I mentioned when rounding off the Learning Styles and Preferences Series that I wanted to write a bit of a postscript about the role of Creativity in Learning. But I have few further thoughts about learning styles. So here goes…

Learning styles are kind of fascinating to me (perhaps explaining why I chose to write about them!). It took quite a long while to properly get my head around the many different models and learner types, but now I find that I can draw from them spontaneously, and even playfully, in discussions with individuals and with groups.

Investigating our personal learning preferences can be really informative, and there are a plethora of Learning Styles questionnaires available online that on completion issue a report detailing our preferred style.

Often, the report offers up practical suggestions as to how we can “honour our preferences” by seeking out learning opportunities that play to our style. And once we have an understanding of how we prefer to learn, it makes perfect sense to take advantage of any such opportunities that come our way. So far so good…

But that is only half the story

I came across an expression a year or three ago “that a weakness is just an overplayed strength”.

I’m not sure it would hold true for everything, but it speaks very much to my dilemma with learning styles in the way they are sometimes presented, as in my humble opinion, over-reliance or too much emphasis on one learning style does not serve anyone particularly well.

Conditioned Learning

I read an elegantly written blog post from one Kirsten Kirby (Director of Health Professions Advising, at Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania, USA) essentially a message to new and prospective students at the College (please note the Parrot is my addition) that really got me thinking…


Kirsten speaks to a most unfortunate legacy of instructional education…

Where we carry with us into adult life the belief that learning involves a clever teacher (or trainer) telling us stuff we don’t know, while we listen in the hope something will stick. After all, the teacher has the knowledge and expertise, and anyway “that’s what they get paid for.”

Often I find that adult learners whose experience has been mostly instructional or cramming-for-exams need quite a bit of encouragement and support to participate and learn in ways that are less familiar to them. But when they do, it can oftentimes be something of a revelation, that they have the ability to learn in different ways, and that they have resources they can draw on (past experiences) to inform the learning.

And there can be a downside to offering up neatly clever yet essentially superficial labels (such as Activist, Theorist, Pragmatist and Reflector), if people wrap themselves in one style like it was a defensive shield with which to protect themselves from exposure to other ways of learning, either out of uncertainty (understandable) or superiority, such as

  • The Activist who scoffs at the Theorists need for data
  • The Pragmatist who rolls their eyes when the Reflector ponders out loud
  • The Theorist who stands reserved as others are enthusiastically immersed in an activity
  • The Reflector who finds the Activist hasty and superficial…

There is a value in understanding our preferences, but we seriously underestimate ourselves if we discount forms of learning just because we haven’t experienced them before. The great majority of us can learn new ways to learn, that makes the process both fulfilling and wholesome.

Creativity is the Key!

…and creative learners are the future.

But that’s enough for now. I’ll be back with a few more thoughts on Creativity next week…

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