Individuals also learn different ways. We all have different styles of learning but most styles can be categorised under the following four major headings: Activists, Reflectors, Theorists and Pragmatists. You may find that you fall into one category or a number of categories. Learning often involves a variety of different styles. Read through the following descriptions of learning styles to understand your personal learning behaviour:
Activists like to experiment with new ideas and ways of doing things. They learn best:
- From new experiences / problems / issues / opportunities
- When working with other people to generate ideas and solve problems
- When they can be in charge by leading discussions or meetings, giving presentations etc
- If they can get in and have a go.
Activists learn least from, and may react against activities where:
- They have passive roles (lectures, instructions, reading)
- They are observers
- They are required to assimilate, analyse and interpret lots of ‘messy’ data
- They must work in a solitary way (reading and writing alone)
- Statements are ‘theoretical’ – an explanation of cause
- There is considerable repetition (practicing the same skill)
- There are precise instructions with little room for manoeuvre
- They must be thorough, and tie up loose ends.
Reflectors stop doing and observe and reflect on what has happened. They learn best:
- From experiences where they can watch / think / mull over what’s going on
- When they can take their own time and are not under pressure to achieve something quickly
- When given an opportunity to research the issue and really get to the bottom of the story
- When they have the chance to reflect on what has happened and what they might have learnt from it.
Reflectors learn least from, and may react against activities where:
- They feel ‘forced’ into the limelight
- They must react without time for planning
- They are asked for an instant reaction, or ‘off the cuff’ thoughts
- They are given insufficient data on which to base a conclusion
- In the interest of expediency, they have to make short cuts or do a superficial job.
Theorists like to build ideas, theories and concepts. They learn best:
- From experiences which are part of a framework which makes sense to them and they understand, such as a system, model or theory
- When they really have to use their brains to figure something out
- When they have the time to make connections between elements of the data (the bits of the jigsaw) and understand how they fit together
- Having the opportunity to use their logic on a problem or issue to analyse it and explore its complexity
- If they understand why they are being involved.
Theorists learn least from, and may react against activities where they:
- Have no apparent context or purpose
- Have to participate in situations emphasising emotions and feelings
- Are involved in unstructured activities where ambiguity and uncertainty are high
- Are asked to act or decide without a basis in policy, principle or concept
- Are faced with a hotchpotch of alternative or contradictory techniques or methods without exploring any in depth
- Doubt that the subject matter is methodologically sound
- Feel out of tune with other participants, for example when they are with lots of activists.
Pragmatist experiment with new ideas and ways of doing things. They learn best:
- From experiences which they can link back to their job or work
- If they are shown things which are useful to them – how to deal with difficult people, how to manage their time better, how to make use of their network
- When they have a ‘map’ or model that they can follow, like an instruction video, a manual, real life examples, being shown by an expert
- If they can focus on ‘real’ issues like outcomes, process improvement, plans for action
- When they can see a solid link between the experience and what happens on the job.
Pragmatists learn least from, and may react against activities where:
- The learning is not related to an immediate need they recognise
- Organisers of the learning seem distant from reality
- There are no clear guidelines
- They feel people are going round in circles rather than getting to the point
- There are political, organisational, managerial or personal obstacles to implementation
- There is no apparent reward from the learning activity, for example higher grades.
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