Learning styles are various approaches or ways of learning. They can be described as a set of factors, behaviors, and attitudes that facilitate learning for an individual.
We each are complex individuals with different learning preferences, cognitive styles, personality types, aptitudes, and attitudes toward learning. Therefore, different people learn in different ways. Each learner has distinct and consistent preferred ways of perception, organization and retention. These differences are based on preferences and personality types. Some people tend to pick up information better when it is presented verbally, others when it is presented visually through pictures.
These learning styles serve as a good indicator of how learners perceive, interact with, and respond to the learning environment. People do not exclusively have one single way to learn, but they usually have a preference. By understanding his or her particular learning style, the learner can use his or her style to understand the strengths and limitations of each style. There are several resources that can help assess an individual’s learning style.
Flemings VAK Model
Kolb’s Learning Style Model
Honey and Mumford
These learning style models are all used to better understand individual strengths and weaknesses. By utilizing this knowledge, it is possible for people to learn in ways that fit their type, and which enhances their performance.
Fleming’s VAK (Visual-Auditory-Kinesthetic) model is one of the most common and widely-used categorizations of the various types of learning styles. The VAK learning styles model provides a simple way to explain and understand learning styles. Fleming believed that there were three categories of learner’s preferences;
Visual learners have a preference for seeing (think in pictures; visual aids such as overhead slides, diagrams, handouts, etc.).
Auditory learners best learn through listening (lectures, discussions, tapes, etc.).
Kinesthetic learners prefer to learn through experience by moving, touching, and doing (active exploration of the world; science projects; experiments, etc.).
While this model shows some characteristics of a left-right brain distinction it is more a model of perceptual style rather than cognitive style. It does not address the different modes of thinking exhibited by sequential/holistic styles.
The VARK (Visual Auditory Reading Kinesthetic) is another related model.
While the VAK learning style categories focus only on the external aspects of learning (auditory, visual, kinesthetic), Kolb’s learning styles include perception and processing. According to Kolb, learners perceive and process information in a continuum from concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation.
Kolb’s learning theory sets out four distinct learning styles, which are based on a four-stage learning cycle. Learning styles can be viewed on a continuum across two dimensions, based on how people perceive information (concrete vs. abstract) and process information (active vs. reflective). Kolb believes that as we learn something we go through a learning cycle. Kolb believes that there are four different learning styles, and that different people prefer different approaches for learning information.
The Kolb Learning Style Inventory calculates the degree to which a person engages in concrete experience, active experimentation, abstract conceptualization and reflective observation.
Four learning stages:
Concrete Experience – a concrete situation or problem which forms the basis for a new learning experience.
Reflective Observation – think about and articulate the why’s and how’s of their concrete experience.
Abstract Conceptualization – begin to understand the general concept of which their concrete experience was an example.
Active Experimentation – use theory to make predictions and test their assumptions.
Four resultant learning-styles
The four resultant learning-style types from the Kolb instrument are diverging, assimilating, converging and accommodating.
|Converger||concepts and active experimentation|
|Diverger||practical experience and reflection|
|Assimilator||abstract modeling and theoretical reasoning|
|Accommodator||practical experience and active testing|
Peter Honey and Alan Mumford developed their learning styles system as a variation on the Kolb model. Honey and Mumford proposed a similar approach to Kolb, but with different terms:
Similar to Kolb, Honey Mumford learning styles are a product of combinations of the learning cycle stages. The typical presentation of these styles and stages would be respectively clockwise from 12 on a circle or four-stage cyclical flow diagram.
‘Having an Experience’ (stage 1), and Activists (style 1): ‘here and now’, gregarious, seek challenge and immediate experience, open-minded, bored with implementation.
‘Reviewing the Experience’ (stage 2) and Reflectors (style 2): ‘stand back’, gather data, ponder and analyse, delay reaching conclusions, listen before speaking, thoughtful.
‘Concluding from the Experience’ (stage 3) and Theorists (style 3): think things through in logical steps, assimilate disparate facts into coherent theories, rationally objective, reject subjectivity and flippancy.
‘Planning the next steps’ (stage 4) and Pragmatists (style 4): seek and try out new ideas, practical, down-to-earth, enjoy problem solving and decision-making quickly, bored with long discussions.
The four resultant learning-style types from the model are Activists, Reflectors, Theorists, and Pragmatists.
|Activists||want to learn by diving straight in to new experiences, and do not particularly like theory|
|Reflectors||like to stand back and gather information before coming to a conclusion|
|Theorists||want to fully understand the theory behind a subject before they feel comfortable with it|
|Pragmatists||want to see the practical use of what they’re learning, and want practical techniques|
The 4MAT System was created by Bernice McCarthy. Based on brain dominance theory, the 4MAT System identifies four learning styles.
Innovative/Imaginative Learners: Experiencing (Feeling and Reflecting)
This type of learner enjoys creative and innovative approaches to learning. They perceive information concretely and process it reflectively. They prefer talking about their experiences and feelings, asking questions, and working in groups. They like to have learning connected to real life problems and to be given the answer to “Why do I need to learn this?”.”
Analytic Learners: Conceptualizing (Reflecting and Thinking)
These learners are knowledge-oriented, conceptual, and organized. These individuals perceive information abstractly and process it reflectively. These logical, abstract thinkers want to work with facts, ideas, and details. They prefer to learn by thinking through ideas. They would ask the question: “What do I need to learn?”
Common Sense Learners: Applying (Thinking and Doing)
These learners like active problem solving, learning through discovery, touching, manipulating, constructing, and spatial tasks. They perceive information abstractly and process it actively. They like hands-on experience when learning something new and really want to use what they learn to apply to new situations. The question they ask is; “How do I use the information?”
Dynamic Learners: Creating (Creating and Acting)
These learners prefer to learn through self-discovery and working independently. They enjoy open-ended tasks that involve risk taking. They perceive information concretely and process it actively. They want action; They want to see, hear, touch and feel. They ask the question: “What if?”
The four learning-style types from the 4MAT model are Innovative, Analytic, Common Sense, and Dynamic.
|Innovative/Imaginative||Interested in personal meaning and making connections. They prefer to have reasons for learning that connect new information with personal experience and establish that information’s usefulness in daily life.|
|Analytic||Interested in acquiring facts in order to deepen their understanding of concepts and processes. Prefer to Listen to and think about information, seek facts, and think things through.|
|Common Sense||interested in how things work; they want to “get in and try it”|
|Dynamic||Interested in self-directed discovery. Prefer to seek hidden possibilities, explore, and learn by trial and error.|
The Felder-Silverman Model is very similar to the Myers Briggs and Kolb Models. There are specific areas of personality that contribute to learning in this model. They are active or reflective, sensing or intuitive, visual or verbal, inductive or deductive, and sequential or global. A combination of these styles makes up the individuals learning preference.
The Four Learning Style Dimensions