Four Different Learning Styles – and How You Can Use Them in Your Videos

How much are people really engaging with your videos?

They might well view them – perhaps even all the way to the end – but do they really get what you’ve shared? Are they motivated enough to take action?

Four learning styles

If viewers don’t see the point of your videos, and mentally shrug them off, then it’s not surprising that they’re unlikely to come back for more.

That’s where 4MAT comes in. If you’ve never heard of it before, it’s a system of learning styles, used by many teachers, that can help you design videos that your audience sit up and pay attention to.

Those learning styles are “why”, “what”, “how”, and “if…”.

My own learning preference is “why”: I find it hard to engage if I don’t know why something matters. Maybe you’re the same – or maybe you’re not too worried about the “why” but you like all the details of exactly “what”.

These are preferences, of course: most people will want to engage through two or more of these particular lenses when learning about a new topic.

While whole books have been written about 4MAT, we’re going to focus on the essentials and how you can apply them to your videos.

Learning Style #1: “Why?”

“Why” learners want to get the bigger picture. They need to know why something matters, not just how to do it. They’re looking for meaning, rather than just information, to help them be motivated to learn.

Their learning is personal and experiential: they want to connect new knowledge to their past experiences and their feelings.

How to Use It:

#1: Explain up-front in your video why this topic is important: what will the viewer gain from watching it? For instance, if you run a social media consultancy and you want to create a short video that demonstrates how to create a great Facebook cover image, explain why a cover image matters – it won’t necessarily be as obvious to your audience as it is to you.

#2: Help your viewer to understand their own why. This is more appropriate for some topics, where it’s important to dig into your viewer’s personal motivation. Maybe you’re encouraging them to take on a challenge to streamline their business, for example: their motivation might not be purely about increasing their bottom line. Instead, they might want to free up more time for their family.

Learning Style #2: “What?”

“What” learners love to acquire new knowledge, and fit it into the things they already know. They like to classify things or to understand a theoretic framework that underpins what they’re learning.

For “what” learners, visual displays of information like graphs and flowcharts can be particularly helpful, as can quotes from recognized experts.

How to Use It:

#1: Organise your information carefully, so that it’s structured and viewers can see how everything fits together. You might want to create a flowchart or provide viewers with a brief overview of what will be covered at the start of your video before digging into the details.

#2: Make sure you back up what you say with facts and figures: don’t make assertions without supporting them (even if you think they’re common knowledge). As well as mentioning sources in your video, it’s a good idea to cite and link to those sources in your video notes too.

Learning Style #3: “How?”

“How” learners want to apply what they’re learning to the real world. They’re hands-on experimenters who learn best by doing – by taking a principle or idea and testing it out.

When it comes to the theory behind something, they’re most interested in how it connects to practice: how they can actually use it in their own life or business.

How to Use It:

#1: Give your viewers step-by-step instructions. They want to feel confident that they can apply what they’re learning, so walk them through all the different steps they need to take. This might mean showing them how something will look at each stage (e.g. if you’re teaching them how to bake a low-fat cake, show them what the mix will look like after adding each new ingredient).

#2: Include real-life examples of how the principles or ideas you’re talking about have been used in practice – these could be brief case studies, based on your clients/customers, or they could be examples of what you have done yourself. I think examples that show how something is done work really well here: with Facebook covers, for instance, you could use screenshots of several different examples to illustrate how best practices have been applied.

Learning Style #4: “If…?”

These learners are focused on possibilities: they want to explore alternatives or imagine how things might look once they’ve implemented what they’re learning. This learning style is sometimes called “what if …” or “what else…”

This means going beyond the basics to look at the bigger picture and to create a sense of what could be done. They won’t necessarily want to follow step-by-step instructions – instead, they may want to explore what happens if they leave a step out!

How to Use It:

#1: Ask questions or make suggestions in your video that prompt viewers to think about different ways to apply what they’re learning. For instance, you might say something like, “Maybe you’ll want to use these tips not only for your Facebook covers but also to create covers for Twitter and Instagram too.”

#2: Consider using similes and metaphors to help your viewer make a more abstract connection to your topic – this will help them to connect it to other applications, even ones that might not seem particularly obvious or intuitive. For instance, you might use the metaphor of creating dinner to explain how to better streamline a business, talking about using a recipe, having the correct tools in the right place, and so on.

Incorporating the four learning styles won’t just make it easier for your viewers to grasp what you’re showing them, it’ll make your videos more meaningful.

It’ll also make them more engaging: addressing the reasons for doing something (“why”) as well as the steps for doing it (“what”) is always good practice … and giving hands-on examples and suggestions (“how”) plus ideas for taking the materials further (“if…”) will add huge value to the videos you create.

Before you create your next video, you might want to think about a couple of questions

  • What’s your own preferred learning style – or are there two or more that you feel most drawn to?
  • Is there a particular learning style that seems unimportant to you? That might be a key one to make sure you’re addressing in your videos, as it’s very likely to be important to some of your viewers!

Using the 4MAT learning styles will help you to create more engaging videos: ones that get viewers to watch to the end, take action, share with their friends … and come back for more.

If you already know your preferred learning style, pop it in the comment below—and bonus marks if you share your least favorite one too!

About the author: Joe Williams is a teacher and video creator over at Tribe SEO, where you can learn all about search engines. He’s an SEO lecturer at the Digital Marketing Institute, and has been featured in the Guardian, Cosmopolitan, and Huffington Post. His twitter handle is @joetheseo

4 Different Learning Styles and How You Can Use Them in Your Videos

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