Last week I had the privilege of taking part in a doctoral seminar on the campus of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO. One of my professors, Dr. Rodney Harrison, delivered an informative lecture on learning styles and sensory preferences. The things he shared with our colloquium group are important for those of us who teach groups regularly. Many of us are going to teach a Bible study within the next week, and we need to be aware of the way people in our groups prefer to learn. It should make an impact on the way we teach them!
People tend to fall into one of three sensory preference categories. Some group members are VISUAL learners. They prefer to see posters, PowerPoints, maps, and charts. They love it when the group leader writes things on a marker board. Some group members are AUDITORY learners. They prefer to listen to an interesting lecture, to listen to other group members engage in discussion, and they are great at remembering verbal instructions. KINESTHETIC/TACTILE learners prefer to engage in activities that require them to use their hands. They enjoy holding objects, building things, writing things down, and they really hate long lectures!
The changing nature of sensory preferences
Dr. Harrison continued to lead us to understand how people’s learning preferences have changed over time, and are changing even today:
- In the 1800s, the majority of learners were tactile learners (hands-on was the dominant style because people worked on farms and performed a lot of daily activities by using their hands)
- Early 1900s – 1950s…the majority of learners were auditory learners (because of radio’s influence, most likely)
- 1950s-2000s – over 50% of the population were visual learners
- Present day: Tactile is on the rise again because of the influence of video games and smart phones!
So when you lead your next Bible study, remember to change things up. Don’t forget that “one size doesn’t fit all.” Bring an object to show, play some music, use a map or chart, give the group something to fill out as you deliver a short mini-lecture, or read a passage of Scripture as you have group members listen for key words and phrases. Just use a variety of activities because the people in your group prefer to learn in a variety of ways!