Learning Styles/Preferences

Through an understanding of different learning styles or preferences, a preceptor can design learning experiences so that they will address a variety of different approaches to learning. As well, if problems arise with individual precptees, considering their learning preferences may be the first step to finding appropriate solutions.

There are many tools available to identify an individual's learning style or preference. Most tools evaluate at least three distinct components—the sensory component, the social component, and the cognitive component.

Sensory Component

The sensory component identifies the sense that the individual most prefers when receiving, processing and attempting to retain information.

Social Component

The social component refers to an individual's preference to process information internally—through reflection, or externally—through discussion. It is also an indicator of an individual's preference for learning by themselves or in groups.

Cognitive Component

The cognitive component refers to the process an individual uses to gather information, process it, and then retain it. The cognitive component identifies whether an individual learns sequentially or globally.

Adapted from Nova Scotia Department of Health. (2006). Facilitating adult learning. Building a Better Tomorrow: Atlantic Provinces Primary Health Care Initiative. Halifax, NS. 

Other Resources on Learning Styles


  6 Tips for Adult Learning

Elizabeth Szigeti, 2014.

Modelling (Role Modelling)

Providing preceptees with the opportunity to observe clinical skills directly, and creating opportunities for discussion of techniques and approaches.


Verballing guiding a preceptee through a procedure while they are performing the skill. This provides a supportive learning environment.

'Think Aloud' Method

The preceptor shares their thoughts and rationale for making clinical decisions in the moment. This fosters critical thinking and clinical reasoning skills, and enhances reflective practice1. Preceptees can also use the 'think aloud' method.


Encouraging continuous use of reflective dialogue by using open-ended questions to facilitate preceptees to fully comprehend the link between theoretical and clinical knowledge. This allows preceptees to challenge their assumptions, beliefs and existing knowledge in order to become independent professionals able to critically assess and evaluate evidence-based practice2.


  • Burns, C., Beauchesne, M., Ryan-Krause, P., & Sawin, K. (2006). Mastering the preceptor role: Challenges of clinical teaching. Journal of Pediatric Health Care, 20(3), 172-183.
  • Carlson, E. (2013). Time, trust and reflection: Three aspects of precepting in clinical nursing education. Nurse Education in Practice, 13(4), 237-238.

Other Resources on Teaching