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Home »Education Guidance »How Do You Learn?August 05, 2010| By Randall Shirley

Do you ever wonder why some people are known as “straight A students” while other people struggle in school – even though they’re smart? Do you know people who didn’t finish high school, and have found great success in their careers?

People learn in different ways. And no one has a better learning style than anyone else. Some experts say there are as many as seven different learning styles; but it’s easier to narrow it down to three types of learning…

We’ll call them:

  1. Listening learners
  2. Seeing learners
  3. Touch / experience learners

It’s simple really. Think about one of life’s earliest lessons – often taught by our mothers: The Stove Can Burn You.

  1. Listening learners heard their mother, believed the information, and never touched a stove.
  2. Seeing learners watched their brother touch the stove, and never touched it.
  3. Experience learners touched the stove; but only once!
“My dad is a self-made millionaire with his own business, yet he can barely read the headlines in the newspaper. I don’t think he’s ever read a book. He’s probably dyslexic, but he’s 70 years old, and when he was young they didn’t know how to teach for that style of learning. He’s one of the smartest people you’ll ever meet, and most of his “learning” has been through experience and believing in himself.”
 – A WorldWide Learn user

Most people combine the styles of learning

Here are some everyday problems you might want to learn about. How would you learn more? Think about them – no way of learning is better than the others. Remember, the way you learn is perfect for you.

Problem #1You need to paint a room.
How much paint and what supplies do you need?
Listening Learners might:Call a painter, a friend, or paint store, and ask them for instructions before starting. Might attend a course on painting at the paint store.
Seeing Learners might:Look online for answers, read several websites. Go to a bookstore and find books and magazines about home improvement and painting. Go to the paint store and read the back of paint cans. Watch a course at the paint store.
Experience Learners might:Go buy a can of paint, a brush, and start painting. If there’s not enough paint or you have the wrong brush, you just buy more. Eventually you learn how much paint and what supplies are required.

Interested in painting, design, home improvement or even real estate?
Check out these online courses that can help you improve your skills:

Problem #2Your boss wants you to plan a summer barbecue for 25 coworkers and their spouses/partners.You’ve never planned anything before. How would you learn what to do?
Listening Learners might:Call a friend who throws great parties, and cry HELP! Attend an upcoming party, and ask the host lots of questions. Call a party planner in the phone book and try to squeeze some tips out of them. Attend a class on event planning.
Seeing Learners might:Search for “party planning tips” through Internet search engines. Look for books about catering, event planning, and party games at the library.
Experience Learners might:Dive right in-walk around to coworkers’ desks to ask them how many people are coming. Find a place to hold the event, buy lots of food at the local deli and determine in your head if it’s enough. Hire a country band you heard at the bar last week, and learn by experience that alcohol melts through paper cups!

Do you like to help plan parties and meetings for a living?
You might like these online courses that help you improve your skills:

  • Events Management
  • Catering Operations
  • Understanding Wine

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Problem #3:You need to certify in First Aid so you can become leader of a Scout Troop.You haven’t studied First Aid since you were a child. You decide to take a course at the YMCA.
Listening Learners might:You find yourself at the front of the class with a pen and paper, writing notes about everything the teacher says. You might be nervous about actually doing mouth-to-mouth on the dummy.
Seeing Learners might:You get a book about First Aid from the library and do some online research before ever attending the class, and immediately start reading the classroom handouts before the instructor even calls roll.
Experience Learners might:You walk in, see the dummies, bandages, splints, and other equipment and can’t wait to try it all – the lecture might be dull and boring to you.

Do you enjoy the world of health and medicine?
You might find these courses interesting:

  • Medical Assistant
  • Holistic Health
“Jody Brown was the smartest girl in my high school – that’s what I thought back then. She got perfect grades in every course. Her handwriting was perfect. She did really well in all the science classes, and always had a book in her hand. Today she’s a top-rate software developer.

On the other hand, I rarely read in school, and was sent to the principal’s office more than once. No one ever called me “smart.” I loved to talk a lot and make up stories. I’ve spent my life writing stories. Today they are published in magazines and newspapers, and people actually pay me for them.

I saw Jody recently, and she told me she couldn’t imagine writing stories. It turns out that we’re both smart, we just learn in different ways. And we both think the other person is smart!”
 – A WorldWide Learn user

Learning Challenges

If you or someone you know has learning challenges, such as dyslexia or ADD (attention deficit disorder), never be afraid or ashamed to ask for help. Adults with learning challenges are still learning, just in different ways. There are probably experts in your community who can help improve reading ability and focus ability-leading to improved life skills. Contact the following for help:

  • Reading improvement: call your local library-ask about adult reading improvement programs
  • Dyslexia: contact your local branch of the International Dyslexia Association (
  • ADD: contact your local branch of the Attention Deficit Disorder Association (
TJ Morris Agency American Communications Online