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  • Writer's pictureBrooke Silva

Disrupt Adult Learning-Retain Agents

The pandemic greatly impacted how business and schools engage learners. Many had to quickly change how learning was deployed and to quickly use new tools. What we also saw was digital fatigue, retention issues and the inability to truly add the hybrid element to educational programs.

Those who fail to see how critical this learning shift is, will continue to see retention issues. Now is the time for employers to accelerate resources into a continuous learning culture and take some risks.

How do you start? Leaders and educators need to understand that not all learners, learn the same way. We must deliver the right mix at the right time to the learners. We must understand that the adult learner expects information they can instantly apply to their business. Our trainings should be informative and fun with practice and focused outcomes. Set expectation for learning at the very beginning of class and explain how they will learn.

The four core learning styles are visual, auditory, reading & writing, and kinesthetic. Let’s dive into each. This is called the VARK Modality.

Visual: These learners retain. More information when it’s presented with something they can view. These items could be handouts with charts, pictures, or diagrams. The information is clear and concise. Visual learners are often found doodling on handouts, take an abundance of notes and may enjoy writing out task lists.

Try using methods such as white boards, supplemental handouts where the learner must write in the answers. Avoid large blocks of text. Consider more visual elements and use storytelling to help them visualize. Offer color coding for different themes to help them organize thoughts. Start using the phrases, “Picture this” or “Imagine you are…”.

Auditory: You may also hear the term “aural” learners. These learners prefer to listen to the speaker or watch videos where they can pause and rewind. These learners enjoy listening to audiobooks, live classrooms, and group settings where they can be vocal in collaboration and ask questions. Auditory learners are going to nod their heads and actively engage with speakers. They may also ask questions by repeating what you said and asking for more clarification.

To help auditory learners, get them involved in the conversations. Ask follow up questions and pause to give them enough time to respond. Consider breakout where there are group discussions. Offer video resources for more understanding of the topics. Get students to pair up and explain concept to one another. Encourage the group to problem solve, out loud.

Reading & Writing: These learners will focus heavily on the written word. They adore worksheet and other resources that are heavy with text. They are often strong note takers. They will often search online and find answers before asking questions.

To help your reading and writing learners, always have book recommendations available for them. Send anything you need your learners to read before your classes ahead of time. This gives the learner time to ingest the material and help them foster understand and get their own ideas out on paper.

Kinesthetic: These learners are at their optimal learning levels when there is a physical element to the class. They are hands on and like to engage all their senses. You may hear these learners referred to ask “tactile” learners. These learners may feel the need to move around your class during your sessions.

To help you kinesthetic learners, have activities where there are group role playing. Ask for volunteers to read a quick quote. Act out scenes with them. Have students stand and stretch during longer sessions. Provide highlighters and tell the learners what they should be highlighting. Provide real life examples, such as case studies or instructor experiences. Use thought mapping style handouts.

As you continue to help your adult learners, it’s important to remember a few things. It is important to incorporate the different styles into each class. Learners may have one specific way they learn or dip into many styles. Set clear expectations of what they will be learning in the class. Facilitate, don’t lecture. Consider pre-assessing students before class, along with post class assessments to gauge learning.

Help the learners put learning into practice. Ask the learners for more than their light bulb moments. Ask what they are going to implement in their business immediately. Then, follow up with them post class to see how they are implementing learning.

Lastly, as an educator, trainer, or facilitator, you must continue to learn. Grow your set of skills to help foster a love of continuous learning in the adult brain. Stay creative, stay curious and pour into those we teach.

Want to help your adult learners know where they are in the VARK modality? Chek out this quick questionnaire!


“The Vark Modalities.” VARK,,of%20the%20students%20and%20teachers.

Flanagan, David, et al. “Putting Continuous Learning Principles Into Practice.” Training Industry, May 2021, Accessed 11 Mar. 2022.

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