Kinaesthetic learning is one of the many styles or ways in which you take in information and learn from it. When you think about how you learn, it might surprise you to discover just how many different learning styles there are. Not just this, but some learning styles feel natural and easy to get along with, while others don’t.
In this blog, we’ll primarily focus on the learning style that is sometimes called ‘physical learning’. It’s also called kinaesthetic learning or haptic learning, which is learning through touch. Before we do, let’s briefly summarise the other different learning styles we all deploy. Look out for explanations of these other styles of learning on our blog page – and be warned, there are differences of opinion about exactly what constitutes each style, and you may even find that people use different labels to explain the same thing.
Different types of learning styles
A lot of science around learning styles comes from educationalists who are interested in how children learn in the classroom. Don’t let this put you off knowing more about this interesting topic. Think about it – at what point in your life do you really stop learning? There’s always new information to absorb, new skills to learn, or something you might want to change about yourself that requires application!
When you enter the world of work, or you take on a new job, there are certainly going to be things to learn – new systems, policies, processes, and ways of doing things. New relationships and workstyles, perhaps different physical tasks. The way you learn these new things varies – dependent on what it is you have to learn and how it is presented to you.
People take in information most easily through their senses – this includes:
Touch – or physical, kinaesthetic learning
Sight – or visual/spatial learning
Sound – or auditory / hearing learning
Smell – or olfactory learning and
Taste – or gustatory learning
Some people argue that the learning styles of ‘smell’ and ‘taste’ are not commonly used past childhood. This might be true for many people, however, if you work in the perfume industry or the food industry, they may well still be highly relevant to you.
One of the other most common learning styles is visual or spatial learning. Visual learners like to learn through seeing things, particularly images, diagrams, and pictures. If you are a visual learner then the use of drawings, mind maps, video’s or colourful images appeals to you. Visualising things helps you learn.
Auditory learning – where people like to learn by listening to conversations or other sounds – like music. If you’re good at teaching yourself to play a musical instrument, by using your ear, you might have a preference for being an auditory learner. Auditory learners also like learning by talking, explaining, and presenting things to others. Hearing sounds help you learn.
In the classroom educationalists also talk about learning styles beyond our 5 senses, to our preferred ways of engaging with learning. So, in addition to the learning styles above you might hear people talk about:
Mathematical or logical learning – where people engage with learning through analysis, data and numbers. If you’re someone who likes to break down learning into bite-sized chunks, logically working through each puzzle to be solved, you might have a preference for this way of learning.
Intrapersonal learning – where people engage with learning in a solitary way, looking to find time for self-reflection and self-analysis. Intrapersonal learners might be more introverted, although don’t fall into the trap of thinking that this means they are inactive. Learning is happening within the mind and body.
Interpersonal learning – where people engage with learning in groups and through social interaction with others. Interpersonal learners want to engage and consult with others in order to learn. Learning happens through active discussion and conversation.
Kinaesthetic learning, or physical learning, is learning through touch. You learn by physically engaging with a task, almost feeling your way through the sensations. While some people like to separate out ‘writing’ as a form of verbal learning, we think journaling (or writing with pen to paper) is a great example of kinaesthetic learning.
When you hold a pen in your hand and use it to physically write sentences on a page, you are learning through physical movement. As a child you would have learned to write – to construct letters, then words, then sentences. When you write as an adult you are not only applying this learning, but you are reflecting on which words to use to put your sentences together. The physical action of learning to write has embedded in your long-term memory.
Of course, there are many other ways to learn kinaesthetically. A masseuse learns their trade through physical touch on the body, manipulating and stretching muscles. An artisan baker learns to make bread, by mixing ingredients and kneading dough. An artist learns to produce better and better artwork, by getting hands-on with different materials like paints or clays (although digital artistry is now also a hugely popular creative industry). A sportsperson learns physically by shaping their body to better perform their craft.
Fundamentally, kinaesthetic learning happens through a hands-on approach. People learn by doing, by being actively engaged in something, through role-play, or through some other type of movement.
If you’ve ever found yourself struggling on a work training course, because it’s simply slide after slide of pictures and words, chances are you might have a preference for learning by doing! You’re definitely going to be the person that wants to get your hands dirty. In this instance if you’ve been given a manual to go away and read, the best possible way for you to absorb what you need to know, might be to get hands-on – could you, for example, access an app to have a play with a piece of technology software that you have to use? Is there an offline, cloned system that’s just used for learning?
Integration of learning styles
So far, it all sounds very simple, doesn’t it. We all have preferred learning styles and if we get to learn in the way we prefer everything should be just fine!
It’s obvious that when it comes to learning, we often have to combine different learning styles together. Perhaps you’ve just started a new job and you’ve been asked to attend an induction programme. As part of this induction, there’ll be lots of things to learn. You might need to:
- Apply yourself to using the new customer order fulfilment system
- Read through important cybersecurity rules and procedures
- Role-play conversations on speaking to a customer when handling a complaint
- Practice using the employee portal to load personal holiday and bank details
- Perhaps learn to use the high fangled coffee machine in the break-out area!
The point is, as with most things in life, you won’t always get to work with your preferred learning styles. You may need to adapt and do multiple things at once. That’s not to say that knowing you have one or two preferences isn’t important. If given a choice, wouldn’t you rather learn in a way that suits you (and that you like)?
So, is anything resonating? Do you think you might have one or two preferences?
The kinaesthetic power of journaling
At Notebook Mentor we love learning through a number of different learning styles – specifically visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learning. We call this a blended learning approach.
We engage you in visual learning when you read our career journals, look at our website, or use any of our free website resources – like mind maps, standard proformas, or links to vlogs. We also want to encourage auditory learning. This means when working on a challenge we set you, we might encourage you to go and listen to a podcast, or have a conversation with a family member, friend, or work colleague.
We also decided from the very onset that you would only be able to buy our career journals in physical form. We’re happy to support other learning systems, but we absolutely love the tactile, kinaesthetic process of learning, from putting pen to paper and writing in our beautiful, hardback journals. The physical sensation of stroking lovely silky paper is something we’d never give up!
In journaling, you are learning a tactile craft and one that is growing in global popularity every day!
Elisa Nardi is Founder & CEO of Notebook Mentor, the best career journals to help ordinary people manage, develop, and be happier at work.