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How Connecting Different Learning Styles Leads to Career Success

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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:

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  • 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]

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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.

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    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.

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    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

    Dr. Malachi Thompson III

    High-Performance Consultant

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    Last Updated on August 11, 2021

    23 Killer Sites for Free Online Education Anyone Can Use

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    23 Killer Sites for Free Online Education Anyone Can Use

    Whether you’re five or ninety five, the internet has a lot to offer. Particularly when the topic is education, the resources on the internet are endless. Best of all, many high quality sites are completely free. From history to coding, excellent, free online education awaits on the following 23 sites.

    1. Coursera

    Coursera is a website that partners with universities and organizations around the world. This brings a wide variety of topics and perspectives to one searchable database.

    Coursera is a powerful tool for free online education and includes courses from many top universities, museums and trusts. This gives the site an extremely wide range of in-depth courses.

    Coursera is extremely useful if you’re looking to study many different topics, or want courses from different schools and groups. However, the free courses are now quite limited, so you’ll have to

    2. Khan Academy

    Partnering with many post secondary schools, Khan Academy offers a useable, well-organized interface. Also curating many courses from around the web, Khan Academy offers impressive depth on many different subjects.

    Among the more well-known educational sites, Khan Academy is also incredibly user-friendly, which may make it easier to keep learning goals. If you’re looking for a free online education, you can’t go wrong with Khan Academy.

    3. Open Culture Online Courses

    If you are struggling to find exactly the material you are looking for, try Open Culture’s listing of free online education courses. The page highlights 1000 lectures, videos, and podcasts from universities around the world.

    The site features a lot of material found only on universities’ private sites, all in easy-to-browse categories. This means you can find hundreds of university courses without having to visit and search each university’s site.

    Open Culture’s list features courses from England, Australia, Wales, and many state universities around the United States. It’s a very helpful resource for finding many courses in one area of study.

    4. Udemy 

    Udemy’s free courses are similar in concept to Coursera’s but additionally allows users to build custom courses from lessons.

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    Working with many top professors and schools, the site mixes the customizable platform of other sites with a heavy emphasis on top-quality content. This is another site, however, that mixes free and paid content.

    5. Lifehack Fast Track Class

    Lifehack believes in skills that multiply your time, energy, and overall quality of life.

    In this rapidly changing world, traditional education skills just don’t cut it anymore. You can’t afford to take years learning a skill you’ll never really practice. Besides offering some paid courses that will help you become a better self, it offers a list of free courses which aim to train some of the Core Life Multipliers including:

    These are cross-functional skills that work across many aspects of life.

    6. Academic Earth

    Another site with courses from many different schools is Academic Earth. Much like the three sites above, Academic Earth brings together top notch courses from many different sources and focuses on offering a wide variety of subjects.

    Academic Earth lists courses by subject and school, so it might be easier to find what you’re looking for.

    7. edX

    Another great option for free online education is edX. Also bringing together courses from many different schools, the site has impressive, quality information for everyone. edX covers a great range of topics from universities such as Harvard, MIT, and Berkeley, meaning a high-quality, free online education is entirely possible here.

    8. Alison

    Unlike the previous sites on this list, Alison is a free education site offering certification in some areas. Alison offers courses mainly in business, technology, and health, but also includes language learning courses.

    It’s a great option if users need a professional certificate for their learning, as Alison also offers school curriculum courses.

    9. iTunesU Free Courses

    A very convenient place for free online education is iTunesU, because it integrates seamlessly with your iPod or any app-ready Apple mobile device. On an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, users download the iTunesU app.

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    Desktop users can access iTunesU on the upper right hand corner of the iTunes Store. iTunesU is also convenient because the store is categorized much like iTunes.

    Users can search learning materials in many different ways, including by genre and topic. However, courses are often a mix of free podcasts or videos and paid content.

    iTunesU does include courses on a variety of topics, but it does not integrate with Android, Google or Windows mobile devices.

    10. Stanford Online

    Your hub for all the online offerings from Stanford University, Stanford Online offers self-paced and session-based courses. While Coursera features some courses from Stanford, many classes are only available via other hosts. Some courses require iTunes, but most are completed in your web browser.

    Stanford Online is a great site for high-quality courses, though the topics are somewhat limited compared to sites partnered with more than one school. If you’re looking for free courses, make sure to mark the “free” option on the left-hand side.

    11. Open Yale Courses

    Open Yale Courses echoes Stanford Online, in that it offers only courses from Yale. While the site is similarly limited to topics taught at the school, Open Yale Courses offers a lot of videos of actual campus lectures. The availability of videos makes the site a great option if you’re looking for quality courses but learn better by watching than by reading.

    12. UC Berkeley Class Central

    Much like the other schools on this list, UC Berkeley has a variety of free online education options. The school has slightly fewer courses than the schools above, but it includes some supplementary lectures, webcasts, and RSS Feeds, making it easy to keep up with the topics you choose.

    13. MIT OpenCourseWare

    Similarly, MIT offers a variety of free courses. The school has a comparable number of courses to the schools above, and it includes very in-depth course materials on the subjects available. MIT also offers free RSS feeds, a convenient way to continue learning.

    14. Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative

    Carnegie Mellon’s free online education site is comparable with the other school’s on this list. However, Open Learning Initiative also covers a smaller range of topics, but for the topics that are covered, impressive, in-depth material is available.

    15. Codecademy

    Codecademy is a website dedicated specifically to teaching coding. Where other coding sites follow an example/practice session workflow, Codecademy includes a live practice window. This means you can practice coding while still viewing the lesson material.

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    The courses at Codecademy are well-written and easy to follow, and the website is organized very nicely. Codecademy features a centralized dashboard where you can monitor your progress, and it organizes lessons into complete modules. This lets you learn an entire language without needing to pick the next course manually.

    16. Code

    Code is another website focused on coding and app writing. A site with high-quality courses, Code also features learning options for kids.

    In addition to kid-friendly courses, Code offers free online education classes on a wide variety of technology topics. These classes include app writing, robotics, and Javascript.

    Most of the courses are also geared in a such a way that they can be useful in a classroom setting. This makes Code a great resource for harder to find coding topics, as well as various learning settings.

    17. University of Oxford Podcasts

    The University of Oxford features many different podcasts. Most are public lecture series or lectures from visiting professors, with several different recordings available.

    The advantage to this particular site is that podcasts are organized into series, making it easy to subscribe to multiple lectures on one topic. This is another great site for thoroughly in-depth lectures.

    18. BBC Podcasts

    For the more casual learner, the BBC offers a wide variety of podcasts on many different topics. Most podcasts are updated weekly and focus on everything from finance, to sports, to current events.

    Through the World Service line of podcasts, there are also many in different languages. The focus of these podcasts are less in-depth and theory based, which may be more accessible to the average person.

    19. TED-Ed

    Another great destination for more general learning and free online education is TED-Ed. From the same people that brought you the all-encompassing, motivational web series comes a site chocked full of educational videos. Most include impressive animation, and all are ten minutes long or less.

    Not only is TED-Ed an excellent site for the curious, but it also includes supplemental materials and quizzes on the videos. This makes the site extremely useful in formal education settings, as well as in entertaining ways to brush up on new discoveries and topics.

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    20. LessonPaths

    LessonPaths is another great tool for those looking for a more usable and convenient way to access learning material. On this site, users create link playlists of their favorite learning materials from other sites. Users then rank these collections, making it easy to find many different high-quality, accessible sources on a given topic.

    21. Memrise

    Another impressive free online education site offering ease of use and convenience is Memrise. Available both on desktop and as an app, Memrise is a particularly powerful tool if you are studying a language. The site encompasses many other topics as well, though some of the course material is user generated content.

    Part of what makes Memrise special is their integration of games into the learning materials, mixing learning with entertainment.

    22. National Geographic Kids

    The kids site for National Geographic is another site that makes free online education applicable for younger users. For those looking for kid-friendly education, a large variety of games, puzzles, videos and photos keep kids interested on this site.

    National Geographic Kids doesn’t organize learning into courses, making materials available by topic and medium instead. This makes National Geographic Kids a good option for those looking for a more casual learning environment.

    23. Fun Brain

    Fun Brain is another great option for kids looking for free online education, as it focuses on games and fun puzzles. Particularly focused on math and reading, Fun Brain’s game-based approach can be valuable if the child in question struggles to pay attention.

    Fun Brain offers rewards and challenges as well, and it is another site aimed at a casual learning experience for kids K-8.

    The Bottom Line

    With so many amazing free online education resources, everyone has the ability to boost their skills and knowledge. Whether you’re interested in picking up some interesting trivia for your next party, improve your resume with some coding or business skills, or become a more well-rounded person, these resources are perfect for you.

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