How We Teach and How They Learn, Part 4 – The Imaginative Learner

Previously we have covered in brief the four basic ways we process information. Now we will focus on each one. First the Imaginative, or Concrete-Experience, learners.

Each learning style is asking a different question, and unless you as the teacher or preacher understand how to answer that question, you may not reach this learner. (These same learning styles characteristics are true of those sitting in the pews listening to sermons as well. So pastors, listen up.) The Imaginative learner is asking why – why do I need to know this? Convince him or her that what you have to say is important and you will have a willing listener.

Imaginative learners like to talk in broad overview and not details. They see the big picture, but not the tiny dots that compose the picture. They learn by listening and sharing ideas. What scares teachers is that the more they talk the more they learn. This is hard for many of us to grasp, but they need to talk through the information they are processing. They don’t learn well from lectures, which is true of 3 out of these 4 learning styles (sorry those of you who like to speak a lot!).

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These are very social folk who are sociable and sensitive, sometimes too much so. They are willing to help others sometimes even to their own hurt. They are empathetic over against sympathetic.

When they are confronted with truths, they translate it into what they see in people, usually other people.

These learners enjoy interactive activities, and they work best in a noisy environment (sorry teachers).

Win-lose activities don’t work for them as they do not want to see anyone left out or ‘hurt’ by not winning. (These are not the ones you want on your debate team!)

People in this category can be very color sensitive. I can work in a sterile white room, but for them this would be a distraction. If you have ever studied the effects color has on people, you know that pastels work best. But be careful not to have too much color as that distracts almost everyone.

Now, how do you reach these folk so that they learn? First of all don’t expect to be the director of information. They want to be actively involved in the learning experience (true of 3 of the 4 groups). If you want them to learn, direct them to finding the right answers you would have otherwise told them yourself. (Remember, the things they hear once, they will forget 90% of in one week. The things they are involved in they can remember as much as 90% over their lifetime! Make your teaching count.)

What is interesting about the question they ask, why, is that it is easy to answer. When you begin any lesson or sermon by motivating them to what to hear more, you’ve got them. This is what we tell preachers in homiletics to make the introduction to the sermon. Let me explain. I have had many students tell me that they did not like history. So, whenever I taught a course that was involved history I had to begin by explaining what difference knowing this information could make in their lives and ministries. Once they understood that, they were now motivated to stay with me for the rest of the course.

Remember, in any class you teach, or any sermon you preach, you can probably expect that 75% of your listeners do not process information the same way you do. The more you understand, and implement, what you now know about these other learning styles, the more effective you will be. This is not ignoring the work of the Holy Spirit, it is understanding how He made us in the first place.


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