February 4, 2012

What to do when you have a hard time listening to lectures: adapting as a visual learner

February 4, 2012 - Categories: learning

J- is taking Red Cross lifeguard lessons. She told us that she sometimes has a hard time understanding and remembering the concepts, so I shared a tip that worked for me and that might work for you.

Like J-, I’m a visual learner–perhaps way more than she is. I learn a lot from books and blogs, and I enjoy writing.

I’m not much of an audio learner. I used to fall asleep in classroom lectures. I get impatient when I listen to nonfiction audiobooks, podcasts, or webinars. I hardly even listen to music.

After struggling through some lecture-heavy university classes, I finally figured out how I could use my visual learning strengths to make up for my audio learning weaknesses. The trick is to read ahead whenever I can. Seeing the words gives me a visual “hook” to hang the ideas on when people talk about them. It gives me an outline that I can use to organize what I hear. If I read ahead, I understand what people say better, and it’s easier for me to stay engaged.

There are many situations where I can’t read ahead, such as meetings or presentations. In those situations, I keep my visual brain occupied by writing or drawing my notes. By turning important parts into words that I can see, I can remember things better. I can see the structure of a talk instead of trying to follow a linear narrative. Ideas don’t disappear into the foggy recesses of my brain.

Taking notes also has other benefits. Because I know I can share my notes afterwards, I pay more attention and look for more ideas that could be useful to other people. I’ve had lots of conversations because of my notes, and the conversations often lead to other discoveries.

As J- heads into high school, she’s going to need better learning strategies. W- and I are figuring out how we learned what we learned, and we hope to help her and other people learn things more effectively too. How do you use your learning strengths to deal with your learning weaknesses, and how do you build on those strengths for even more awesomeness?