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Contributing Author Cheri Goforth is the Director of Campus Life and Student Support Services at UAMS. Learn more about Student Support Services at http://studentlife.uams.edu/student-life/ .

communicationHave you ever asked the question, “Why don’t people just listen better?” or thought, “The directions spell out everything you need to know, so what’s the problem?”   These questions may derive from mismatched communication and learning styles.

An essential part of communication is the process of using messages to send and receive information.  Awareness and understanding of communication and learning styles allows us to send and receive messages more effectively.  When we send information to people in a style they prefer or can easily grasp, they are more likely to receive and understand our intended meaning.

It is particularly important to ensure that students understand our messages.  It doesn’t matter what someone says.   It matters what the intended receiver hears and learns.  Teachers can often gauge the effectiveness of a lecture by posing questions that require students to clarify or summarize material.

Communicating effectively with students allows them to better understand concepts and increase class performance, which can lead to expanded learning opportunities, achievement of goals, and overall professional growth.  Communication is required in every profession, and communication skills are necessary at every level of a student’s academic and professional career.

Your Communication Style

Each individual has a preferred learning style.   Most of us fall into one of three basic learning categories:  visual, auditory, or kinesthetic.  Teachers can improve student success by incorporating aspects of all three styles into each lesson.   For example, it may be helpful to visual learners to see graphs or diagrams, while auditory learners absorb information best by listening and receiving oral instructions; kinesthetic learners process information most effectively through hands-on or physical activities.

communicationWhen studying, students can also incorporate techniques to reinforce their preferred learning style.   The visual learner can use color to highlight and categorize key subjects or they may find rewriting or outlining class notes helps to enhance retention.  Auditory learners may find listening to audio tapes or reciting pertinent information out loud to be helpful.  Kinesthetic learners can use roleplaying or experiential learning to reinforce subject matter.

The learning styles mentioned above describe dominant methods of learning.  We all use a mixture of styles, but for most of us, one usually stands out above the rest.  So, to help ensure that your message is getting through, it is important to incorporate elements of sight, sound, and experience when communicating to a group.