Using a Lecture to Teach Dancing

Are you a visual learner or an auditory learner? Or could you be a kinesthetic learner?

Until recently, education theorists were telling us that, if we want to connect with a visual learner, we need to use visual instruction. Auditory instruction, we were told, would fail miserably. Of course, theorists were more subtle than this, but that was the main point. Until the research began to debunk the theory.

My question always was: are words visual (the written word) or auditory (the spoken word)? And then there’s the question of whether a method of instruction is even possible. Can you learn to ride a bike or play a musical instrument simply listening to a lecture or even viewing someone do these activities? The answer is clearly no.

Financial education doesn’t involve balance (except in a metaphorical sense) or manual dexterity. It is largely a verbal domain: spoken and written. Even the math part can be considered to be a verbal skill.

So, do those of us who write instruction for financial services have anything to learn from the debate over learning styles?

The more sophisticated understanding of the learning-styles debate advocates two principles. First, the mode of instruction should be compatible with what is being learned (don’t try to teach dancing with a lecture). Second, use more than one mode of instruction. Show and tell is more effective than show alone or tell alone. No one is exclusively visual or exclusively auditory. One mode reinforces the other.

Let’s all get up and dance to a rule
That was a hit before Dodd-Frank was born
It was a rule a long long time ago
It’s something you know
It’s something you know . . .

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