Tactile Learning Style

Although exact numbers a difficult to find, many websites seem to suggest that Tactile Learners are in the minority.  When I started tutoring nursing students, however, I was surprised to find that most of my students considered themselves tactile learners.  And when I conducted a survey of Your Nursing Tutor members a few week ago, that survey supported my observations.  54% of members who responded said that they thought they were tactile learners!

Now, my little survey is far from scientific, but I think it illustrates a potential problem with nursing education.  Follow along with me.  First, many nursing students are tactile learners.  Second, nursing has traditionally been a “hands-on” profession.  Thirdly, we test our students with…written exams?

Now, there are very good reasons for using written exams to test nurses-to-be.  Even though nursing is still in many ways a hands-on profession, there is a growing number of nursing areas that are less hands-on and even more knowledge-intensive than ever before.  In addition, it’s just not possible to try and administer a one-on-one clinical demonstration exam to every single nursing student who takes the NCLEX each year…that would have been over 200,000 students in 2009 alone!  Even if they administered a hands-on exam every day of the year, that would be about 550 exams every single day…can you imagine the wait-list to get tested?

So as a Tactile learner, you’re stuck being tested primarily with written material, so you  might as well make the best of it!  But how?

The best thing to do are to make sure your study habits help your learning style.  Do you primarily learn by listening and taking notes during lecture?  Reading and highlighting the textbook?  Because these are not the best way for you to learn (or for anyone to learn, for that matter).  You need to find ways to get yourself more involved in the material.

It’s not as difficult as you might think.  Here’s some ideas to try:

  • If you’re trying to memorize something, pace around the room as you speak the information out loud.  The movement from your body will help you remember.
  • If you study with a group, consider doing a role play!  Assign one student to be the patient, and another to be the nurse.  The patient has to pretend to have all the basic signs and symptoms of a particular disease, and the nurse has to do a proper assessment, ask questions, figure out what is going on with the patient, and what interventions should be done.
  • Build a model of a body part or organ to help you learn the A&P.  For example, I built a set of “lungs” out of a couple balloons and an old flour canister.  Now it’s easy to see how movement from the diaphragm makes the lungs expand and contract!
  • Take frequent breaks when studying, but don’t get sidetracked!  Try setting a timer for 15-20 minutes…no email, facebook, or any other distractions during that time!  Just study.  When the timer goes off, reset it for 3-5 minutes and do something active during your break!  Then start again.
  • When reading your text, stop after each section and try to explain (in your own words!) what you just read.  Give your explanation out loud, if possible, and make sure you “talk” with your hands while you do it!

These are just some of the many ideas you can use to make your tactile learning style an asset instead of a challenge.  Let me know if you have any other good ideas that work for you!

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