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Education

How We Learn

When I was almost 50 years old I learned to ride a horse. I was never particularly athletic; I grew up when girls really didn’t sweat.  But my oldest daughter wanted to ride and so she convinced her father to give me riding lessons for Mother’s Day thinking if I rode she might be able to ride. And of course she was right. She became an excellent rider and I can, well let’s say I can ride a gentle well trained horse.

But what I found most interesting at the barn was the trainer. She was a tiny little girl, really a woman in her 20’s but looked like a girl, with a high school education, a voice like an Army drill sargeant and the incredibly sophisticated and insightful ability to know what each horse needed in a rider and how each rider needed to be taught.  I have never met anyone who could assess learning style more quickly and accurately. 

In a riding class with 6 or 8 riders she would shout out directives to each individual. Some would be sharp and demanding “Sit back in the saddle and hold with your leg! Hold! Hold! Hold!” Some would be more gentle, “Relax and lower your rein, this horse knows what to do if you let her.” Another shout might be something like “Close your eyes and feel the rhythm of the trot and then can feel the diagonal.”  Or she might just say to someone “Watch me.”  And by the end of the hour each of us would be substantially better than when we began, and we had learned something for the next lesson.

I asked her once how she knew what to say to each of us, why she yelled at one person and spoke quietly to another; asked someone just to watch and another to close her eyes and feel. She said she didn’t know why but she could tell they wouldn’t “get it” if she didn’t do it that way. And, of course she was right.  In a short time she assessed each of our learning styles and adapted the lesson to address that style and maximize our learning.

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But most of us don’t routinely have the advantage of a teacher who is that insightful that quickly, we have to figure it out on our own – how we learn best.  Our learning style is the key to our success as a student, in any arena, the horse ring or the classroom. If we know how we learn best, by hearing about something, or seeing it demonstrated, or doing it ourselves, or just reading about it, we will be more successful.

Most of our schools are set up to address only one learning style and those of us who learn in another way either adapt or fail. But when we know how we learn we can make the adaptation ourselves; we realize we are not dumb, we learn in a different way. 

Figure out how you learn best and give yourself a present – learn something new.

Resources
Learning Inventory and documentation
Quick Learning Inventory