Instructor firing pistol

Understanding The Learning Styles Of Your Students


Everyone wants to be a firearms instructor until it’s time to do the “instructor” stuff. That’s what we’re here to discuss today.

While it’s important to be well versed in the methods you’re going to teach, the fun range time practicing and honing those skills is just the beginning. Now you must be able to transfer those skills to your students. Your mastery of the skills doesn’t help your students walk off the range better shots. If that were the case every three-gun master would have their own schools up and running.

Adopting a style of instruction doesn’t make you good at instructing. When you’re dealing with students, there’s no one size fits all approach. If you go by conventional wisdom, there are 7 (or 4, or 8, depending on what theory you subscribe to) different learning styles. You must constantly assess your line of shooters to ensure each one is getting the type of instruction they need.

A common method instructors employ closely follows that of the military. They line their students up on the firing line, demonstrate how they want a skill performed, and bark orders at them as they attempt to emulate the instructor. While this may be effective for one or two, several will fall through the cracks. This is only exacerbated as you have more and more shooters on the line. You have to tailor your approach to each student to be effective.

The Styles

It’s essential that we as instructors determine what each student requires to effectively impart the lesson to them.

The styles of learning are commonly broken down as follows:

  • Visual (spatial): They prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding
  • Aural (auditory-musical): They prefer using sound and music
  • Verbal (linguistic): They prefer using words, both in speech and writing
  • Physical (kinesthetic): They prefer using their body, hands and sense of touch
  • Logical (mathematical): They prefer using logic, reasoning and systems
  • Social (interpersonal): They prefer to learn in groups or with other people
  • Solitary (intrapersonal): They prefer to work alone and use self-study

We can obviously eliminate a few of these since they don’t transfer to a hot range, but they all come into play during a classroom portion of a course. To be effective, an instructor must know how to adapt their lessons to each one of the styles. The ability to incorporate all the styles in a session is important.

Using The Styles

Your classroom and range portion will no doubt include Visual, aural, verbal, and logical styles in your presentation. As you talk the student through what they are going to learn, you’re using visual aids, printed material, and demonstration. You’ve covered four of the styles!

The range, where the lead meets the paper, is where the real challenge comes in. Here you’re going to be addressing the physical style as the students fire the exercises. Some of your students will make a competition out of an exercise (ever trained military or law enforcement?) employing the social style. Finally, there are those students that you’re going to have to spend some one on one time with to drive the lesson home, then give them their space to nail it down themselves.

You’ll know if you’ve effectively addressed a student’s learning style(s) when you get the lightbulb moment that tells you the lesson has hit home. When you send your student off the range better able to perform the skill you’ve taught them, you’ve done the “instructor” part.


The Tactical Pirate

View posts by The Tactical Pirate
President and lead instructor. Follow me on Twitter, and check out our blog.

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