“Did that make sense?” A look at how people learn

Each Sea Scout Ship has its own standards of operations. These differences between programs can range from how the log is handled, how lines are cast off, or how meetings start and end. Our Scouts are no different when it comes to how they learn best. As adult leaders we must be adaptable to different learning styles to ensure we engage our Scouts how they need to learn rather than how we want to instruct. Before we can outline how to play to our Scout’s strengths let’s first look at the 3 primary learning styles and what they prefer.

Visual learners (approximately 45% of people):Visual
– Learn through seeing
– Like neat and organized environments
– The facilitator’s body language and facial expressions help visual learners understand the content
– Like to sit up front so nothing is in the way between them and the facilitator
– Remember something by seeing it in their minds
– Need to take detailed notes to absorb the information

AuditoryAuditory learners (approximately 10% of people):
– Learn through listening
– Enjoy verbal interactions
– Facilitator’s tone of voice, pitch, and speed help them interpret and remember what they hear
– Written information may have little meaning until it is heard, so auditory learners often benefit from reading text aloud and using a tape recorder

Kinesthetic learners (approximateKinestheticly 45% of people):
– Learn by doing, moving, and touching
– Find it hard to sit for very long
– Want to actively explore the physical world around them

If you’re reading these details for the first time I would bet you’re thinking the same things that I did. “A lot of our classroom instruction focusses on auditory and that’s only 10% of people. We need to engage everything!” While that is a great goal, let’s temper that a little. Engaging everything constantly is not a requirement and quite frankly it is not practical. That would create a fractured lesson and probably lose the attention of many Sea Scouts. What we should aim for is a balanced approach where at some point we do our best to work with the learning styles we have present. If we notice the method we are using is not reaching a Scout that’s when we can shift gears.

I recall delivering an Ordinary ground tackle class a couple of years ago. We were covering how the different types of anchors actually take hold into the bottom. I went about explaining how a yachtsman holds as I had many times before. “The weight of the rode will tip the anchor over. The stock will cause the flukes to roll. As the boat sets in the flukes will dig in to the bottom.” Simple to picture, right? A few of my Scouts didn’t seem to grasp it. I tried explaining it again and was met with the same result. Moving forward with the resolution to help it make sense I began to draw it. One of the Scouts had it click. I saw the look of confusion still evident on the faces of the remaining Scouts. I asked what didn’t make sense about this. One Scout replied, “If I could see it happen I might get it.” A-ha! I went to a gear locker and grabbed a small anchor. The class headed outside and on a stretch of lawn where we had the Scouts who hadn’t grasped the concept pay out some line and they saw what happened with the anchor moved. That was the moment when they got it! I realized then that I had been trying to get them to learn in a way that didn’t work for them.

Here are some accommodation strategies to engage the different learning styles:

Visual learners: Pictures, Demonstrations, Diagrams, Illustrated text , Powerpoint Slides, Videos, Charts, Handouts

Auditory learners: Lectures, Discussions, Question and answer, Talking things through, Listening to what others have to say, Audio and video tapes

Kinesthetic leaners: Hands-on activities, Games, Training aids, Tests, Role-play, Group activities, Moving around, Demonstrations

Understanding the learning styles of our Scouts could be the critical factor in if they develop a skill instead of simply passing a test. We need to be constantly aware of the reactions of our Scouts to the material delivered so that we can support them in the advancement. I know that I feel a huge rush of excitement and pride whenever one of my Scouts has that “A-ha!” moment. That one piece of information being added in or that one difference in the delivery is what helps everything to click.

Here are links for a Learning Style Assessment activity as well as some additional engagement methods for each style.

Learning Style Self Assessment Activity

Additional Engagement Methods

If you have any questions or wish to discuss any of these materials please do not hesitate to reach out and contact me at WesternRegionVCProg@Gmail.Com

Vice Commodore of Program
Western Region Sea Scout Committee

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