Marika Costa—Learning Specialist
As a Learning Specialist, I assist students of all ages to learn more effectively by identifying, understanding and applying their learning profile. So what is a Learning Profile? It is the way we take in, process and express information in all situations including professional and social.
Ever been in a work situation where you have told someone what needs to be done on a certain project only to have it misunderstood, misinterpreted or totally mishandled? What about showing a colleague a report one day and the next day he says; “Report? What report?”? Then there is the co-worker who didn’t make it to the meeting because she got the days confused, the meetings mixed up, and the material—who knows where that is under the mess on her desk? That is their—and your learning style in action.
Team work is encouraged and promoted in the workplace; however consider trying to collaborate with someone who sees the big picture, however the details—what details? Or the one who needs everything arranged in a logical sequential order—all the time. Or questions and analyzes everything—get on with it already. Then, there is the only “in the box” thinker or the “outside the box” one. The one that is the biggest challenge is the random thinker—they are all over the place and oh, so hard to follow. Each one is processing information according to their natural inclination, however put them all together and what you get is, well frustration.
Then comes the time when the team has to present their findings—demonstrate and convey their understanding to others. One wants to do a power point, another wants some kind of visual like graphs, charts, diagrams, still another wants a written report. One wants to do it with numbers, another with words. One wants to engage everyone in the presentation, while another wants them to reflect on it, perhaps write a response to it. A consensus on how to express what you know to others may be an exacting ordeal.
When your learning profile is at odds with another’s, misunderstandings, hurt feelings, even anger can happen—all of which is counterproductive to a cohesive work environment. So, what to do? Well, first, you need to be fully aware of your profile as that is how we approach people. So, say I need to see new information in writing and when I process it; I need time to analyze it and put it into context with what I already know. I then need to demonstrate what I know through colourful graphs and charts with a written explanation—which actually is quite close to my own learning profile.
Being aware what you do helps you to be aware of what others do, so by knowing that it is a challenge for you to say, sit through a verbal only meeting and remember what the discussed action items were, you will use strategies that will ensure your remembering key points such as an audio tape or an effective personalized note taking technique either by hand or on a lap top. You might even verbalize the action items to your superior or a co-worker after the meeting just to make sure you got it right. The side benefit is that you will be more tolerant of another person who, say, needs to hear information as opposed to reading a report.
You will find yourself being more aware of how others do things. So, if you are introducing new information to someone who forgets what he hears and you have observed that he prefers things written down, especially on the computer, then you may email him what he needs to know. If someone is a
big-picture thinker, then you would gently bring in the necessary details. An analytical thinker will require more time to process. A random one should be allowed to think things through her own way before an external organizational structure is put into place. If someone expresses their understanding using a power point presentation, then you could supplement it with, say, a written report. If one member of the group would like to engage everyone in a discussion or a role play situation, you could provide them with questions to contemplate prior to the interactive activity. Capitalizing on different strengths can totally enhance any presentation. So competition turns into collaboration.
Most work places have team building activities, seminars, get-aways or something similar—and if they don’t, they should. Using that time to identify individual Learning Profiles and what that means—what works, what doesn’t work and how to get it to work—would create self awareness. Then coaching proactive self advocacy, so that the individual could assertively communicate in any given situation, what they need to be a constructive, contributing member of the group would create cohesiveness. Cohesiveness, in turn, increases productivity—for when an individual feels understood and accepted that individual will in turn understand and accept thereby strengthening and uniting the group as whole—the group being only as strong as its members. A win—win situation!
Our Learning Profile is as distinctive and unique as our fingerprint and can and should be used to our advantage in every learning situation, be it in an educational, professional or social setting. Identify and develop yours in order to achieve the results you want. Understand and respect others’ in order to achieve the results you all want.
Copyright © 2008 Marika Cost
Marika Costa lives in Burlington, Ontario, Canada with her husband and two children. Learning is Marika’s passion. She worked for approximately twenty years in the education system with students of all ability levels and became an expert in learning profile preferences.
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