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Tuesday, 5 November 2013

What's Your Preferred #LearningStyle?



What are Learning Styles and why are they important?

Identifying your learning style is helpful in solving business problems as it identifies the natural approach you prefer to use. It is also helpful in diverse teams as everyone is different - it provides an understanding of how your colleagues prefer to learn.

Understanding learning styles fits with other career management themes of leadership, communication, conflict management and managing your brand - all posts we have been exploring on this blog. 

Learning Styles link to other career management strategies


Kolb identified a natural learning cycle that everyone goes through. He focused on how we first experience learning and then expand upon it to define our new experiences.

Honey and Mumford, using the work of Kolb, devised 4 distinct learning styles. They identified that we may exhibit a blend of styles but that generally we have a preferred learning style. 

Why is this important?

1) It might sound obvious but learning styles are helpful in identifying how you prefer to learn. For example it might not be the best solution to attend a long theory based course (although sometimes there is no option) if all you want to do is jump straight in or simply understand how something actually works in practice. 

 2) Learning styles also provide a mechanism for identifying your natural style (and that of others) and in doing so create awareness. This enables everyone to flex their style accordingly. For example an activist could annoy a reflector and vice versa. This is because an activist is hands on, they want to jump in and get started, whereas a reflector needs and wants the time to think things through. Both can find each other equally frustrating. 

3) An awareness of the learning cycle can also aid any coaching relationship. The diagram above also shows how the STAR coaching model can be overlaid. 


No one learning style is right, therefore increased awareness can only be a helpful thing in understanding and avoiding any conflict.

The Learning Styles:

Activists: 
  • Tend to act first and consider the implications after 
  • Jump right in, requiring little preparation time. 
  • Thrive on being thrown in at the deep end 
  • Tend not to reflect as they have moved onto the next thing by then. 
  •  In a group exercise or team building event it will be the activists that are hands on straight away. 
  • Are switched off by detail and prescriptive processes

Pragmatists:
  • Focus on the practical application, they need to know that solutions will work 
  • Like to relate back to how this fits with the job/task 
  • Get impatient with lengthy discussions 
  • Are switched off when there is no obvious benefit or lack of guidelines on what to do
 Reflectors:
  • Focus on different perspectives 
  • They thrive on collating and analysing data 
  • Like to have time to think before making decisions 
  • Are switched off by having no time to prepare, by being rushed or thrown in at the deep end
Theorists:
  • Think problems through step by step 
  • Are perfectionists
  • Thrive on complexity, structured thinking and business models 
  • Enjoy questioning 
  • Are switched off by situations involving emotion or lack of structure

There are lots of free self assessment tools available on the internet - which is your preferred learning style?