When creating presentations, you should be mindful of the different types of learners.
If you want to create valuable presentations, you should deliver exactly what’s necessary for your audience. In 2018, that means reader-centered content creation.
But remember people are all different. They pay attention to different things and learn differently depending on their personality and cognitive abilities.
For this reason, when you use knowledge about the different learning styles to optimize your content for people, it becomes easier to consume, understand and remember.
In other words, your content becomes more reader-friendly and simply better.
Your School Days
Think back to your childhood and school days.
Back then, education was the central aspect of your reality. We were all defined by our grades and the ability to obtain new knowledge.
At school, it was super easy to observe the different types of learners.
You could clearly notice that your schoolmates digested the material differently and they all developed all kinds of tactics to get the best grade.
Some of your friends would learn by reading things out loud, by taking notes or by just drawing in notebooks; while others highlighted the essential parts with vivid colors.
From my own experience, additional popular school learning methods included flashcards and recordings of your professors’ lectures.
I must admit that I used all these tricks, depending on the subject. Interestingly, I learned math best with music playing in the background. 🙂
As you can see, we’re all created different, and this is what makes the world so exciting.
Now, you need specific knowledge about the types of learners to become a better content (and also presentation) creator.
Let’s dive into the fundamental theories regarding the types of learners.
The VARK model
Scientists and psychologists constantly study the human brain and our learning behaviors in order to determine how we learn and what techniques promote efficient learning.
Over the years experts have come up with the VARK model, which identifies the four major types of learners.
The VARK is an acronym that stands for the Visual, Aural, Reading/ writing, and Kinesthetic sensory modalities that are used for learning information.
Now, I’ll briefly describe each learning type and reveal some simple, yet powerful teaching tactics for presenters and content creators.
Visual Learning Type
Gifted or not, the majority (around 65%) of the population consists of visual learners.
In a nutshell, the visual learner appreciates illustrations of all kinds, so that she/he can better enjoy, understand and memorize visual content.
Just for the record, visual content includes:
- Any other different visuals used to highlight and convey the information.
Whatever symbols you choose to enhance the critical parts of your content, will work much better than chunks of the text itself.
For the visual learner, there must always be something more than words to make a real impact on memory.
Therefore, when you’re creating content (such as presentations) for this type of learner, bet on visually presenting information.
There are many strategies to provide a visual audience with the proper environment for enhanced understanding and memorizing. Simply put, this involves any activity that allows them to visualize the subject.
Visual Teaching Tactics for Presenters and Content Creators
- Provide your audience with an outline of the subject to be covered during your presentation.
- Replace chunks of text with graphs and diagrams and present the data transparently and visually.
- Use opposing colors when you want to emphasize the contrast.
- Use concept maps with key points, circles, boxes and arrows to connect the information.
- Encourage the visual learner to take notes and jot down key facts.
Aural/Auditory Learning Type
Everybody has a friend who always remembers the little things that were randomly said at a party.
Or perhaps you knew a guy from University who never studied. Instead of hitting the books, he would party all the time but surprisingly passed all his exams, getting better grades than you did. I’d think that was unfair.
But for him, just his attendance at lectures was enough to absorb the knowledge.
Here we speak of the auditory learners who will typically remember what teachers say. People who have this specific preference for learning are often seen as the social butterflies. However, they can get easily distracted by classmates and co-workers.
As a rule of thumb, auditory learners find it easiest to remember what they hear. They concentrate best by receiving information, by listening to themselves or someone else talking, and they repeat the information in their heads.
Scientifically, they can be classified as being in a perceptual mode – with a preference for remembering information that has been spoken or heard. As a result, they will enjoy, understand and remember knowledge best from lectures, discussions, radio, mobile phone talks, presentations and by talking things through.
For auditory learners, it’s also typical to learn things out loud – e.g., by talking to themselves a mirror.
The self-talk serves to help sort things out by vocalizing them.
As a result, you can quickly identify them, for instance by the repetitive questions (and pretty obvious questions at times) they ask. You should understand that it’s often just their way of memorizing things.
Auditory Teaching Tactics for Presenters and Content Creators
- Play lyric-free classical music in the background of your presentation.
- Lead focus groups and let your students cross-examine each other aloud on the questions.
- Prepare recordings so that your audience can listen to your presentation later.
- Provide conversational content, make sure you include several discussions during your presentation.
- When presenting, move around the room, this way your audience sitting in the back rows can hear you better.
- Vary your presentation approach. Include group work, paired readings, experiments, plays, projects, and in general, keep your audience in their social element.
Plus, learners with strong auditory preferences will enjoy the following methods:
- One on one meetings
- Spoken summaries of texts
- PowerPoint stories with audio-narratives
- Lectures and talks
- Reading aloud
- Learning Buddies
On the other hand, learners whose first preference is different can also benefit from auditory reinforcement of your content. After all, all learners should be encouraged to discuss their understanding of the ideas.
Reading and Writing Learning Type
The reading and writing type consumes information best in words. This learning style is most popular among teachers and students.
When a text-based input and output is favorable, all the reports, essays, manuals, lists, diaries, dictionaries and textual PowerPoint presentations are very welcome.
Here, it’s all about the words.
When you look around, you’ll quickly notice that, for instance, web browsers and Wikipedia are optimized for the Reading/ Writing learning style as the search results are packed with textual information.
Reading and Writing Teaching Tactics for Presenters and Content Creators
- No matter what content format you choose, always provide some easy-to-digest notes and summaries of it.
- Prepare a transcript of your videos and podcasts.
- Provide your audience with notebooks and pens so that they can take notes by themselves and put the subject into their own words.
- Stay consistent with your presentation formatting.
Kinesthetic Learning Type
This type of person prefers learning from experience, and likes to put topics into practice, either simulated or real, to learn new things.
People who belong to this learning type have a profound connection to life events and reality than other learners.
Hence, they appreciate demonstrations, simulations, exhibitions, performances, use cases, experiments, videos, and movies, more than the previously mentioned forms of content. They enjoy tasting, feeling or touching the subject they’re learning about.
Whatever technique you use, attracting the kinesthetic type requires real-life examples and exercises.
Kinesthetic Teaching Tactics for Presenters and Content Creators
- Use real-life examples, applications and case studies in your presentation to help with abstract concepts.
- Redo lab experiments or projects.
- Utilize pictures and photographs that illustrate your idea.
Of course, not all people can be classified into these four primary learning types. There are also mixtures.
Whenever you don’t feel like there is any preference dominant for you, from those mentioned above, but you can see some features here and there that suit you, then you can consider yourself a multi-modal learner.
There are two official mixes established by the VARK database:
- VARK Type One is context-specific. Switching from one preference to another depending on the subject.
- VARK Type Two is “not satisfied until she/he has had input (or output) in all of their preferred modes.”
The latter finds it harder to consume information, is often a procrastinator and slow-deliverer, but eventually has a better and more in-depth understanding of the subject than other learning types and shows better decision making as a result.
David Kolb’s Theory
It’s worth mentioning that there’s another popular theory regarding learning styles published by David Kolb in 1984.
This one is an experiential learning theory that works on two levels:
- The first part is based on the four-stage cycle of learning.
- The second part includes four separate learning styles.
Kolb’s theory is wrapped around the internal cognitive processes of learners.
According to this American theorist:
“Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience.”
→ Dig deeper and check out this site for more information.
Whenever you want to introduce these learning style theories into your content creation, first determine what type of audience you have to present to. When you can clearly classify them, then you can focus on the specific model.
However, when you can’t define your audience’s learning preference, then you’ll need to be ready to optimize your content for all types of learners. You can always encourage your audience to fill out this survey and see what their learning preference is, in order to provide them with the most relevant content.
As stated in the beginning, people are created differently, so they pay attention to different things depending on their personality and cognitive abilities. For this reason, you need to help them understand and memorize the knowledge you’re providing better.
Turn these tips into practice, and you’ll quickly observe how dramatically the perception of your presentations improves.
Below you’ll find an infographic that beautifully summarizes the article.
Take a look, and feel free to share it or add it to your content.