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Published on January 6, 2021

6 Strategies For Auditory Learners To Learn Effectively

6 Strategies For Auditory Learners To Learn Effectively

Auditory learners learn best when information is received through sound. Instead of reading books, they prefer to listen to other people talking. But they also learn well when explaining themselves and when participating in group chats and conversations.

Today, there is a wealth of great opportunities for auditory learners to learn effectively.

In this article, I am going to reveal 6 strategies that will make auditory learners learn fast and enable them to get a solid understanding of the materials presented to them.

Before we dive into the learning strategies, let’s just take a look at what the most common learning styles are.

In a study done in 1992 by Neil D. Fleming and Coleen E. Mills, the acronym VARK was used to describe the 4 major learning styles people usually have:[1]

  • V – Visual learners (learn best with diagrams, pictures, and written notes)
  • A – Auditory learners (learn best through sound)
  • R – Reading/Writing learners (learn best by reading books and doing research)
  • K – Kinaestethic learners (learn best by doing)

People don’t always fall neatly into one of these categories, but often, people prefer one learning style over the others.

The VARK theory seems to have more to do with personal preferences rather than learning styles being intrinsically linked to someone’s genes. If you are someone who digests information better through sound than via images, you can still learn well with images or by doing activities. But if you want to learn as effectively and thoroughly as possible, you should use learning techniques that cater to your particular taste when it comes to digesting information.

Some people prefer reading, while others prefer listening to audiobooks. We don’t necessarily have the scientific answer to exactly answer why that’s the case, but that’s not necessary either. We only have to accept what our unique preferences are and use the appropriate techniques for our particular tastes.

Now, with some background information out of the way, let’s dive straight into the 6 learning strategies for auditory learners.

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1. Make Audio Recordings Instead of Taking Notes

Regardless of our learning style, we all need to store the information somewhere so we can access it later. When it comes to taking notes, auditory learners might benefit more from audio recordings instead of taking written notes.

These could be recordings of yourself explaining a concept you’re learning, reading a passage out loud from a book, or a recording of someone else explaining something, perhaps from a lecture or presentation.

Instead of filling in a notebook or spending hours typing on a computer keyboard, you can build a depository of audio clips. To make this work as well as a colorful Mind Map does for a visual learner, you need to make it easy for yourself to go back to your audio notes in the future when you need to access and review the information. It’s essential that you keep your audio notes organized.

Evernote is a great tool for this purpose. With Evernote, it’s easy to build up a database of recordings you have made and to keep them organized. Another great thing about Evernote is that it has a built-in voice recorder. This saves you the hassle of having to import voice recordings manually.

Make sure you label each recording with a description of what it contains. If you don’t, it will be too difficult to access afterward. Even though you might learn best with audio notes, it’s an awful way of organizing information. Written notes are still easier to look through to find something you’re looking for. You can speed-read and skim through the text, but you can’t speed-listen to or skim through audio clips.

This is why I think auditory learners still benefit a lot from making short written notes and even visual Mind Maps to get an overview of the topic they’re learning and to see the bigger picture.

So, to sum this strategy up: make written notes to organize information and get an overview of the whole subject. And use audio recordings when you go deeper into each topic to gain an understanding of the material.

2. Use Speech-to-Text Software

Auditory learners are often good at talking and explaining, and sometimes less good at expressing their thoughts on paper. Because of this, they might enjoy the process of taking written notes orally.

There are quite a few apps around today that let you speak into your phone and transform the words into texts as you speak. It might take a little bit of practice to get 100% comfortable with this way of taking notes. But with not too much effort, you can write text quite quickly using this method.

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I often do this myself when taking notes. Sometimes, when writing an article, I write the first rough draft by speaking into my phone. It’s much faster than typing, and I would have needed to go back and edit the text again if I was typing anyway, so it does save me some time.

I use an app called SpeechTexter for this. It’s free to download. The main reason why I like this app is that you can program it to insert specific symbols with custom voice commands. That way, you can easily format your text entirely with your voice and insert things like new paragraphs, commas, colons, etc. as you dictate.

You can also copy or export the text easily and paste it into your favorite note-taking app. The major benefit of this is that it is perfect for auditory learners. You can capture your thoughts directly from your mind with your voice instead of having to pass them through a “slow typing speed” filter.

If you’re a slow typer, the speech-to-text method will make the process of capturing thoughts into texts a lot smoother. It also makes it easier for you to sustain your train of thought. Straight after you have recorded, you can go back and correct any words, punctuation, and formatting that the software didn’t pick up.

3. Podcasts and Audiobooks

Access to high-quality podcasts and audiobooks have exploded in recent years. And that’s great news for auditory learners. Podcasts and audiobooks aren’t always good strategies if you want to learn something specific to a course you’re taking. But they are great sources for general information and learning.

You should check out services such as Blinkist and Audible. If you’re an auditory learner, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you’re not taking advantage of them.

Podcasts and audiobooks are also a great way to save time. Listen to podcasts and audiobooks while cooking, hanging clothes up for drying, cleaning your house, or while doing any other tasks that don’t require your full attention.

4. Listen First, Make Notes Afterward

If you’re listening to a talk, masterclass, lecture, or presentation, you should focus all your attention on listening to the lecturer. Taking notes require a lot of attention, and if you focus on that, you might fall out of the whole thought-journey the lecturer is taking you through.

As an auditory learner, you will gain a lot more from the event if you spend all your energy trying to understand what the speaker is saying.

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Auditory learners are likely to remember a lot of the details that are being said in the lecture, so this is a good strategy for you. The more intently you listen and focus during the lecture, the more likely you are to remember it. If you also try to make visual images in your head while listening, you will remember the information even better.

Straight after the lecture, go through it all in your head, recall all the key points, and write down as much as you can. Or better—record it and store it in your note-taking app.

This does not only work better in terms of learning, but it also forces you to train your ability to recall information. After you have written it down, you must use the information. Think about it regularly, and connect it to information that is already part of you.

This is the same strategy that allows the famous psychologist Jordan Peterson to remember so much of what he’s reading:

“People ask me how it is that I can remember all the things that I talk about extemporaneously when I’m lecturing, and the reason for that is because I’ve thought them through. … It’s kind of like I’m attaching little memory hooks to it in five different ways. And then I’ve got it. It’s part of me.”[2]

5. Explain It Out Loud to Yourself

This is one of the best and easiest methods for auditory learners to learn effectively. Formulating something in your own words is how you solidify your understanding of it. If you do this, you also take advantage of the Feynman Technique which is one of the best learning techniques that exist.

The Feynman Technique is a learning technique that Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman developed and used himself.

This is how it works:

Pretend that you are explaining a concept that you’re learning to a child. Identify the parts of your explanation that you’re struggling with communicating clearly, and take note of gaps in your understanding of the concept. Then, read up about the concept again and try to simplify the explanation one more time. Repeat this until you can confidently explain the concept in simple terms—so simple that a 6-year-old can understand it.

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To explain something in simple terms you have to understand it really well yourself first. When you try to explain something you don’t fully understand, your explanation is likely to be quite vague. A child wouldn’t be able to understand that.

To explain something in your own words, you are forced to really think about it. This is why the Feynman Technique is so effective. It forces you to grasp every single little detail of it since that is what is needed to explain it in very simple terms.

“If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” —Albert Einstein

6. Engage in Conversation With Others

Auditory learners are often more comfortable participating in group conversations than people with other learning styles. Talking about the topic you are learning in a group with others will also deepen your understanding of it.

This has very similar effects as the previous strategy I explained. Explaining what you’re learningwhether to yourself or othersis one of the best ways to solidify the knowledge in yourself.

Talking to real people is often even better than when you’re just practicing explaining something for yourself. When you’re in a group conversation, you are under pressure to formulate your thoughts and articulate yourself well. And this really puts your understanding of the topic to the test.

There is another reason why engaging in conversation with others would help. Hearing others explaining something in their own words can help you understand the subject better, especially if you find it difficult to read about it.

Bottom Line

As you can see, there are plenty of methods and techniques that allow auditory learners to learn effectively. With all the technological tools we have today, we can almost say that we’re living in the golden age of auditory learners.

However, viewing something from multiple different angles and perspectives have several times been confirmed by science as an excellent way of grasping a topic thoroughly.[3]

So, even though you’re an auditory learner, you will get the best learning experience if you use a range of different techniques, including those that are not directly targeted for auditory learners.

More Tips on How to Learn Effectively

Featured photo credit: Start Digital via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Sindre Kaupang

Entrepreneur and filmmaker, founder of Productive Headspace and Beyond Music

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Published on March 1, 2021

What Is Double Loop Learning And How Is It Valuable?

What Is Double Loop Learning And How Is It Valuable?

As someone on the Millennial/Generation X cusp, one of my first memories of a news story was the devastating crash of the Challenger space shuttle. I couldn’t process the severity or the specifics of the event at the time, but looking back, the Challenger explosion represents a heartbreaking example of what can happen when systems fail.

A part of the shuttle known as the O-ring was faulty. People from NASA knew about it well before the disaster, but NASA employees either ignored the problem—writing it off as not that bad—or were ignored when they tried to alert higher-ups about the issue.[1] This is a tragic example of single-loop learning where organizations focus on what they’re doing without reflecting on how or why they’re doing it, and it’s a recipe for disaster.

Single and Double-Loop Learning

Chris Argyris describes the difference between single and double-loop learning with a metaphor. A thermostat that turns on and off when it senses a pre-set temperature is akin to single-loop learning. The thermostat being able to reflect on whether or not it should be set to that temperature in the first place would be more like double-loop learning.[2]

Imagine the difference if NASA would have encouraged and addressed employees’ questions about how they were doing, what they were doing, and whether or not they should be doing it at all—you’ll start to see how an extra layer of questioning and critical thought can help organizations thrive.

Single Loop Learning

Single-loop learning is when planning leads to action, which leads to reflection on those actions and then back to planning, action, and more reflection. Now, you might think that because reflection is involved, single-loop learning would be an effective organizational model. However, because there isn’t room for critical questions that ask why actions are being taken, problems begin to bubble up.

The Double Bind

When organizations are operating in single-loop learning, they get stuck in what Argyris calls the Double Bind. Because there’s no value placed on questioning why the team is doing something, team members are either punished for speaking up or punished for not speaking up if something goes wrong down the line.

Primary Inhibiting Loop

When an organization is stuck in single-loop learning, the double bind leads to what Argyris calls the primary inhibiting loop. Real learning and growth are inhibited because team members withhold information from each other. This withholding leads to distrust and is difficult to remedy because even if employees attempt to become more forthcoming, lack of trust sours interactions.

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Secondary Inhibiting Loop

Because information is being withheld, team members play unconscious games (not the fun kind) to protect each other’s feelings. For example, I might try to distract my colleagues from worrying about a problem in our plan by shifting the focus to another project we’re working on that’s going better.

When you’re stuck in single-loop learning, the organization does whatever it can to continue taking action after action instead of stopping to truly reassess the bigger picture. This leads team members to hide information from each other, which causes distrust and behaviors that try to mask flaws in the organization’s structures and systems.

Double Loop Learning in Organizations

A common misconception is that the opposite of single-loop learning involves focusing primarily on people’s feelings and allowing employees to manage themselves. However, the solution for single-loop learning is not about doing the opposite. It’s about adding an extra later of critical analysis—double-loop learning.

With double-loop learning, questioning why the organization is doing what it’s doing is an organizational value. Instead of moving from planning to action to reflection and back to planning, in double-loop learning, people are encouraged to reflect on why they’re doing what they’re doing. This can help the organization take a step back and reconsider what’s best for all stakeholders instead of being stuck acting and reacting.

Ultimately, double-loop learning gives team members the time, space, and systems to ask tough questions and have them addressed in meaningful ways.

Let’s think back to the Challenger disaster. If NASA had created an organization that uses double-loop learning, employees wouldn’t have felt compelled to stay silent, and the employees who did speak up would have influenced the process enough to reconsider the timeline and develop a solution for the O-ring problem.

Single-loop learning is like a train with no breaks. Double-loop learning provides the extra layer of critical thought that allows the organization to stop and pivot when that’s what’s required.

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Think back to Argyris’ thermostat metaphor. Instead of just reacting—turning on and off when it detects a certain temperature—double-loop learning invites the thermostat to reconsider why it’s doing what it’s doing and how it might do it better.

How to Shift to Double Loop Learning

So, how can organizations shift from single to double-loop learning?

1. Stakeholders Must Level With Each Other

The first step to shifting from single to double-loop learning is for all stakeholders to sit down and talk openly about their expectations, values, and goals. These sessions should be led by organizational experts to ensure that old single-loop learning habits of distrust, withholding, and game-playing don’t keep people stuck in single-loop learning.

One of the keys to team members leveling with each other is listening. Focus on creating an environment where everyone can speak up without fear of judgment or punishment.

2. Create Benchmarks for Lasting Growth and Change

Old habits die hard, and single-loop learning is no different. If systems, check-ins, benchmarks, and periodic times to reflect and reset aren’t put into place, old habits of withholding and mistrust will likely creep back in. You can guard against this by making it a norm to measure, assess, and improve how new double-loop learning systems are being implemented over time.

3. Reward Risk-Taking and Critical Feedback

Double-loop learning requires squeaky wheels. You have to create a culture that rewards criticism, risk-taking, and reflecting on the system as a whole and the reasons the organization does what it does. Think big picture stuff.

This is about walking the walk. It’s one thing to tell employees to speak up and give their feedback, it’s another thing entirely to have systems in place that make employees feel safe enough to do so.

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Kimberly Scott’s Radical Candor comes to mind as one way to start shifting to a more open and critical environment. Radical Candor is a system that incentivizes employees and managers to start speaking up about things they used to sweep under the rug. It’s a roadmap and a way to assess and improve open and reflective feedback between all stakeholders.

Double Loop Learning for Individuals

Double-loop learning isn’t only for organizations. You can also apply Argyris’ ideas to your learning.[3]

Here’s how that might look:

1. Level With Yourself and Seek Accountability

Instead of being stuck in a single-loop learning cycle, break out by adding another layer of critical reflection. Why are you learning what you’re learning? Is it important? Is there another way? Think big picture again.

Become clear on what you want to learn and how you’re currently trying to learn it. Then, open yourself up to others to keep yourself accountable. Leave the door open to completely shift major details about your learning goals.

2. Create Benchmarks and Don’t Put Your Head in the Sand

Just as with organizations, individuals also need to create goals and continuously reflect on whether or not they’re moving toward double-loop learning. Schedule times to meet with the people keeping you accountable for your learning plan. Then, ask yourself whether or not your learning goals still make sense.

Ask big picture questions. Are you in the right environment to learn? Is your learning plan working? Do you need to change course altogether or shift your goals entirely? If it’s double-loop learning, you can’t be afraid to ask questions about why you’re doing what you’re doing and change course when the need arises.

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3. Value Risk-Taking and Accept Criticism

You’re also going to need to shift your mindset from simply learning and reflecting to accepting criticism, being critical of yourself as a learner, and taking risks and experiencing discomfort as you ask big questions and make drastic alterations to your learning plan over time.

Instead of concerning yourself with grades and GPAs, double-loop learning would mean you’re allowing yourself time to step back and analyze why you’re learning what you’re learning, if there’s a better way, and even whether or not you should be on that learning trajectory in the first place.

Final Thoughts

Think back to the thermostat example. Doing homework, handing it in, and then receiving a grade is single-loop learning. Thinking about why you’re doing any of that and making appropriate changes that align with your learning goals shifts you into double-loop learning, and that’s a great way to see the bigger picture and get the best results.

Learning and reflection are two of the most important things when it comes to organizational or personal development. This is why double-loop learning is key if you want yourself or your organization to succeed.

More Tips on Effective Learning

Featured photo credit: Cherrydeck via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] NPR: Challenger: What Went Wrong
[2] Harvard Business Review: Double Loop Learning in Organizations
[3] Journal of Advanced Learning: The role of reflection in single and double-loop learning

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