Show? Tell? What's your learning style?

Dr Gary
By Dr GaryCA Latest Reply 2010-12-23 10:27:18 -0600
Started 2010-12-21 15:47:19 -0600


Ever leave your doctor’s office and feel like he/she talked at/you, but not with you? Or that you thought you were taking in the chart that he/she went through with you, but now you can’t remember what the point was? Sure there are a lot of reasons why you might have left your doctor’s office shaking your head. But here is an idea to consider:

Getting, and staying, up to speed on your diabetic care is an ongoing educational process, and adult learners have their own unique way of processing new information. In other words, each of has a learning style. Are you and your healthcare team communicating in a way that accommodates your learning style?

To answer that question, consider which of the learning styles fits you best: visual, auditory, or physical.

Visual learners need to see new information, not just hear it. They need to have it mapped out for them in diagrams, or charts, or lists. They may blank out on a long explanation that isn’t focused around something a visual aid that they can follow and, hopefully, take with them to review.

Auditory learners respond well to discussions during which they can talk and listen. In other words, a conversation, in which they can talk out ideas, ask questions, explore alternatives. And take notes! They also respond well to podcasts.

Physical learners respond best to learning by doing, including discussions based on demonstrations, e.g. developing their own plan, examining a model, role playing, rehearsing, reviewing, under the guidance of the teacher.

So what is knowing your learning style worth in this environment of rushed healthcare providers with their own teaching styles and with limited resources? Good question. First, it might explain why you aren’t communicating as well as you think you should with your healthcare professionals. And, more important, knowing your learning style might help you to, in turn, help them to help you. Here are some ideas:

Visual learners. Ask your healthcare professional to “show” you what he/she needs. Ask: “Can you make me a little diagram?” To help them along, print out visual aids from the Internet and bring them in with you. Then ask if you can go over them together.

Auditory learners. Be the conversation starter by bringing a list of questions. Let your healthcare professional know that you have been doing some thinking and need to have a conversation, however brief. You may need to split the conversation between your doctor and his staff. It might also be helpful to find podcasts and Webcasts from reliable sources to reinforce your learning.

Physical learners. Try to get your healthcare professional to illustrate their information with specific examples or stories. For example, ask? “Could we make a list together?” or “Can you help me to complete the list that I started at home?” Bring in examples of situations that you have encountered, e.g. symptoms, and how you solved them, and discuss it as if it were a role play. Ask: “How did I do? How should I be responding when this happens?” Look for case studies with video clips from reliable Internet resources. Visualize your diabetic care as an ongoing role play with your healthcare professional as your drama coach.

I know you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and that certainly applies to healthcare professionals. However, by being aware of your own learning style, you can at least give your healthcare professionals a subtle push here and there to make sure that the information they provide you is served up in a way that enhances your ability to take it in and effectively process it. It can’t hurt to try. And trying can certainly make everyone’s job easier!

Any experiences to share? Please jump in. (I am a visual learner so I will imagine your response in PowerPoint!)

13 replies

CaliKo 2010-12-22 15:52:41 -0600 Report

I think I'm a mixture of visual and auditory. I like the talking with questions and answers, but sometimes someone will say something that surprises me or makes me think and then I miss a lot of what is said next. I guess its a focusing problem. And my memory is not great, so I do try to take a list and write down the answers and anything new I need to do. I do like handouts!

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2010-12-22 17:26:25 -0600 Report

There is a lot to be said for visual aides, especially when you can talk it over with the healthcare professional, make notes on it, and walk out with it. Doctors sometimes tell me that handouts can be a hassle to organize and store, but they find them wothwhile once the get their hands on them. So I encourage patients to go on the Internet and find their own, and then bring them in to go over together during their appointment. Of course we can't tell the doctor or nurse this, but visual aides also help them to stay focused, and follow a thought through to its conclusion when they might otherwise be so distracted that they wouldn't. By knowing our own learning style, we can then, in turn, subtly help others to teach us.

Doc 720
Doc 720 2010-12-22 13:02:12 -0600 Report

SEE ONE/DO ONE/TEACH ONE. That is my best way of learning. Show me how to do it and then watch me do it. I will then teach another by the same method I just learned it and WHAMO! I Got It!

So I guess with that said, you could say I am physical to a fault; but I have to have hands on!. Give me directions or a recipe and I will jack it up!

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2010-12-22 17:27:23 -0600 Report

Great example! Yes, you are exactly right. A physical learner. Hopefully your healthcare professionals are able to take the hint and accommodate that need when they are working with you.

GabbyPA 2010-12-22 08:07:40 -0600 Report

I am so visual it is creepy. I guess it's the artist in me that makes me that way. I have to see it and be shown. You can talk me through a process and I will do much better than if you just do it for me or tell me how to do it.

I am not so great at just reading things either. Even when I read, I have to highlight, take notes and scribble all over the books. I am also very bad on the computer. I like to have paper in my hands. I guess I am so old fashioned that way. I suppose that is why I like the video section of the site so much.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2010-12-22 17:29:46 -0600 Report

Interesting insight. So even when you read prose, you have a way of turning it into a visual representation. That's a great way to honor your own learning style when the material isn't presented the way you need it to be. I love being on the computer but still need hardcopy to really focus, partly because I need to underline and take notes to drive the information home.

GabbyPA 2010-12-23 10:25:30 -0600 Report

That's me. No book is safe from my scribbles. LOL! I suppose I could never sell them in a garage sale or as used...they are uniquely mine. Sometimes I go back and read my notes and am amazed at what I gleaned from the text. Even when I journal, it's the same way kind of, leaving open spaces for photos and sketches.

jayabee52 2010-12-22 13:20:51 -0600 Report

well you seem, from this end of the wire, like you handle the computer well enough, Gabby

GabbyPA 2010-12-23 10:27:18 -0600 Report

Not that I can't utilize a computer, I just don't like reading study type of materials on it. If I find interesting articles of things, I tend to print them out and read them off screen.

jayabee52 2010-12-21 19:14:32 -0600 Report

Kinda reminds me of something Will Rodgers said: "There are three kinds of men. The ones that learn by readin’. The few who learn by observation.
The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves." LpL!

(from somebody who peed on an electric fence when I was a kid.)

GabbyPA 2010-12-22 08:08:37 -0600 Report

Well, I have to say that would certainly get your attention.

jayabee52 2010-12-22 13:19:09 -0600 Report

It most certainly did. It was dark and I was unaware that the fence was that close to my stream. All of a sudden it felt like my male part was being ripped from my body. Wow! Not at all like just touching it with a hand or one brushing against it with your body. It felt like it grabbed me from the inside. I was careful not to do THAT again!

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2010-12-22 17:22:12 -0600 Report

Oh my gosh! Now that is a story.

But Will Rogers did nail it on the three learning styles, graphic example and all!

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