Whether you are a graduate at a commencement ceremony, a skilled employee in a high-tech industry or an experienced blue-collar worker in a sunset industry, the message is universal: Engage in lifelong learning to stay relevant and employable.
The questions then are, in a life peppered with competing priorities at work and at home, how do we engage in lifelong learning?
As playwright Oscar Wilde put it: “The final mystery is oneself.”
Start by getting in touch with your personal learning style?
It has been said that we do not all learn in the same way. Just as we have preferences in many areas of our lives — food, fashion, cars — we have preferences when it comes to learning. In a nutshell, learning styles are not about the “what” we learn but of the “how” we prefer to learn.
Each individual has a preferred method (or style) of receiving and interacting with any information that needs to be learnt. Some individuals may also be adept at more than one learning style.
What are the different learning styles? Mainly, there are four: visual, auditory, tactile and kinaesthetic.
The visual learner likes to see what he is learning. He learns by reading notes and looking at images, like charts and mindmaps.
For the auditory learner, learning takes place when he hears the spoken word.
The tactile learner, on the other hand, learns by making notes or drawing diagrams as he takes in the information.
The kinaesthetic learner learns by engaging in hands-on activities and putting into action the information he receives.
For some of us, a little self-reflection is all that is needed to help us identify our learning style. Those who need more guidance can complete simple self-administered surveys on the Internet.
Self-awareness is always a good starting point for any endeavour. Knowing your preferred learning style will better position you to take charge of your learning.
It equips you to do different things or do things differently when you are in a learning situation. For instance, if you are a visual learner, you may want to get your hands on visual aids such as handouts, PowerPoint slides or diagrams. In cases where these are not available, you may want to source for these from textbooks or even on the Internet.
If you are an auditory learner, do yourself a favour — don’t miss lectures, presentations or discussion sessions. You can also supplement your learning by taking advantage of the audio books in the library.
If you are a tactile learner, make your own notes or comments or drawings in your learning materials even as the trainer delivers the presentation.
If you are a kinaesthetic learner, waste no time in applying what you have heard or seen.
Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti once said that “learning music by reading about it is like making love by mail”. So, go play the musical instrument, conduct the experiment, cook the dish or assemble the computer.
Understanding your learning style is an important first step. Applying that understanding to help you to learn the way you like to learn — and not be held back by the way it is being taught — is the more critical step. Apply it well and it will boost your learning productivity.