This is the last of 16 posts on the subject of learning styles and preferences. We have covered lots of ground, and several models in the process; the image below highlighting but a few…
The downside of a lengthy series is that I have left myself a real doozy to wrap up!
With so many models, it’s tough knowing where to start, but here goes with a few broad observations that seem (at least to me, you may disagree) largely self-evident;
- Intelligence comes in many forms, that include more traditional abilities (such as logic/numbers, linguistics/language), but that is not the end of it. Emotional and social intelligence; our ability to self-regulate and relate to others in one-to-one and group situations, are important determinants in progressing through life. And then there’s music, sport, dance / movement, the arts, “green-fingers” (naturalists; where abilities to create or express can lead to fruitful careers.
- We absorb and learn through different channels; seeing, hearing, feeling, thinking (includes reflecting, reviewing, problem-solving, evaluating) and through application – doing, testing, practicing, experimenting, adapting, and in time integrating and synthesizing…
- Social / group learning has many benefits (when it works well) and yet there are some people who favour learning on their own, and this will always be so.
- In life, we find some people lean towards logic, rationality and structure, others are primarily creative, emotional and “free”, and a few can comfortably lean in one or other direction, depending on the context.
- And for anything other than mastery of simple tasks, learning by necessity involves using our intellect. This is not the same as “intellectual”, but simply means engaging our brain.
Now here’s the thing…
The learning styles models we have explored are all perfectly valid attempts at making sense of and describing the different ways that we learn. Some of them are informed by weighty studies, and underpinned by highly credible theories and concepts, others are less complex, but eminently use-able.
Yet none of them provide the definitive answers, and there never will (in my humble opinion) be one universally accepted model, because…
The study of Human Behaviour is not (and never will be) an exact Science
For all that we think we know, human beings remain wonderfully and despairingly beyond reasoned explanation. We may have the capacity for logic and rationality, but being essentially driven by complex emotions and feelings (much of time beyond our awareness), we are unpredictable creatures.
Entirely distinct from the neat formulations of pure science (E=MC2), the study of human behaviours, needs and motivations is by its very nature inexact, and in my humble opinion will remain so.
If you doubt this, just watch tonight’s news and ask yourself, where is the logic!?
Horses for Courses
Given there really are no Absolutes in the reality of human behaviours, the great value in any theory, model or concept for me lies in whether it captures and communicates recognisable facets of human behaviour in a convincing and accessible manner, that can be applied in some practical or meaningful way.
And (in a curious twist on preferences), I find that some people are drawn to one model, and other people to a different model of styles and preferences!
So perhaps it is a good thing that there are so many models out there, in a horses-for-courses kind of way.
Learning how to Learn
There is value in knowing how we most like to learn. There is greater value still if we gain some appreciation that other people see, hear, experience and learn in different ways to us. But the greatest value we can add is to provide opportunities for people to learn in different ways. We are a creative species, and yet all the evidence points to the fact that our natural curiosity and sense of enquiry (just check out any young child to see what I mean by that) are quickly diminished as we move from youth to adulthood. And much of this can be attributed to formal education systems that emphasize a pass or fail (good or bad) approach designed to pass exams rather than prepare for life.
It is all very well labelling ourselves activists or theorists, but I feel it somewhat misses the point. Most of us can expand our learning repertoire, and find meaning in different forms of learning. That for me is the biggest gift we can offer…
So What Works for Me?
Having come this far, I guess there is no harm in sharing a little on how I (currently) make practical use of some of the models we have looked at as a way of wrapping up;
- When introducing learning styles as a concept, I tend to use Honey and Mumford’s Activist, Reflector, Theorist and Pragmatist model, partly as it is easy to explain and mainly as I find participants relate easily to the model and the language
- When designing training, I lean heavily on Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle to ensure I touch on all the bases in the Learning Process
- I tend to use VAK as a “design filter”, in other words to review a draft programme or session to ensure I have a good balance of seeing, hearing and doing, and at good times too (e.g. doing more than hearing straight after lunch!)
- I use the guiding principles of Accelerated Learning in my design to maximise participation, collaboration and creativity in the training room…
- And when delivering train-the-trainer events, I usually present a couple of models, and pretty much always find that some favour one; and others the other!
Herein ends the series on learning styles.
- Watch out for a download of the series on our website coming soon
- And thank you so much for reading down to this point!