"What is my learning style?" is not a typical question, but a highly interesting one.
You see, when you understand the importance of your learning style you will improve your learning and, done right, the learning of your trainees, employees or colleagues - and ultimately, the growth of yourself and your business.
Some years ago, Dr. Howard Gardner, professor at Harvard University School of Education in Cambridge, Massachusetts, developed a body of research suggesting that we all learn and process information differently, that there are multiple forms of intelligence and that we access this intelligence using our own unique learning style.
Dr. Gardner's research has since become widely accepted. The idea is that we learn best using one predominant learning style, which means we require time to process information in our own, unique way to help us experience and function in the world. Whether or not you use your unique learning style has a great deal to do with how successful you are at managing your business, time, tasks and, ultimately, your life.
With over 30 years experience in the business and accounting industry, I have been fortunate enough to face certain challenges and overcome certain obstacles. This journey has left me with countless life lessons that I feel privileged to have learned first-hand. One of these came early on, which was recognising my own learning style and how I could use it to my advantage when it came to running my own business or helping my clients run theirs.
Much has been said about how individuals have their own unique approach to learning, and different learning styles in business - including why some people flourish while others struggle in various situations and scenarios. Depending on our strengths, weaknesses, backgrounds, experiences and preferences, each of us processes data in different ways.
Some of us are visual learners. We learn through seeing. We like to see pictures or diagrams. We like demonstrations or watching videos.
Some of us are auditory. We learn through hearing. We like to listen to audiotapes, lectures, debates, discussions and verbal instructions.
Some of us are kinaesthetic. We learn through physical activities and direct involvement. We like to be “hands-on”; moving, touching and experiencing.
Some of us are reading-and-writing learners. We learn by consuming information from reading texts, and absorbing information by condensing and rephrasing it.
But what does this all really mean? It means it is important to identify your learning preference and the best way to make use of it. Convert your source of information to your preferred way of acquiring information and you will find that learning becomes easier and fun.
I like a six-step process that I came across, using the acronym M.A.S.T.E.R as a way to "master" any topic. In brief, it means:
M. Motivating your Mind.
You need to be motivated to learn. Frankly, if you do not have the right attitude and you do not want to learn, you will not be able to learn.
A. Acquiring the information.
As discussed above, you need to acquire and absorb the information in the way that best fits your sensory learning preferences.
S. Searching out the meaning.
All too often we memorise facts so they can be regurgitated to pass a test. You must make sure you truly understand the subject matter.
T. Triggering the memory.
There are numerous memory strategies that can be applied (and numerous full-length books on the subject) to help you “lock it down”. Learning the meaning of the acronym M.A.S.T.E.R is one of them!
E. Exhibiting what you know.
Find a study buddy to whom you present the information. It is a great way of testing yourself and proving to yourself that you have permanently acquired the knowledge.
R. Reflecting on how you have learned.
Reflect on the learning experience. Not what you learned, but how you learned it. Then you will evolve an approach that is perfect for you.
My challenge for you is to take a minute to think about which learning style best describes you. It is likely that your own personal way of learning is a combination of a few of the above, so focus on which one describes your strongest attributes. This will allow you to make changes that you and your business need to move forward.
Charles Darwin said it best, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”
I hope the rest of April is productive and successful for you all.
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Institute of Certified NZ Bookkeepers