Thinking and learning styles are as important as the intellectual capacity of individuals. Learning differences are not due solely to differences in ability. Learning styles are directly related to how learners achieve in learning environment. Most people are flexible and combine different learning styles, they can adapt to different learning situations according to the incentives and the learning environment. However, different teaching methods as well as evaluation formats and assignments are better adapted to some styles than to others. Learners generally do better on an assignment when it matches their preferred style of thinking and learning. That’s why it’s important that a trainer should know the learning styles of his learners in order to adapt his teaching way.
Learning styles were developed and promoted by P. Honey and A. Mumford, inspired by Kolb’s work. They identified four basic distinct learning styles: Activist, Theorist; Pragmatist and Reflector. From these 4 basic styles, it’s possible de identify sub-styles according to the specificities of learners. These are the learning approaches that individuals are supposed prefer and recommend in order to maximize their own personal learning. Learner should understand their learning styles and seek out learning opportunities to practice and improve it.
To understand a particular learning style Honey and Mumford have developed a Learning Style Questionnaire [see below] and with this information learner will be in a far better position to do three really useful things [quoting P. Honey]:
- “Become smarter at getting a better fit between learning opportunities and the way you learn best“
- “Expand the ‘band width of experiences from which you derive benefit. Becoming an all-round learner, increases your versatility and helps you learn from a wide variety of different experiences“
- “Improve your learning skills and processes. Increased awareness of how you learn, opens up the whole process to self-scrutiny and improvement.”
The 4 basic learning Styles are as follows:
Activists: learns primarily by performing concrete tasks. Enjoys being at the heart of learning activities and likes to take risks. He will favor the trial / error method over logical deduction. The activist is practice oriented.
Reflectors: imaginative with an open mind. He has a good sense of observation and can perceive situations from various angles or perspectives. He is extremely motivated by innovation and he excels in creative activities such as brainstorming. Finally, human ties and feelings are of paramount importance to him.
Theorists: is very patient and is very theory-oriented. He organizes the information received logically and prefers to reflect on the concepts rather than going into practical mode.
Pragmatists: reasons by deduction and is very logical. He loves to solve problems and make decisions. They will be more comfortable with performing tasks and putting them into practice than exchanging comments and debating ideas.
In some approaches these 4 styles could be split in 7 styles requiring adapted teaching strategies as shown in the video below:
Learning Styles & Multiple Intelligences (Youtube video)