Learning in Style

How stylish one wants to look while doing ranch work is totally up to the individual. Correctly understanding what’s expected is far more important on our ranch.

Learning through one’s style to comprehend instructions and process information is helpful in fulfilling job expectations but our ranch utilizes all three learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic/tactile or hands-on.

The auditory learning style is most commonly practiced on our place because instructing and lecturing doesn’t require using visual aids, writing anything down, or giving demonstrations. Just a voice is needed to give information and a good memory is needed to process and retain it.

Unfortunately, my ability to learn audibly is practically nil, not to mention extremely lame and boring unless I can be the audible one. I don’t absorb incoming information nearly as well as I do giving it out. I constantly struggle to retain important changes in chore routines or cattle working instructions through auditory learning.

Visual learning leaves me feeling doubtful about my instructions. Visual aids such as maps and illustrations drawn on the kitchen table with a finger or pointing in a direction are too vague. There’s a wide margin for error and misinterpretation for me to process information visually unless the visual learning has to do with being observant. Anything that doesn’t look right or is abnormal usually means something isn’t right or is abnormal and needs attention.

When a cow’s or calf’s ears are droopy, it means they’re sick. Cows bunched up at the water tank means that either the tank or the cows are dry but probably both. Finding gray splodge on the ground is a sign that a calf’s got bowel troubles known as scours. Cows outside the fence means they got out. And there’s a hole in the fence someplace. If a cow’s off by herself, her tail is raised and/or switching, she gets up and down a lot and sniffs the ground when she gets up, she doesn’t have mad cow disease. She’s calving.

Kinesthetic learning around here happens more out of urgency. I am most definitely a kinesthetic learner. I learn best by doing, not hearing, reading, or seeing illustrations about it, so a lot of my learning as you might have already guessed, is stress-induced.

The majority of my kinesthetic learning is a result of encountering a problem I’ve had to resolve. I’ve never forgotten where a cow trail leads to once I’ve ridden it horseback in search of cows and got temporarily lost. I know where all the forks in a Forest Service road come out after I’ve had to look for missing cows using several of the roads. I understand fence lines better by following, checking, fixing or chasing cows along them versus listening to descriptions and locations about them, and I never forget a gate that I’ve mistaken for a different one. The wrong one.

The one learning style that doesn’t get any attention is called the hard-way, whereby people learn from making mistakes. It’s through this learning style that I’ll always remember how to be stylish while learning; make mistakes look good.

This column was originally published January 31-February 6, 2010 © Amy Kirk

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