What's the best way of learning?
Psychological Warfare...How do we learn best?...This is a fundamentally individual thing. Our personal style of learning is based on a whole host of factors and to make generalised comment, applying rigid rules and categories here isn't always right or appropriate. Essentially it's our job as trainers to understand the learning styles of the individuals we work with and deliver our sessions based on these, amending and accommodating as necessary. Understanding a little about learning styles is therefore a critical factor to becoming a successful trainer. As a participant it can help us understand why sometimes someone seemingly 'gets it' before we do. Learning styles is a very broad subject area and having read this post we encourage you to venture out and research it yourself as there's a huge amount of information available on competing theories.
The premise we are using here is that there are 7 personal learning styles.
Visual / Aural / Verbal / Physical / Logical / Social / Solitary
Each style embraces its own qualities and there are strategies which work best for individuals with specific learning styles. (To look specifically at what your learning style is there's a great online resource at www.learning-styles-online.com)
Visual (spatial) learners prefer to use pictures and images to learn. Coaching strategies for visual learners would be to emphasise the demonstration of technique. Diagrams of systems can also assist visual learners, typically these individuals are strong visualisers and using colour in diagrams (to place emphasis on a certain method or strategy) could be beneficial.
Aural (auditory-musical) learners are best coached using sound and music in the sessions. Visual demonstrations, accompanied by music and verbal explanation may work well for these guys. For example, presenting a different combination or rhythm may be best learnt by these individuals if you anchor it to a certain rhythm or piece of music. Certainly using background music for thus type of learner will assist them in their learning process and potentially recall.
Verbal learners need to use words . They can be a spoken or written, but they have to be emphasised. These learners may well benefit from detailed explanations of techniques and combinations. They may learn best through discussion and review. It may even be useful for these guys to make written notes of the content and technique they are practicing to assist in recall and retention.
Physical (kinesthetic) learners are probably the most common types of learners you'll find in the gym. These guys learn from doing, getting in there and physically having a go. They are best coached through demonstration, practice and review (with an emphasis on the practice). Another good coaching strategy here is to get the physical learner to think about and visualise how a certain movement or technique will feel. These learners basically learn through experience and physical rehearsal and therefore should be the easiest to coach.
Logical (mathematical) learners prefer using their brains for logical problem solving. These type of learners are analytical thinkers, easily recognise patterns and are systematic in their approach to learning. Coaching logical learners needs a detail driven approach, focusing on the technical points underlying the techniques taught. Involvement in the analysis is also a strong method for learning and retention for logical learners. Logical learners also like to categorise and group subjects and it may be worth taking a considered approach to delivering information, breaking down the elements of each aspect - footwork, position, body movement etc.
Social learners learn best in group situations. They are most at home being able to bounce ideas off others and discuss the subject material. Encouraging social learners is pretty straight forward, engaging them into a class environment, training with like minded individuals with similar goals. It would also be useful to encourage a social learner to share their experiences with others and discuss the opportunities for further development.
Solitary learners like to tread that path alone. Best found problem solving introspective these guys are great in self analysis and reflection. They are generally self starting and like to learn on their own, away from the demands and distractions of others. Training and coaching these learners would be best done 1-2-1, working on their personal goals and using their thoughts and reflections as a motivator. In addition these guys need homework. They need a plan to follow to ensure they get the best out of their individual time training. The role of the coach for a solitary learner is as a facilitator, assisting them with investigation and review of their own experiences.
It is clear then that we are all different in the process of learning, how we approach problem solving and best retain information. Additionally, learning styles are rarely absolute, a person may well be a social visual learner or a solitary logical learner for example. This then further provides opportunities to use coaching strategies to accommodate and best fit their individual styles. However the fundamental principle is towards first understanding what that style is and what best fits.
(www.learning-styles-online.com has a great learning styles inventory questionnaire which can help identify what your learning style is.)
It is also worth considering that learning styles can change both situationally (depending on the subject being learnt) and over time as a product of experience. Whilst combat sports are inherently physical subjects, the what we do being a host of movement and physical combinations, it is not the case that all students will possess strong physical learner styles. More to the point we need to ensure sessions embrace a multitude of coaching methods to accommodate all styles. Visual demonstration, technical breakdown, physical rehearsal, detailed analysis and review, group discussion and individual reinforcement are all important strategies that should figure in all sessions. We learn in many different ways, we need to ensure we coach in many different ways too. It's what we do!