What are Different Types of Learning Styles to Consider when Teaching Adult CNA Students?

Are you a new CNA instructor? Do you teach primarily adult populations?  Teaching adult learners can prove to be challenging for even the most seasoned instructor, let alone a new instructor. There are many reasons for this.

  1. Adult learners have previous experience or knowledge that they are unconsciously applying during the learning experience. It can shape the way they interpret the information you give them or even take them down memory lane while you are teaching.
  2. Adult learners have a lot going on! Adult learners must remember their daily tasks, special tasks, work-related responsibilities, family needs, and so on… These thoughts hold space in the adult learners’ brain which may leave little space for what you are teaching.
  3. Adult learners are outcome focused. They are not learning because they are being forced to learn. They are learning because it is a choice they have made and typically there is an outcome they are trying to achieve. This creates a learner who is ready to get to the point and apply what they have learned.

Now that we have identified what affects adult learners, let’s explore the different type of learning styles that will help them overcome and retain the information. There are many theories, however this article will focus on the VAK model. VAK stands for:




Adult learners typically prefer to learn with one style over the other while some might use all three. Let’s explore this a little more.

First, we have visual learners.  This type of learner like to read and see. They prefer the use of pictures, white boards, videos, and diagrams. These types of learners also do well with storytelling because they are able to visualize the story as you tell it. These students typically retain information better when they write notes, conduct workbook assignments, or create mind maps.

One way you can do this is by having students who learn visually construct a diagram that explains isolation precautions or show them a video of handwashing.

Next, we have auditory learners. These types of learners retain information better when it is spoken as they like to listen. They do well with sounds such as music, recordings, and discussions. They also like mnemonics, such as songs or music, that help them remember concepts. These strategies help them relate to the topic at hand.

When teaching adult CNAs who are auditory learners, you could have them create and present a mnemonic for a skill. You could also present a case study about abnormal vital signs and then have students discuss what they would do in the situation.

Finally, you have kinesthetic learner. These types of learners retain information by means of touching and doing. Think of role-playing or hands-on experiences. You could also have students lead activities. These students typically do well engaging in skills demonstrations or calculation of I & O assignments.

When teaching kinesthetic learners, you could have them obtain a height in inches on a bedbound resident and then ask them to calculate it to centimeters, both of which are tactile tasks. You could also have students engage in skills such as range of motion or bathing to help them retain what they have learned.

Remember that no two people are alike. Consider asking students early on if they know how they learn best. There are also learning style quizzes to help you identify the type of learner your students are. Be sure to incorporate all learning styles into your curriculum. Your students will appreciate it and you will stand out from the rest!

Are you ready to gain access to all that August Learning Solutions’ CNA textbook as to offer? We offer different learning method examples in our instructor resources to help make this idea easier for you!

If you are a visual person and would like to view a video which provides examples of what we discuss in this blog article, please see our video HERE. Our YouTube channel is filled with wonderful “How to” videos to help you be successful in your teaching endeavors.

Ready to adopt our book for your CNA training program? Contact us HERE for more info. We are glad to help you take the lead on online learning today.

This blog was written by Victoria Randle MSN, NP-C, a CNA instructor and healthcare school start up consultant, owner of The Secret Cocktail®