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How Applicants Learn: Tailoring an Application to Ensure a Custom Fit

Mary Honas, Overland Park, Kansas, USA
Carol Smith-Roach, Contributing Editor
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 36 No. 1, February-March 2000, p. 15.

Every application for leadership is different. When we work with a Leader Applicant, we take into consideration her experiences and skills. We can also try to match our work together to the Applicant's learning style. What does this mean?

People have different "learning preferences" or "learning styles." For instance, some people can read a book or periodical about how to do something and apply the information. They are "abstract learners." "Visual learners" find it easier to do something after they've seen it done. Yet others, "auditory learners," need to hear the directions to best take in and assimilate information. Some people learn best by experimenting rather than following written or oral instructions; they are "kinetic learners." While most of us have an abstract, visual, auditory, or kinetic preference, other approaches to learning complement our stronger one. Most educators acknowledge that a combination of learning styles is the most effective teaching or training plan. So, how can we use learning styles to develop the most effective application time? Let's take each of these learning styles - abstract, visual, auditory and kinetic - and see how they can be used in an application.

Applicants are required to read the most recent editions available to them of THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, the LEADER'S HANDBOOK, a comprehensive book on childbirth from the LLLI Bibliography, and the pamphlets and tearoff sheets listed in the Applicant Reading Set. With these materials, and others including LEAVEN, NEW BEGINNINGS, Area and Affiliate Leaders' Letters and communications from the Area, Affiliate, and LLLI, abstract learners can get most of the information Leaders need to help mothers, lead meetings and manage the Group. If the Applicant you are working with is an abstract learner, she may have read most of the books in the Group Library and be happiest when you offer her access to additional written references or conference tapes. As you talk with her about the design of her application, you will want to keep in mind that the abstract learner may think a lot about how to help mothers and prefer to avoid practice. Be sure that your plan includes many opportunities for this Applicant to use the information she has gathered. After all, a Leader has to be able to communicate what she knows, to make information accessible to mothers who have different learning styles, and to practice many other leadership skills.

Provide the Applicant who is a visual or auditory learner with many opportunities to observe how a Leader guides the discussion during meetings and continues to help the mothers after the meeting is over. Show her how you use the Group Library to provide information. The visual or auditory learner will also enjoy being at Enrichment and Planning/Evaluation Meetings to learn more about how Leaders help other women. Like the abstract learner, the visual or auditory learner may be reluctant to participate in activities that will help her practice leadership skills and approaches. So, as you design the application together, plan to include short, frequent opportunities for practice and discussion about what the Applicant observes, other ways to do the same thing, and for use of written resources. The Breastfeeding Resource Guide can be a helpful tool for discussing written resources and how Leaders use them.

The Applicant who learns best through doing has many opportunities to practice the skills that she brings to leadership preparation. Planning a Series Meeting for or with the Group Leader, planning and leading an Enrichment Meeting, giving the announcements related to her Group job during a Series Meeting, and role-playing are prime examples of how the kinetic learner can enjoy using her learning style during her application. While you may need to encourage the abstract, visual, or auditory learner to do the things the kinetic learner enjoys most, as you plan with the person who learns by doing you will need to build in ways to make research and discussion interesting and attractive enough to be ongoing.

All Applicants need to read, use information, and practice skills. Depending on her preferred learning style, an Applicant will want to do more reading, listening, watching, or practicing . . . it's only natural! Be creative. Find ways to include exercises that utilize different approaches to learning. This way, each Applicant can use and complement her preferred learning style. As an added bonus, she can increase her ability to learn to communicate and work with women with different learning styles. Let the Associate/Coordinator of Leader Accreditation you are working with know what you and the Applicant are doing to design the application. Working together, the Applicant, Leader and LAD representative can tailor the application for a custom fit.

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