As we’ve discussed over the last two weeks (Learning Styles, Part 1 and Part 2), not everybody learns in the same way, and learning styles are a way of grouping together the basic, common ways in which people learn. Most people, while having a dominant form of learning, still rely on many of the other techniques to learn and recall information, but none of this is set in stone — your proficiency in one or more styles may change over time or to fit particular circumstances.
By identifying your learning style(s) and understanding how to use them, you can better process information and improve your long-term recall. There are seven basic learning styles, and research shows that each one uses different parts of the brain. By combining different styles and thereby involving more of the brain during learning, we not only comprehend more, but we are able to recall more of what we learn at a later time.
Today we will discuss the last two of the seven styles, social and solitary.
Brain regions: Most of our social behavior is handled by the frontal and temporal lobes. The limbic system, which is part of the hippocampus, deals with emotions, moods, and aggressive behavior.
Learning techniques: If you’re a social learner, you work best in group settings, getting different information and perspectives from other members in the group that help solidify your mastery of the topic. Here are some additional suggestions to help you study more effectively:
- Engage in role playing with your group, each person taking on one aspect of the topic being discussed. Then switch roles so that people get to experience different perspectives and mindsets. It’s also helpful if you role-play teacher/student interactions — if you have to teach a topic, you have to have mastery of it before you present it.
- Discuss your associations and visualizations with others in the group. Since not everyone has the same perspective or creative/learning style, you may end up with more varied, interesting, and helpful responses.
- Brainstorm mind maps and systems diagrams. Designate one person to be the drawer, and then have everyone toss out ideas as you work through the material. You may discover different perspectives on the topic and new ways of thinking about things. If you disagree on something, make a note of the group map/diagram and then add your own ideas later.
- Recognize that even though you are a social learner, you depend heavily on one or more of the sensory styles we’ve discussed — visual, auditory, and kinesthetic — for primary information input.
- Take note of everyone’s dominant learning style(s) — this will allow you to understand why people may have different points of view. This will also help when assigning various tasks for each of the group members to work on. People can either volunteer for the activities that complement their dominant style(s), or they may choose activities where they can learn to work with other styles. The group provides a safe environment to experiment, so take advantage of that .
Brain regions: As with social learners, the frontal and parietal lobes, as well as the limbic system, are active.
Learning techniques: If you’re a solitary learner, you prefer to research and study by yourself. You use most of the time you spend with an instructor to clarify information that you haven’t been able to understand on your own. Ask yourself questions like “Why is this important to me?” and “How can I use this information?” Your inner thoughts and feelings about different topics have a strong impact on your motivation and ability to learn. Here are some additional suggestions to help you study more effectively:
- Recognize that even though you are a solitary learner, you depend heavily on one or more of the sensory styles we’ve discussed — visual, auditory, and kinesthetic — for primary information input.
- Be very clear what you goals and your plans are for every study session — unlike in a group, you are the only one who can establish them. Make sure you understand your reasons for each of your objectives and either visualize or script your expected outcome(s) from each step.
- Create a personal interest in the topics you’re studying — it will greatly aid with motivation. In addition, do some research into the people or movements behind your study materials — Why do they work in this field? What motivates them? Understanding these things will help you refine your own motivations.
- Keep some kind of journal in which you include what your personal challenges are, ideas on how to deal with and overcome them, and what actions have or haven’t worked in accomplishing your goals. If you find yourself in a jam where you can’t see past an obstacle, ask others how they achieve their goals and see if you can apply any of that information to yourself.
- Assertions are important tools for you, as you’re driven by the way you view yourself and the things you do. They are also a means to ensure your self-image aligns with your learning objectives. Make sure to include your internal thoughts and feelings when you script.
- Modeling is a powerful tool for solitary learners, but don’t just model surface behaviors and appearances. Try to get “inside” the heads of those you model and determine what motivates them, as well as what their thought patterns and feelings are in a variety of circumstances. Good tools to use are speaking directly with other people or reading biographies of people important to the topic you are studying. Models don’t have to be based on a single person — a model that combines aspects of several different people can provide a more solid base from which to work.
- Although you’re a solitary learner, role-playing is still an option. Visualize your instructor, or another student working beside you. “Watch” as someone practices a skill, or “explain” yourself to another person when you’re the one practicing. You can do all of this in your head, or, better yet, be vocal with the “group.” This will allow you to use your verbal and auditory learning skills to process the information more effectively.
- If you’re looking to change your behaviors and habits, you need a strong internal desire to do so. Explore the benefits of that change through visualization, exploring the expected — or unexpected — outcome after you’ve made the change. If you can’t get behind the benefits of changing your behavior, it will be difficult to do so.
- Recognize that your thoughts, especially in the absence of other people’s input, have a large influence on your performance. You are as much a part of the overall system as the equipment you’re using, and your system diagrams need to reflect that. In addition, make sure that your diagrams are reliable, as you are the only one whose input is going into creating them.