Everyone takes in information differently, and in this edition of our training series, we talk about how to adapt to different learning styles.
In Part One of this series, we discussed how a structured barista training program could benefit your shop, as well as assessed who might be the right candidate to train your blossoming baby baristas. This week we’ll begin unpacking how to build your coffee education program.
BY DIANA MNATSAKANYAN
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE
All photos by Aaron Tran
There are a number of variables to consider when training in a work environment as opposed to a school setting. Some of the most notable studies on effective adult education were lead by Malcolm Knowles, a central figure in education reform in the twentieth century. In his work, he unpacked the importance of treating adult learners as capable and autonomous individuals. Knowles highlighted the simple fact that adult learners all have different needs and perspectives, and that the act of understanding and respecting those differences makes for a more productive learning experience.
Think about it: if the barista you’re instructing has a second job or a small child at home that they need to take care of, their attention span and capacity for independent studying will be significantly affected. Perhaps your new hire is coming to work for you after years of experience in another shop where they’ve picked up a lot of bad habits, none of which they’re yet aware of. No one is a clean slate, and no one will be coming to you with perfect capacities. When you’re creating a learning program, you must be flexible with your lesson plans and respectful of the inevitable diversity of your learners.
A practical application of this is to ask each trainee what his or her past coffee experience has been and to encourage them to share a few things they’d like to learn in your time together. If you’re more of the planning type, consider sending a small survey email a few days prior to their scheduled training so that you can create a lesson plan that meets both your needs and theirs.
In order to teach effectively, an educator must be able to address the needs of their learners’ various learning styles. There are four primary learning styles: visual, auditory, read-write and kinesthetic. Some individuals can learn in multiple ways, but most tend to favor one over the others. Even a basic understanding of these styles will create a world of a difference in the productivity of your trainings.
Visual learners process information best when they can watch events unfolding or see a product with their own eyes. Complex theories with no visible form can frustrate these learners. A few ways to support these individuals would be to:
- Create a PowerPoint presentation utilizing photographs and videos (YouTube latte art tutorials are surprisingly helpful)
- Pass out heavily-illustrated handouts
- Use color-coding in your handouts and PowerPoints to create categories and make information visually stand out
People with strong auditory preferences are more confident and successful when they can verbally process new information. Some exercises that would empower your auditory learners would look like:
- Role-playing scenarios and guided group discussions: “Spend the next five minutes discussing how you would troubleshoot a malfunctioning brewer.”
- A question-and-answer style of instruction: “When I adjust my espresso grind finer, it slows down the total time of my shot. Why do you think that is?”
- Creating a series of chants and rhymes when sharing new information (I’m horrible at rhymes so I’ll spare you my terrible poetry)
For read-write learners, it’s all about the act of taking notes and gathering new information through reading and research. Some of the best ways to help these learners flourish is to:
- Print handouts with your educational content organized into bulleted lists, making sure that there’s plenty of room for learners to write notes
- Give trainees pens, paper and clipboards to take notes during on-the-floor trainings
- Compile a reference guide for individuals to take home for independent reading and research
Also known as “tactile learners”, these individuals learn best when they can get their hands dirty and work through problems by trial-and-error. For your kinesthetic learners, I’d suggest incorporating the following into your program:
- Hand out pre-made flashcards for studying (this makes learning an active game, something kinesthetic learners love)
- Schedule hands-on, supervised practice time
- Assign shadow shifts, where trainees can work in tandem with yourself on bar
In part three of our training series, we’ll discuss how to build an intentional and focused lesson plan with your specific business and customers in mind. Thanks for sticking around!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Diana Mnatsakanyan is a cat-lady-turned-barista living in Charlotte, North Carolina. A workaholic and coffee nerd, she is currently in the process of opening her first coffee shop, Undercurrent Coffee. She also dabbles in barista blogging, coffee consulting and Netflix binge-watching (she highly recommends Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and 30 Rock).