Beyond Learning Styles: Enhancing Team Performance in Architecture

Are you leveraging the most effective training strategies for your engineering and architecture teams? It’s time to rethink the traditional notion of learning styles and focus on what truly works. Recent research, including insights from Atlassian reveals that the popular belief in learning styles—such as visual, auditory, reading/writing, or kinesthetic (“VARK”)—doesn’t necessarily lead to better learning outcomes.

A study highlighted in Nature and research by the Association for Psychological Science both emphasize that individual preferences for receiving information do not guarantee better learning when teaching methods are specifically tailored to these styles​. Furthermore, insights from Atlassian‘s blog reveal that understanding individual learning preferences can be beneficial, but the key to effective learning and team performance lies in a more nuanced approach​.

The Myth of Learning Styles and Its Impact

You might have categorized team members based on their supposed learning preferences. But does this really help them perform better? For example, someone who enjoys podcasts may not necessarily retain more information just by listening. The truth is, this approach can restrict the potential of your team by not fostering the development of diverse skills. For instance, someone labeled as an “auditory learner” might never explore their potential in visual tasks, limiting their growth and your team’s capabilities.

Realigning Training for Maximum Effectiveness

What if you could enhance your team’s learning without confining them to these narrow categories? Consider shifting to evidence-based strategies that have been proven to work across various disciplines. Practice tests and spaced instruction are just two methods that can significantly boost knowledge retention and skill development.

Practical Applications for Hiring Managers and Mentors

  1. Building a Culture of Learning

Creating a culture of continuous learning is vital. Leaders should foster an environment where team members feel psychologically safe to take risks and learn from their mistakes. Embracing a growth mindset and investing in professional development are key components of this culture.

Example: A leading architecture firm implemented weekly knowledge-sharing sessions where senior architects present case studies of complex projects. This not only helps younger architects learn but also encourages open discussion and innovation.

  1. Making Time and Space for Learning

Intentional scheduling of learning activities is crucial. Regularly set aside time for training and upskilling. This could be through courses, one-on-one mentoring, or peer feedback sessions.

Example: An engineering consulting firm allocated time every Friday afternoon for team members to work on personal development projects or attend webinars related to new engineering software. This practice helped the team stay updated with industry advancements and improved overall productivity.

  1. Seeking Relevant Programs

Engaging in professional development programs that incorporate connectivism and andragogy can be highly effective. These programs should offer opportunities for social learning and be relevant to the learners’ needs.

Example: By enrolling in a certification program focused on sustainable building design, an architecture firm not only enhanced their team’s skills but also positioned themselves as leaders in eco-friendly design solutions.

  1. Using Proven Learning Methods

Understanding effective learning strategies can help teams retain information and apply it practically. Techniques such as spaced repetition (increasing intervals of time between review of previously learned material), multi-modal learning (where content might be presented through a combination of text, images, videos, and interactive activities), and practical application are highly beneficial.

Example: After completing a course on advanced structural analysis, engineers at a consulting firm applied their new knowledge by working on a simulated project. This hands-on approach reinforced their learning and prepared them for real-world applications.

Strategic Implications for Your Team

As a manager, your role is pivotal in driving this shift. Encourage your team to embrace a range of learning opportunities, regardless of their traditional “style.” This will lead to a more resilient and versatile team, ready to tackle the challenges of engineering and architecture projects with confidence and creativity.


By moving away from the outdated learning styles model, you open the door to more effective and inclusive training methods that truly enhance team performance. Michelangelo, at 87, famously stated, “I am still learning.” His lifelong commitment to learning exemplifies the importance of continual skill development. 

Remember, the key to successful team development is flexibility and a willingness to adapt based on what works, not just what’s popular or traditional. Are you ready to lead this change and foster a culture of continuous improvement and innovation in your team?