Preceptor Preparation Online Course - Advanced

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Essential Competencies of Preceptors: A Focus on Working with APRN Students

Module 2: Assessing Learner Needs and Learning Styles

Learning Styles

Nurses teaching and learning

Bastable, (2008) identifies six principles that determine how learning styles are used to maximize learning. They include:

  1. The importance of identifying the style of the teacher and the learner: When a preceptor understands their own learning style, they can appreciate that a student with a different style may be more difficult to teach in styles that differ from the style of the teacher;
  2. Guarding against teaching solely in the teacher’s learning style: A preceptor needs to understand that not everyone learns in the way that the teacher prefers
  3. Assisting the learner to identify their learning style preference: Learners who understand their own learning style are better able to maximize their learning by identifying the approaches that work for them.
  4. Allowing the learner to learn through their learning style: Learning in the way that works for an individual are more successful in mastering content.
  5. Encouraging learners to diversify their style preferences: To reach their fullest potential, students need to use multiple learning styles.
  6. Developing activities that support each style.

Three different methods are used to determine learning style: observation, interview with the learner, and administration of style instruments or quizzes.

Observation Preceptor observes how the student problem solves; do they ask for a procedure in writing or prefer to observe it being performed.
Interviewing Preceptor can ask the student how they prefer to learn; the student may already know their learning style.
Learning style instruments Preceptor administers tool with the student. These can be found online and will be identified as specific styles are reviewed (Bastable 2008).

Learning style instruments:

The VARK learning model and Kolb's theory of experiential learning are important tools for thinking about how students learn.


The VARK model identifies learning styles through a self-directed questionnaire to identify how the student prefers to learn information/knowledge. Preceptors and students at the start of the experience to facilitate learning needs can use the results of the questionnaire.

Kolb's Theory of Experiential Learning

Kolb's theory is a four-stage process encompassing a holistic view of the learners experience, perception, cognition and behavior.

Most learning begins with a concrete experience, followed by observations and reflections. Based upon these experiences, observations, and reflections, the learner develops ideas that typically lead to active experimentation with the new knowledge. There is a learning preference that most people exhibit that is aligned toward one end of the continuum as opposed to the other, and this results in four unique learning styles. 

Converging and accommodating styles are typically present among nursing students. (Goossens, Boussuyt, & deHann, 2008)

What do you do when you know their learning style?

The Learning Styles PDF from Central Piedmont Community College describes study skills for VAK identified learning styles.

Learning Strategies Marked to VARK preferences can provide guidance on learning techniques helpful for each learning style.

Kolb's Learning Style Inventory & How to Use It Effectively


Take the VARK survey and reflect on the results. How could your learning style impact the way you teach and precept students?

Check Point

Read and think about the check point question below. After answering the question, roll over the text and read the answer.

The assigned preceptor is working with an advance practice nursing student who is new to your hospital and has only had skills lab experience intubating patients. The preceptor has explained the procedure, but the student is still having difficulty. What can the preceptor to do to support the student's learning?

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