Let me ask you a question: have you ever taken a knitting/crochet class and felt like you weren’t quite getting the most out of it? Other students said it was great… but it just wasn’t clicking for you?
Well, I’ve got a little secret. There’s one thing you can do that will magnify what you get out of any class, no matter who is teaching. But… it’s something that YOU have to do. You have to do a little self-exploration. Are you ready?
What’s your learning style?
How do you learn best?
Do you need a picture? Does a step-by-step review of a technique really make something click for you? Do you like learning by reading books? Or, would you prefer a teacher grab your hand and guide you through the motions?
Some of us intuitively know how we learn best. These people say, “I’m a visual learner” or “I need someone to show me how to do it”. But, others of us have no clue. If you’re feeling clueless about how you learn best, think about classes or experiences that you really connected with and got a lot out of. This is a clue into your learning style.
My learning style
I want someone to tell me the basics, and then I want to be left alone to try it out for myself until I internalize my new skill. This is because I have a very hands-on learning style: I need to discover the technique for myself as a way of learning it.
That’s just how I am. Doing is what makes a new skill click for me.
Spend a minute thinking about what makes learning a piece of cake for you. Write it down.
How your learning style works in classes
Now, here’s the key part of my secret: once you know your learning style, you can make that work for you in a class.
Every teacher, even if they’re the best teacher in the world, has their own teaching style… which may or may not line up with your learning style. A teacher may like to show lots of pictures, or walk around and demonstrate… which is good for some students (who have visual learning-styles), but not great for others.
My learning style (and I know this from experience) annoys a number of teachers. Many teachers (particularly newer ones) teach you step-by-step how to learn a skill, exactly the way they do it. And they think that their job as a teacher is to make sure you’re ‘doing it right’ every step of the way. This drives me nuts. It’s not how my learning style works.
I’ll give you an example. A couple weeks ago, I went to a Native American festival. A man there was teaching firestarting. Of course, I wanted to give it a try.
My teacher was very keen to make sure I held it exactly as he would, and put my foot right where he would… but that’s just not how I roll. I just wanted to hear the essentials, and then experiment on my own.
The result? A less-than-stellar learning experience.
Action plan: voicing your learning style
My firestarting tale isn’t complete. But you can see how I stopped there, I would have walked away being very unhappy with my ‘class’. Here’s where my secret comes in.
Your teacher can’t read your mind. If you can clearly voice your learning style, you are more likely to get exactly what you need out of class.
To get the most out of a class you’re in, it’s helpful to do two things. One, say your learning style aloud (describe). Two, make a suggestions about exactly what the teacher can do to help you (ask).
Here’s a chart of suggested ‘describe/ask’ combos for various learning styles:
Imagine… getting exactly what you personally need from every class you take!
Back to my firestarting tale… as I said, my teacher and I weren’t clicking. So I said, “I need a minute to play around to get it right. Do you mind if I just try it on my own?” And he did. And I learned better!
Use with caution
I have to say, on behalf of all teachers everywhere, this doesn’t give you license to turn every class into a personal lesson. Keep in mind that if you’re in a classroom with 30 other people, each of those people has their own learning styles.
So, I don’t intend for you to ask more questions (and monopolize the teacher), but instead ask better questions, so that you can get exactly what you need. You’ll be happy, your teacher will be happy. Everybody wins.
And, I’m not going to fib… every once in a while, you’ll come across a teacher who can’t accommodate your learning style. They won’t be able to explain why they’re doing what they’re doing or guide your hands. In my opinion, these are the not-so-great-teachers. It happens. Acknowledge that they’ve tried, and move on.
So, what’s your learning style?
And do you think you can use this information to get more out of classes?