The Visual-Auditory-Kinaesthetic (VAK) model asserts that people are visual learners, auditory learners, kinaesthetic learners or a combination of these. Here’s how you can incorporate the VAK model into your learning and development (L&D) strategy to support your staff as they strive to improve their skills.
Learners receive and process information in a variety of ways.
Howard Gardner, famed author and professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, said in a recent interview: “Educators should take those individual differences very seriously. We do so by teaching individuals in ways that they can learn comfortably; and by assessing them in ways that allow them to show what they have understood (as well as ways that they have not understood).”
To address these learning differences, a number of learning styles have emerged.
“Learning-style models serve as a generic guide for L&D content design and development,” says Sarala J Marimuthu, director of research and development, Finance Accreditation Agency (FAA). “We acknowledge and appreciate the different learning styles, allowing them to enrich and add greater dimension to our approach.”
Planning with the VAK model in mind
The VAK model, for example, can help L&D professionals understand the personalities, inclinations and strengths of their employees. Once the L&D team knows what kind of learners they are working with, they will be in a much better position to tailor their L&D activities to individual preferences and differences.
“Anything that is worth teaching can be presented in many different ways,” said Gardner. “These multiple ways can make use of our multiple intelligences.”
FAA adopts this method to make learning experiences more effective. “To optimise learners’ experience, FAA’s learning content is designed to be learner-centric, using a variety of learning activities adapted to the VAK learning style. It motivates learners to explore further and cultivate self-learning habits,” explained Sarala.
Here are illustrations of three typical learners and how you can proactively support their L&D.
Vivian, the visual learner
Vivian learns primarily by seeing, reading and writing. She seems to work best in a relatively quiet environment, and makes detailed notes during workshops and training sessions. She also does background reading beforehand. She may even pin up some of the more important bullet points on her cubicle wall to keep the information fresh and visible.
When you’re working with people such as Vivian in your organisation, you should try to:
- Incorporate visual aids into presentations and workshops, such as photographs, videos, charts, graphs and diagrams to reinforce learning.
- Provide handouts with written instructions, guidelines and other significant details. Your written material should also have clear headings and outlines.
- Use colour coding in graphics or text to highlight key information.
Adam, the auditory learner
Vivian relies primarily on her eyes for learning, but Adam depends mainly on his ears. He learns mostly by listening and speaking – both to himself and to those teaching him. To commit information to memory, Adam often reads aloud or recites information. He’s great at remembering names when he’s introduced to someone (because he hears their name), and he loves a good podcast.
In fact, Adam has trouble retaining information until he hears it. Just as sound helps him, it can also be a challenge for him, as other noises can sometimes distract him.
To support Adam in his L&D efforts, a solid approach is to:
- Deliver training materials through speeches, oral presentations, podcasts or audio files. Also, it’s a good idea to record any of these speeches or workshops, so he can listen to them again if necessary.
- Ensure that any audio content is clear, concise and compelling.
- Use storytelling and verbal analogies to illustrate key information.
• Put him in a group or partner him up (preferably with other auditory learners), so they can discuss – and listen to – the important information from workshops, readings and other training activities.
Kelvin, the kinaesthetic learner
Kelvin is a mover and shaker. He learns predominantly through physical experience – by doing, touching, feeling and moving. He takes regular breaks during the workday to move and stretch.
A real multitasker, he’s been known to read on the treadmill, and even writes notes or questions in the margins while he’s reading. He might also listen to music while he does his work. He likes playing games and building stuff. In other words, he enjoys – and thrives on – the hands-on approach. He puts the ‘active’ in activities.
To maximise Kelvin’s L&D experience and help him improve his skills, your L&D team should consider integrating the following:
- Introduce role-playing and other games into L&D activities.
- Engage him in other physical activities during workshops, such as model building or diagram charting.
- Deliver information in the form of podcasts, so he can listen to them on the move.
- Provide practical, hands-on training opportunities for active learning. For instance, he could shadow another employee or take on a superior’s role for a short time.
By successfully catering to the Vivians, Adams and Kelvins of your organisation, your L&D efforts have a much greater chance of success – both for them and for your organisation.