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Card game initiates thoughts on learning

February 20, 2012

It had been some time since I had been stumped in learning something seemingly so simple as rules in a card game. But it immediately caused me to think about new employees and how they learn and how we teach them.


By Peggy Hodges, ASU-SBDC Rural Business Manager and Business Development Specialist


SAN ANGELO, Texas — I sat there at the dining room table, picking up the hand of cards just dealt to me. I fanned the cards, just three of them, and tried to remember what I’d just been told about which card was an extra wild card. I had only remembered that the Joker was a wild card

About that time, another player, also new to this game of cards called Five Crowns, asked if we could just have a practice hand or two until we understood the rules. She had taken the words right out of my mouth. “I want a practice round, too!” I agreed.

Everyone at the table laid down their cards and we proceeded to play a round, a second round, then a third until everyone understood the progression of the game.

It had been some time since I had been stumped in learning something seemingly so simple as rules in a card game. But it immediately caused me to think about new employees and how they learn and how we teach them.

Every employee learns in a different way or a combination of ways. Some people are visual learners (V), some auditory (A) and others are hands-on (kinesthetic) learners (K). This triad has the acronym VAK.

As adult learners, we probably have a better understanding of our learning styles. I know that I learn by seeing (visual) and doing (kinesthetic), so that makes me a VK learning style. Some learners can look at the finished picture and understand how to get there. I know several learners who learn extremely well through listening. They can translate the auditory into the kinesthetic and get the job done.

So how do you teach your employees? Simple, use a combination of all three styles. Susan James, staff development coordinator with the Cooperative Extension Service at the University of Wyoming, identifies these five steps to training. These steps will satisfy the VAK of the learner: Prepare, Tell, Show, Do, Review.

Prepare the learner. It’s important the trainer explain why the skill to be learned is important. Explain any hazards or problems that may be involved and how to deal with them. Also, answer any questions the learner may have about the task. This step focuses mainly on auditory learning. A trainer can even add a visual component with either the actual parts of the task or a visual representation of such.

Tell the learner how to perform the task. Break it down into key parts. Learning several smaller tasks, each of which builds on the previous task, is easier than learning the entire skill set all at once. Of course, telling is auditory, but the trainer can once again add the visual component.

Show the learner how to do the task. Do it yourself by demonstrating the correct process. Involve the employee by inviting questions and getting feedback. Then have the learner explain the process to the trainer. To show is visual (V), combined with auditory (A), and the next step is kinesthetic (K).

Do ask the learner to perform the task. Encourage the learner by carefully monitoring at first, then allowing him or her to work without supervision. The trainer should monitor to maintain consistency in doing the task. This is the kinesthetic step.

Review by providing honest feedback. Words of encouragement and constructive criticism provide the opportunity to praise the employee or correct his or her progress. A review should also be viewed as an opportunity for the employee to ask questions. In review, be sure to use all modes of learning, VAK.

Well received and effective employee training will save your company money. Susan James lists four strong reasons why time and money invested in training is time and money well spent. “Research has shown specific benefits that a small business receives from training and developing its workers: Increased productivity, reduced employee turnover, increased efficiency resulting in financial gains and decreased need for supervision.”

Let the ASU SBDC assist you as you work to implement an employee training program. Give us a call, we’ll be glad to stop by your business for a visit.

“Business Tips” was written by Peggy Hodges Rosser, Rural Business Development Specialist and Certified Business Adviser IV of Angelo State University’s Small Business Development Center. Contact her at

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