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Board Member Learning Styles and Creating Board Excellence

What Learning Styles Do Your Board Members Prefer?

Why Should You Care About Board Member Learning Styles?

Everyone learns in a different way. Therefore, you should not expect every member on your board to have the same learning style. It is worth your while to learn board member learning styles, because this information is key to board member engagement at meetings, in online conversations, and even at public events. When you increase your board member engagement, the work of the entire board is enhanced, and this is good for your nonprofit.

In order to understand the learning styles of your board members, you first need to understand the three main types of adult learning styles. Once you are familiar with them, you can engage with your board members to learn their own unique styles, and then tailor board activities to get the most engagement out of each member.

The Three Adult Learning StylesKey Things to Know About Them

Adult learning styles are grouped into three categories. These categories are: Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic (also referred to as Tactile). Here are the things you need to know about each one in order to enhance the work of your board members.

The Visual Learning Style

Visual learners prefer to see something written down in front of them. If it can’t be written, then they prefer a picture of some kind. Timelines and diagrams are helpful graphics for the visual learner, and assist them in remembering things. When it comes to instructions, a visual learner will need you to write them down, rather than just tell them; verbal instructions are not helpful to them.

The visual learner is very organized, and is usually skilled at outlining any information given to them. If printed handouts of materials are made, they will put these to good use, instead of throwing them away as those with other learning styles may do. They enjoy visual arts activities, and work well in an environment they have personalized in some way.

The Auditory Learning Style

As the name implies, an auditory learner must actually hear something in order to learn and remember it. Generally, simply hearing something is the most difficult way to learn new information, but auditory learners require information to be presented to them this way.

Auditory learners remember conversations exceptionally well, and repeating things out loud is how they memorize. Some other traits of auditory learners include:

  • A preference for verbal instructions
  • A preference for verbal discussion of ideas they do not understand
  • Enjoyment of watching or giving dramatic presentations, or presentations set to music
  • Eagerness to participate in group discussions

This type of learner does not do well working for long periods of time without speaking, and is easily distracted by too much noise, as well as too much silence. They need a happy medium of sound to learn anything well.

The Kinesthetic Learning Style

This type of learner learns best by actually doing something. You can give them all the written or verbal instructions you like, but they will not truly learn something until they get in there and do it themselves. They do well in role playing assignments, where they get to act out whatever they are learning. If given the opportunity to make, create, or build something, they will enjoy it, and generally do well at it.

They like to have something to handle and fiddle with, like a stress ball, when listening to discussions or watching presentations, as it keeps them focused. Kinesthetic learners do not like to sit still for long periods, and enjoy getting physically involved in things. They also usually enjoy using computers.

How Can You Use Board Member Learning Styles to Your Nonprofit’s Advantage?

There are a number of learning style quizzes online that you can ask your board members to take, or can print out and give at the next meeting. Once you know your board member learning styles, you can use them to increase board member engagement at meetings and away from them. Make sure your meetings incorporate elements from all of the learning styles, to ensure each board member is paying attention and remembering important points.

When asking for volunteers for certain projects, mention board members by name whose learning style would best fit the project and ask them if they would be willing. Assign them tasks to do for the board that are appropriate for their learning style, and they will do it with enthusiasm and in exemplary fashion.

When you have a board that is engaged through the proper use of learning styles, you will have a board that is ready and eager to do amazing things for your nonprofit.

RELATED: The Five Most Common Nonprofit Governance Models and How They Work


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