Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Kinesthetic Learner

A friend of mine recently commented on her boring training experience via social media with the status update of “In training all day. I think employees would retain more info if they get to play wit[h] Legos while listening.
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My advice to her was to follow through with the hashtag and bust out those needles!  I don’t know the details of what type of training she was attending, but I can make some assumptions.  Most all training sessions meet the needs of visual and auditory learners where power point presentations give visual cues and lectures cater to those auditory learners. But what about the needs of kinesthetic (or tactile) learners?  These are the learners who retain information by actively doing.
When beginning a new job, chances are there will be a series of introductory classes which explain the job and provide tools to help you do the job successfully.  Classes which utilize learning through doing (i.e. simulations or computer training) will be beneficial for the kinesthetic learner.  Classes which concentrate on theory (i.e. ethics classes) may be difficult for a kinesthetic learner to sit through because the information itself is not necessarily a task that needs to be learned but, instead, a series of best practices.  In my experience, training that focuses on best practices is usually outlined by a lecture with an accompanying presentation. Hypothetical examples may be given and, heaven forbid, there may be role playing.  In a basic new hire training like this, only the role playing would meet the needs of the kinesthetic learner. Role playing tends to get many moans and groans from participants so I don’t advocate for that training method unless absolutely necessary. Thinking along those lines, what else can be done to meet the needs of our kinesthetic learners?
Whether you are a trainer yourself or have attended training sessions in the past, you may have noticed a bouncing knee or tapping finger.  Maybe you’ve seen the occasional knitter or the doodler who seems to not be paying attention. Don’t be fooled by appearances, these are just key characteristics of kinesthetic learners who feel the need to be doing something while learning.  It may be easy to be put off by their constant movement at first, but I encourage you to embrace the movement and make an addition to the classroom setting.  It may help if you begin a classroom session by giving your kinesthetic learners permission to use their knitting needles or giving out pencils and papers for your doodlers.  Even chewing gum can help a kinesthetic learner concentrate. If you are a trainer, consider making movement apart of your sessions - just the simple act of changing a seat can make a huge impact on your kinesthetic learners.

With the onslaught of technology, a large percentage of kinesthetic learners belong to the younger generations.  From Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) to discover learning methods, children today are learning with a “hands on” approach.  That being said, it shouldn’t surprise you that as younger professionals enter the workplace, they will expect learning to be in much of the same format.  As trainers, we must be willing to embrace this shift in learning technique, not only to be inclusive of all learner types, but to secure the success of our young professionals throughout their careers.