounts of their wealth away to charity.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy documented in 2017 that since the year 2000, Gates and Buffett donated $18 billion and $65.5 billion respectively. Their career success milestones now contain a stronger philanthropic foundation.

Whether or not you define your career success by the size of your bank account, the car you drive, your role title, level of accountability or the emotional and personal satisfaction you feel at the day’s end, one thing in common: you have to learn how to become that person that can obtain that.

Here’s where getting a strong handle on your learning styles really matters if you want to gain faster momentum on your career success pathway. You have to be highly familiar with what works for you and adapt where you can.

In our haste to achieve our personal definition of career success, we look for shortcuts to accelerate our progress pathway. If only we could learn faster…. if only. Well, we can!

The major connection between different learning styles and career success is actually a formula of awareness, variety, timing and being savvy in choosing the right combination of styles to meet your growth challenges.

Knowing our learning styles gives us great advantages but not in the way we might currently think.

The Myth About Questionnaire Scores and Labels

In climbing the corporate ladder, you might have undertaken three or four personality profile assessments such DISC, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator or others. You complete a self-report questionnaire such as the VARK to help your new manager determine the best ways to help teach you.

The report you receive describes your preference of learning as a unique combination of visual, aural (auditory and verbal), read/written and kinesthetic preferences.

The most commonly cited learning styles tend to be the following:

Advertising

  • Visual – use of diagrams, pictures, symbols and videos or demonstrations;
  • Auditory – talking and listening;
  • Kinesthetic – practical, tactile, doing activities hands-on.

The questionnaire (any questionnaire for that matter) is designed to categorize our responses. Learning style assessments usually reveal we have a prevalence of at least two styles.

If we look at other research and assessment tools, we discover different perspectives on how our learning styles should be recognized. (See Yale Center for Teaching and Learning for additional learning style descriptions.)

What we need to recognize is that these categorizing labels are not absolute across all circumstances and all subjects. In fact, researchers encourage we remember that there is great variability even within the labels.

You might prefer singing karaoke style as you listen to songs you love rather than watch video music clips. However, when it comes to learning ballroom dance moves, you find it easier to watch someone model the foot positions first in the classic waltz before you attempt them yourself rather than listen to someone describe how you undertake the step-sequence.

Wrong and Right Ways to Use Learning Style Questionnaire Results

Reading through the questionnaire report you feel validated and understood. You feel such relief when you read the summary and discover the reason you found math so hard was because the teacher did not teach you in the style you best learn. “They didn’t know how to teach me in a different way that best suited me!”

Here is mistake number one:

Your score doesn’t indicate how you best learn. It indicates how you prefer to learn.

You then apply a blanket conclusion that your report’s summary is all you need to know to best learn in all situations and fast track your career progression.

Here is mistake number two:

Making generalizations can actually be limiting.

Whilst research reports that individuals develop a stronger understanding of their learning preferences,[1] there is no clear evidence yet that simply choosing learning formats that match your preference will improve our learning capability or speed of learning.[2]

Advertising

This is not bad news!

Undertaking such questionnaires isn’t worthless but rather a way to recognize you have certain ways of learning which are more comfortable for you to learn. You can figure out how to make learning simple, easier and more enjoyable. That’s a big plus!

Research shows that students encouraged to think about how they learn actually achieve better learning outcomes. They are encouraged to reflect on how they drew conclusions and made connections and as such integrate the information better.

Take Richard Branson for example, with a dyslexia diagnosis, there were clear learning limitations for him. Whilst he probably would not have scored highly on the aural subscale of the VARK , he does credit dyslexia for being one of his greatest assets.

Branson has said he learned to delegate and communicate better and that due to these ‘limitations’, he realized he needed to work in ways that made business simple and easy for him. Branson might score more highly on a writing subscale!

    He has described his signature management technique to be his constant note-taking because remembering what people said was always too challenging. He takes a notebook everywhere.

    How to Choose Your Personal Best Combination of Learning Styles

    Educators and researchers have found we actually learn better when we apply a variety of learning styles.

    Listen to a podcast, write notes, view a video and complete a workbook on a topic you need or want to learn. You are likely to have a stronger grasp and retention of the information than if you were to engage only one or two of those options.

    There are more types of processing taking place which allow you to store and be able to apply the information better. The increased quality of engagement with your topic facilitates better learning.

    As you think of the steps in climbing the corporate ladder, each rung has inevitable increasing demands. Better skills in guiding and coaching your team, wider knowledge, thinking faster and effectively on your feet, analyzing comprehensive data and reports swiftly are but a few of the growth steps you must master.

    Advertising

    Think back to situations where you have felt similar levels and types of challenge and ask yourself:

    “How did I learn then? What styles do I feel worked best for me? What should I have done differently?”

    The pattern of learning styles which you applied then are patterns you can use as a framework now. But don’t stop there. Modify, strengthen and build on them.

    A mix of preferred learning styles & less preferred styles will accelerate growth.

    Let’s consider the example of your needing to present a pitch to a potential client for new business. It’s a skill you’ve only seen contract paperwork for as a client administrator but the next step on the path to your career success is a business development role.

    You MUST prove your capability in this opportunity to show you’re worthy and deserving of promotion.

    What learning styles help you grow to demonstrate you’re the best person your company should put forward to win the client? You have the following options:

    1. Practice speaking the actual pitch to a group of friends. You would rather eat dog food for dinner than stand up in front of a group of people and speak but you know that role-playing is the closest simulation of doing the pitch;
    2. Practice your pitch to your dog. He will love you unconditionally anyway despite how you perform and will be even happier if you choose not to eat his dinner;
    3. Practice pitching to your work associates who are successful business development managers. Be sure to have your Wonder Woman or Captain America shield ready to protect you from painful but helpful feedback;
    4. Buy books and read literature about ways to make an effective pitch;
    5. Watch YouTube videos about how to make an effective pitch.

    Let’s pretend you’re identified as being a strong visual and verbal learner. The opportunities to only use these styles are either unavailable or limited. You feel sick about knowing to role-play and know the kinesthetic route is the most viable road to take.

    But that may not be the only way. Functional MRIs have now shown that our brains don’t actually know the difference between what is real and what is vividly imagined. Research has also shown that physical performance can improve when we simulate the practice of ideal performance using visualization and imagery.

    You don’t only imagine seeing the movie scene of you delivering the perfect pitch. You also imagine feeling extremely confident, calm, have a sense of knowing that you deserve this opportunity and see in your mind the clients are delighted by your presentation. Imagery and visualization have that power to affect your performance.

    What if you practiced visualization incessantly, did at least one pitch in front of your work colleagues and asked for feedback and verbally rehearsed key statements in your delivery? With slightly less fear-factor, this mix of uncomfortable learning style strategies and preferred styles would surely be a winning combination.

    Advertising

    The right combination is key. Choosing the right combination of learning styles which feel comfortable plus engaging the uncomfortable styles are sure to drive you closer to your desired aim, faster.

    Bottom Line

    Growth can be painful and change is not something, we as humans, rush toward in fits of excitement.

    Our brains are designed to keep us safe. When we feel safe, we feel nice and comfortable. Our anxiety levels are low or non-existent, we feel in control, fully satisfied and content.

    The problem is though, we are unlikely to develop, stretch and progress.

    Knowing our learning style preferences can help us alleviate some of that discomfort in stretching and growing. However, what we want to create is a reverse plan.

    Choose your endpoint, map the steps backward that you need to grow into and move through. Chart against each step the learning styles and methods you feel will be the best balance of comfort and the amount of growth pain you feel you can handle.

    Sometimes no amount of standing on the sidelines and watching people glide around the ice-skating rink is going to help you learn how to skate. You are going to have to step onto the ice at some point to find your own center of gravity and balance. The weekend seminar junkie, listening to speaker after speaker telling them how to turn their four-figure revenue into six figures in six months.

    It’s great to listen, watch and read, but nothing changes until the behavior actually changes and action is taken. The major connection between learning styles and career success will always be a combination key to knowing what you prefer, knowing what works, choosing the right mix and applying them at the right time.

    More About Learning

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Malachi Thompson

    Executive Leadership and Performance Consultant

    How to Change Your Self-Perception and Untap Your Hidden Potential How to Make the Right Decision Fast How Connecting Different Learning Styles Leads to Career Success What to Do When You Hate Your Job but Want a Successful Career 17 Versatile Work Skills That Will Gain You More Career Opportunities

    Trending in Learning

    1 A Comprehensive Guide to a Smart Learning Process 2 12 Learning Strategies to Help You Retain Information Fast 3 How to Become an Intentional Learner for Never-Ending Growth 4 7 Characteristics of a Smart Auditory Learner 5 How Do Memory Vitamins Work? (And the Best Brain Supplements)

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on July 24, 2020

    A Comprehensive Guide to a Smart Learning Process

    A Comprehensive Guide to a Smart Learning Process

    One of the most crucial aspects of our lives is the ability to learn. We often take this skill for granted since not many of us pause and think about our learning process. In fact, if we did, we would probably uncover that we engage in ineffective learning mechanisms.

    Think about it. Has your learning helped you recall things you learned last month? Go back a year and ponder.

    A lot of how we learn was tucked away in school. Our exposure to school learning is the basis of how we learn moving forward. However, over the past few decades, learning has evolved into different stages of learning, and that becomes the main issue.

    No longer are we looking at examinations of people’s characteristics about understanding and learning. Instead, scholars have created learning processes that use materials that support our interactions with others and our goals.

    As a result, we can learn new things more smartly and effectively – which will be covered as we proceed further in understanding the learning process.

    The Essential Steps of the Learning Process

    In his book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell states that the key to success is for us to practice 10,000 hours on a specific skill. It’s also worth noting that the skill needs the correct learning direction. If you’re learning how to do something the wrong way, you’ll continue to use it the wrong way.

    But before understanding the learning process, we must understand the stages of learning. Written in the 1970s, Noel Burch created a model called the Four Stages of Learning. [1]

    From there, we can use the stages of learning as a basis for how to learn effectively.

    1. Unconscious Incompetence

    Think of a skill that you are good at and that you use every single day.

    Now think back to when you first developed that skill. Were you good at it? Probably not.

    Advertising

    You never heard of the skill or had a desire to learn of it until that point. This is the first stage: You know nothing about it.

    2. Conscious Incompetence

    Once you have heard of the skill, you begin to delve into it.

    Driving a car is a perfect example. Before this stage, you never felt the need to learn how to drive. Nevertheless, once you became of legal age, you had to study to get your license. You likely made several mistakes on the driving test as well as during the written test.

    This is the stage where you feel learning is slow, and you’re also aware of your mistakes.

    3. Conscious Competence

    By this stage, you know pretty much everything you need to know. At the same time, though, you are also aware that you need to focus and concentrate on what you are doing.

    This stage can be that you know the rules of the road and can drive well. However, you feel you can’t talk to anyone, play any music, or look away from the road. You feel like you need total silence to focus and concentrate on driving.

    At this stage, learning can be even slower than the previous stages. The learning isn’t consistent, nor is it a habit yet.

    4. Unconscious Competence

    By this stage, you’ve made it. You know everything in and out about the skill. It’s become a habit, and you don’t need to concentrate. You can relax and let your unconscious mind take over.

    Exceeding the 4 Stages: Flow/Mastery

    While Burch only covered four stages, there is another stage that exceeds it. This is the flow or mastery stage.

    You may have heard of something called a flow state. [2] It’s the mental state where someone is performing an activity and is fully immersed in it. They feel energized, focused, and get a sense of joy from doing this activity.

    Advertising

    Flow or mastery can stem from all kinds of activities like Writing, reading, jogging, biking, figure skating, and more. It’s also characterized as complete absorption in what you’re doing, making you unaware of space and time.

    Different Types of Learning Process

    Another aspect of the learning process is the types of learning. While every person goes through those stages of learning, how we learn is different.

    Having covered four learning styles in 4 Learning Styles to Help You Learn Faster and Smarter, I’m recapping the different types of learning in psychology.

    Psychiatrists have narrowed how we learn down to seven learning styles as below:

    • Visual (spatial): Learning through pictures, graphs, charts, etc.
    • Aural (auditory-musical): Learning through sound and music.
    • Verbal (linguistic): Learning through spoken or written words.
    • Physical (kinesthetic): Learning through the body, hands, and a sense of touch.
    • Logical (mathematical): Learning through logic, systems, and reasons.
    • Social (interpersonal): Learning through groups or talking to people.
    • Solitary (intrapersonal): Learning individually through self-study or individual assignments.

    You may be asking why all of this matters and actually how we learn plays a significant role. How we internally represent experiences stems from how we learn. What we learn not only establishes how we recall information but also impacts our own word choice.

    It also influences which part of our brain we use for learning. Researchers uncovered this through various experiments.[3]

    For example, say you’re driving to a place you’ve never gone before. How you learn will determine which method of learning you’ll use. Some will ask people for directions, while others will pull up Google maps. Some will write the directions out, while some won’t and merely follow street signs.

    Knowing how to learn to this depth is vital because once you know what style you use, you can then develop a learning process to be a more effective learner.

    How To Become an Effective Learner?

    The learning process varies from person to person. Generally speaking, though, consider the following steps and considerations:

    1. Improve Your Memory

    Learning doesn’t only require that we learn information, but to retain it. If we are to learn something, we will have to learn and relearn. This means recalling and having a sharp memory to keep that information.

    Advertising

    Improving our memory can range from a variety of things. From memory palaces to practicing other memory improvement tactics.

    2. Keep Learning and Practicing New Things

    Learning a new skill takes time, but there is nothing wrong with learning a few other things. International Journal of Science – Nature: Changes in grey matter induced by training[4] reported that those who juggled between learning different topics increase their gray matter which is associated with visual memory

    3. Learn in Many Ways

    While we have our own go-to style, delving into other types and stages of learning can be useful. If you learn by listening to podcasts, why not try rehearsing information verbally or visually?

    It will not start great, but by improving your skill to describe what you learned orally, you are further cementing the knowledge in your mind.

    Judy Willis MD, M.Ed in her publication on Review of Research: Brain-Based Teaching Strategies for Improving Students’ Memory, Learning, and Test-Taking Success[5] states how the more regions we keep data stored, the more interconnection there is in the collection information that we later process.

    4. Teaching What You Learned to Others

    It doesn’t have to be in a tutoring situation, but this method is still a reliable way for two people to grow.

    Regardless of learning styles, we retain the information we tell others more effectively than if we keep it to ourselves. Was there a random fact you told someone a few months ago? You are more likely to remember that information because you brought it up to someone.

    5. Use Relational Learning

    Relational learning is relating new information to things you already know.

    A typical example of this is remembering someone’s name. You can better recall that person’s name if you associate that name to something or someone familiar.

    6. Gaining Practical Experience

    Nothing beats learning than trying it for yourself. Sure, seeing information does have its strong points -and most learning styles benefit from exposed information – there is something to be said about getting your “hands dirty.”

    Advertising

    7. Refer Back to past Info If Need Be

    The learning process is not perfect. We’ll forget at certain points. If you ever struggle to remember something, make a point of going back to your notes.

    This is key because if we try recalling, we risk ourselves learning or relearning the wrong answer. And again, there is a difference between learning the right way and the wrong way.

    8. Test Yourself

    While this step may seem odd, there are benefits to testing yourself. Even if you think you know everything about the topic, going back and testing yourself can always help.

    Not only does testing improve our recall, but we may realize that we learned a concept or task incorrectly. That knowledge can enhance our effectiveness in the future.

    9. Stop Multitasking

    While we should be learning new things all the time, we shouldn’t be trying to do several tasks at once. We ought to focus on one activity at a time before moving onto other tasks.

    By trying to multitask, we are learning less effectively and are only hindering ourselves. Check out how multitasking is merely another way of distracting ourselves.

    Bottom Line

    Psychologists define learning as the process of a permanent change in a person’s behavior resulting from experience. The understanding of the learning process is up to us, but do consider the bigger picture. Be aware of what style works best for you, and work to improve it while enhancing other learning styles. The only way we can advance a skill is to learn continuously. Even in the skills you have mastered, there are always new developments.

    You can learn more about how you can cultivate lifelong learning and attain an edge in every niche that you get associated with today!

    Featured photo credit: Aliis Sinisalu via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Gordon Training International: The Four Stages of Competence
    [2] Habits for Wellbeing: Flow: the Secret to Happiness: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
    [3] Training Industry: How the Brain Learns
    [4] International Journal of Science – Nature: Changes in grey matter induced by training
    [5] Judy Willis MD, M.Ed: Review of Research: Brain-Based Teaching Strategies for Improving Students’ Memory, Learning, and Test-Taking Success

    Read Next