Monday, June 15, 2009

Learning Styles/Preferences

I think it is almost human nature (laziness) to assume that the only way to perform something or learn something is "your" way, but if you are a coach and assume athletes learn the same way as you, I think you are making a huge mistake. In all honesty, you are being shortsided to the atheltes you are working with and disadvantaging some if you continue to teach a single way and not fully accept and encompass all ways of learning. Now, I am unsure how many official learning styles have been hypothesized over the years, but for this post I will focus on the model described in The Manual of Learning Styles 3rd Edition (Honey and Mumford 1992).

According to Honey and Mumford, there are not only ways to perceive information- which we most commonly refer to as the learning styles- Auditory, Visual, Reading/Writing, and Kineasthetic. However, there are also ways we process information and then organize it. I think these are huge components of coaching and all components need to be evaluated and understood equally.

The Breakdown-

Methods of perception include: Auditory, Visual, Reading/Writing, and Kineasthetic. This literature says that learners use all senses when perceiving information, but some modes of transmission are more developed and reliable than others. This means that a "kineasthetic" learner will obviously hear and see the information (if presented in these formats), but not actually get a clear grasp on the information until they feel the information or exerpeience the information.

Methods of processing information as described in this literature include ways to grasp information, order information, and then engage with information. Methods of grasping the information involve ways of giving examples, and presenting concepts in an abstract or a generalized fashion. Ordering information is a very complex idea that looks at the sequence of receiving information and how that relates to processing. Information can be presented in chunks, individually, in a "whole picture" format, etc. Lastly, engaging with the information relies on the learners ability to do something with the information presented and reflect on it internally, or experiment with it externally.

The third part of this research involves organizing information. This involves your presentation of information with others around you. Information can travel on a spectrum from a holistic approach to a more detailed approach. In addition, words or pictures can be used to supplement the processing of information.

The Message-

As coaches, it is obvious that we need to understand athlete's needs. Determining athlete's learning styles is something that can not be taken for granted. On another level, when you do figure out an athlete's learning style, you need to use this knowledge to your advantage in your coaching. Just from the brief overview I've given you today you should be able to cater soemwhat to at least the 4 styles of perceiving information in every practice. Here's how I would do this: Draw every drill out on a board or paper and allow your Reading/Writing learners to reiterate the drills for the rest of the team, demonstrate every drill before putting it to use using your kineasthetic learners as a means to show the others. This is an easy way to get all modes of perception involved.

Using the other methods described will take a little more day-to-day planning, but i think it is worth it. Experiment with ways of presenting information that you are uncomfortable with and develop those skills, see how athletes respond to these changes. I believe one of the coach's biggest roles lies as an educator and taking into account different ways of learning information and catering to as many people as possible is a great way to improve your coaching immediately!

The Website-

For more information and the lowdown on this literature visit:

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