Location: [Algonquin top page][On-line Courses][Learning on the Internet]Learning Styles
Think about what you do when you have to learn something new. You
probably approach the task in a similar fashion each time. That
is, over time you have developed a pattern of behavior that you
use for new learning. This pattern is called a learning style.
While we don't approach every learning task exactly the same way
each of us develops a set of behaviors that we are most
comfortable with. The purpose of examining our learning style is
to get to know those behavior patterns so that we can see when
they are helpful and when they are not.
There are many ways to measure learning styles. David Kolb has
written extensively on the subject and his model is frequently
used. Kolb identified two separate learning activities:
perception and processing.
Each of these learning activities can be divided into opposites.
For example some people best perceive information using concrete
experiences (like feeling, touching, seeing, and hearing) while
others best perceive information abstractly (using mental or
Once information is perceived it must be processed. Some people
process information best by active experimentation (doing
something with the information) while others perceive best by
reflective observation (thinking about it).
There are four learning dimensions in this model.
By combining these two opposite dimensions we get four quadrants
of learning behavior:
- Concrete experience -
- learning from specific experiences,
relating to people, and sensitivity
to feelings and people
- Reflective observation-
- careful observation before making a
judgement, viewing things from
different perspectives, and looking
for the meaning of things
- Abstract conceptualization
- Logical analysis of ideas,
systematic planning, acting on
intellectual understanding of a
- Active experimentation -
- ability to get things done, risk
taking, influence people and events
- Type I learner:
- You are primarily a "hands-on" learner. You tend to rely on
intuition rather than logic. You like to rely on other people's
analysis rather than your own. You enjoy applying your learning
in real life situations.
- Type II learner:
- You like to look at things from many points of view. You would
rather watch rather than take action. You like to gather
information and create many categories for things. You like using
your imagination in problem solving. You are very sensitive to
feelings when learning.
- Type III learner:
- You like solving problems and finding practical solutions and
uses for your learning. You shy away from social and
interpersonal issues and prefer technical tasks.
- Type IV Learner:
- You are concise and logical. Abstract ideas and concepts are more
important to you than people issues. Practicality is less
important to you than a good logical explanation.
Kolb's model is only one of many. Anthony Gregorc modified Kolb's
dimensions by focusing on random and sequential processing of
information. This is similar to top-down and bottom up
processing. Top-down learners look at the whole task (random)
while bottom-up learners proceed one-step-at-a-time
Seagal and Horne have developed a model that relies on three
dimensions. The mental dimension is responsible for out thoughts,
values, objectivity, focusing, and abstract conceptualization.
The relational or emotional dimension is responsible for
connecting, organizing, feeling, assessing, and communicating
The physical dimension is responsible for doing, manifesting,
producing, and action-oriented skills.
The three dimensions work together but we have a preferred mode.
That is if we prefer the mental dimension we would struggle with
the "idea" of the problem. If we are relationally oriented we
would organize and assess the parts of the problem. If we prefer
the physical mode we are likely to try and do or act out the
Those who prefer the mental mode of learning probably learn best
by developing overviews, abstracting information, making precise
notes, going to lectures, and working in a solitary environment.
Those who prefer the relational/emotional mode of learning
probably learn best by working in groups, verbalizing
information, and working in relaxed environment.
Those who prefer the physical mode probably learn best by hands-
on applications, daily repetitions, taking good notes, allowing
time for demonstration and imitation, and allowing free-flowing
movement from one task to another.
A final approach presented to you here is David Hunt's notion of
cycling through all four of Kolb's dimensions. That is first
experience the problem, then reflect on it, then analyze it, then
act on it. In this approach the learner will recognize that some
modes in the cycle are easier than others and will be able to
identify the types of learning that should be worked on.
While none of the above models or the many not mentioned here are
perfect they should give you an opportunity to learn your
preferred learning style. Now you can decide to try to alter how
you learn, become even more proficient in your preferred style,
or adapt learning that is presented to you so that it more
closely matches your preferred style.
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