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Students' Learning Styles and Your Sanity

As nurse educators, we need to ensure that we understand the needs of our students. The number one need that all students have is to "learn how to learn." The centerpiece of "learning how to learn" is variety in the learning process. When a student has a need for remediation, this variety becomes even more important. Let's explore how using a variety of learning modalities can not only help your students succeed, but also protect your sanity in the process.

Every student has a certain learning style that promotes their growth the most. Some are auditory and learn best when hearing the information. These students respond to hearing the instructor discuss the topic and need access to other auditory resources where meaning is addressed through sound (speaking, auscultation, vocabulary pronunciation, etc.). Many students from other countries grew up using auditory as a primary learning tool as they listened to passages being delivered audibly.

Others are more visual and need to see what is being covered. These students learn best when images and videos are part of the learning process. They thrive when a chart or image accompanies the explanation. Many times, these students have trouble just reading for hours and hours.

The read/write student gathers information by reading and transcribing notes. The issue these students may run into is that good reading comprehension is not enough with some concepts in nursing. There is a significant amount of clinical judgment that must be utilized as well. When students gravitate towards read/write, they need other cues to help them begin to pull pieces together.

Finally, kinesthetic learners need access to movement of some type while learning. When given the opportunity to click around, search for information, or take a quiz in the middle of a learning experience, the comprehension is much more likely to be enduring.

The challenge is that our classrooms are full of students with these different learning styles. That is why multimodal learning is so important. Our lesson plans need to have variety in pre-class prep, class time, and post-class follow up. Our remediation plans need to present content in different ways to ensure that students with various learning styles can succeed.

Multimodal learning also helps students strengthen their ability to absorb information in ways with which they may not be as comfortable. This will be of great value to them in their future profession. Encourage students to learn by using multimodal tools in their personal study time and subsequent remediation. It is not only important in addressing their preferences, but also for reinforcing the material in other ways.

Helping your students "learn how to learn" requires a good balance of tapping into their own learning style and engaging with less preferred methods. Multimodal learning and remediation is key to this essential outcome. Find tools that will help you in this journey and your sanity will also remain intact.

Tim Bristol,

PhD, RN, CNE, FAAN

For more tips and resources from Tim Bristol, click here.

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