Do You Support These 8 Learners in Your Organization?

When was the last time you started your campaign’s recruitment by acting out how you would like to feel joining the organization?

When was the last time you had a meeting that had folks brainstorm new ideas through artistic design or writing songs?

When was the last time you restructured your team by looking at examples of effective practices from across the animal kingdom?

For many folks these processes may never happen; however, if your organization started to lean towards experiential practices (i.e. learning in multiple ways not just by speaking or writing) then you are on a great track to really releasing the full potential of the group.


Why try out more experiential organizing?


Before I got involved in organizing training, I never thought of doing anything besides “brainstorms” and the occasional “case study” (or if I was in a really innovative mood, maybe a “break out” discussion).

But you may be saying “my team seems to get along just fine just talking and writing about ideas, so why should we spend time starting something new?”

Well, one of the main reasons that more and more organizations are incorporating multiple ways of operating, is that they realized not everyone works in the same manner and people could accomplish more given the chance to contribute in new structures.

This growing emphasis in the training and education spheres on creating experiential experiences aims to stimulate individuals’ multiple types of intelligences and go beyond focusing on traditionally dominant ways of learning. Learning through movement, visuals, songs, teamwork, personal reflections, etc. All of these experiences engage the participant beyond their traditional day-to-day occurrences.

Trying new work patterns can be a bit challenging (in particular if you’ve  got used to doing the same thing every day). However, once your team gets the chance to plan out their next project through colorfully drawing out how each tactic fits into the beautifully designed strategic picture, then you might start seeking out other alternative means of engaging your team.

As those passionate about social change, we should also be changing the way we organize our teams and organizations. Folks may not even realize the incredible array of ideas they possess, unless our work gives them the opportunity to express their potential.


8 types of learners every organization should nourish


Photo: Wesley Fryer via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo: Wesley Fryer via Flickr (Creative Commons)

At its core, experiential models of learning center around supporting an individual’s ability to develop their knowledge and skills.

While there are numerous divergent views around about what “defines intelligence,” the main element I try to think about is “am I supporting the individual in the way that works best for them, or for me?” So even though even the following 8 types of learners really don’t capture all the ways people learn (or highlight the connections between them), it’s important to go beyond dominant ways of training/education/etc.

Since it is impossible to always facilitate our meetings and trainings that incorporate all learners, we have to think of actions that expand beyond the predominant manner of organizational functions and really make our groups “learner-oriented”.

Below are a few ideas for stimulating 8 different types of learners (as defined by Howard Gardner with his Multiple Intelligences framework).

1. Musical-rhythmic learners engage well with rhythms, songs, and dances.

Potential activity: Create a short team dance that captures the vision for the project

2. Bodily-kinesthetic learners engage well with movements, hands-on activities, and physically creating things..

Potential activity: Make decisions on proposals by walking across the room to show where people physically stand on an issue

3. Logical-mathematical learners engage well with clear structures, reasoning exercises (e.g. case studies), and abstract planning.

Potential activity: Devise a flowchart of actions that you aim for participants in your program to take

4. Linguistic learners engage well with the written/spoken language and discussions.

Potential activity: Identify potential issues with a program by creating case studies of possible scenarios

5. Visual-spatial learners engage well with design, spatial-awareness, and pictures/images.

Potential activity: Conduct idea brainstorms using colorful post-it notes to put up around the room

6. Interpersonal learners engage well with others and have higher sense of others’ feelings/emotions.

Potential activity: Write up a big individual report outline as a group instead of delegating to one individual to start

7. Self learners engage well with individual-awareness activities, analyzing their own ideas and beliefs, and working independently.

Potential activity: Reflect on your last big event by having each person silently write their biggest individual take-aways (both successes and ways to improve for next time)

8. Naturalist learners engage well with comparisons to the natural world, being outside, and understanding patterns/relationships.

Potential activity: Conduct meetings outside and take time to analyze ways your organizing processes can mirror effective natural processes

These are just a select few ideas of many possible ones. Just remember, that no one is a single type of learner. We can each respond to the above characteristics, but some bring out our thoughts, ideas, and actions a bit better than the rest.

For those looking to build up new ways to support many different type of learners, what other examples do you have of experiential organizational methods? Leave a comment below!

By Drew Serres

Drew Serres began working on Organizing Change to combine his dedication to showing impactful organizing practices with his passion for learning. Find out more about him at the About Page and see his updates on Twitter and Google+