Learning Styles Fact or Myth?


Related Learning Styles Pages

Honey and Mumford
If we expose 2 different managers to a similar learning opportunity quite often you will find one learns and one does not. Managers differ in their willingness and capacity to learn from any particular experience.The active learning cycle is one way of seeing the differences

Styles of Learning
An overview of 4 of the main learning style models: Anthony Gregorc's Mind Styles Model, Flemmings VARK model, Hybrid Models, Gardeners Multiple Intelligences.

Kolb Learning Styles Model
David Kolb and Roger Fry argue that effective learning entails the possession of four different abilities: concrete experience abilities, reflective observation abilities, abstract conceptualization abilities and active experimentation abilities.

Maslow hirachy of needs and motivating learners
Abraham Maslow developed a hierarchy of needs model that is still widely used for understanding human motivation ,management training and personal development.The importance of motivation in learning is a key concept, after all a person needs to be motivated enough to pay attention so learning can take place.

Learning Tips
Learning tips:When asked how they best learn, many managers will say they learn best from experience. However Learning can be fickle! it is no means certain that managers will learn from experiences.


Anthony Gregorc's Mind Styles Model

Gregorc’s (1982) styles of learning model is similar to Kolb’s, except that the two dimensions rate:

perception from abstract to concrete and ordering from sequential to random.

The final classification of the learner is into one of four states, again similar to Kolb, using the Gregorc Style Delineator. (a self-scoring written instrument that elicits responses to a set of 40 specific words.)

Scoring the responses will give values for a model with two axes: a "perceptual space duality," concrete vs. abstract, and an "ordering duality," sequential vs. random[5] The resulting quadrants are the "styles": • Concrete Sequential • Concrete Random • Abstract Sequential • Abstract Random

No one is a "pure" style. Each of us have a unique combination of natural strengths and abilities

more styles of learning information here

You might be surprised to know that the ideas of individualised learning styles really originated in the 1970’s. But unlike 70's fashion the ideas has gained both increasing popularity and notoriety in recent years.
There is a strong intuitive appeal to the notion, that we all have individual preferences and styles of learning. (,em>bit like horoscopes then?) Well to be fair some of us are more visionary rather than auditory learners. In fact some learning difficulties in young adults are the result of undiagnosed eyesight issues such as short sighted, long sighted or light sensitivity. If only these visual issues were diagnosed earlier allowing people to buy glasses or sunglasses that were appropriate for them.

So why talk about learning styles?
Well because they may help you think about and understand your own learning a bit better. if you can do that you could potentailly learn more effectively.

Although critics have said, that just because you know your learning preferences doesn’t mean you’ll improve your learning. To borrow a quote from Neil Flemming (creator of the VARK model)

“That is just as true as that knowing one's weight does not help weight loss. However, knowing one's learning preferences can be beneficial, if learners take the next step, and consider how and when they learn, as part of a reflective metacognitive process, with action to follow.”


Gosh ..meta ..what?? I think he is saying it is what you do with your thinking afterwards that makes the difference.

learning styles

More information on learning styles here

Interested in action learning click here

Various authors have proposed different categories of learning srategies. Examples are Kolb, Honey and Mumford, Dunn and Dunn, and Myers-Briggs.

What they all have in common is, that they attempt to classify learners into categories that can be used as the basis for instructional design and training .

Here is the rub: There is no currently existing overall, holistic theory of learning preferences; rather there are bits and pieces.

In fact, what some call learning styles, others have labelled as cognitive controls, learning preferences, learning capabilities, cognitive styles, or personality. For the sake of simplicity, we will use the term here "learning styles."

Part of the challenge is, that learning research stretches broadly across the specialism’s of psychology, business studies, sociology, management education etc... Researchers in these areas tend to use different language, and interpret matters in their own terms.

Try and get an Academic, a teacher, a trainer, an Executive Coach and a psychologist to have a conversation together and see how much different jargon pops out.

Why are Learning Styles Important?

However we can make a number of assumptions about why learning styles might be useful for you:

Individuals vary in their preferred learning approach

Using their preferred means of learning deepens and accelerates learning

Students will become more motivated to learn by knowing more about their own strengths and weaknesses as learners


More information on cognitive learning here

Adults are generally more resistant to new ideas, and they prefer to be in charge of their own learning and to choose what they want to learn. (see brain principles) If you want to be in charge of your own learning, then a knowledge of your own style of learning can really help you think about your own learning, and be aware of your preferred learning approaches. This understanding of how you think and learn, is called meta cognition and it is an important component of cognitive theory.

In plain English this means taking conscious control of your learning by:


• planning and selecting learning strategies,
• monitoring the learning progress
• analyzing the effectiveness of learning strategies,
• changing learning behaviors and strategies when necessary."

According to David Kolb Learning Styles are still important because:


• Raising awareness of them promotes the concept of learning throughout the organisation
• Identifying learning styles can help individuals, such as managers, to understand and improve the way they make decisions
• An awareness of the learning style of oneself and others can improve interpersonal and team relationships
• Understanding the learning styles that are characteristic of different organisational functions can improve cross-functional communication
• They can be used to characterise organisational culture and identify any mis- matches which might be a barrier to success

Different Views on Learning Styles

The Learning Skills Research Centre identified 71 different models of learning styles, and therein is the challenge for most of us.

How do you figure out which of these learning models are useful?

We have decided to just cover a number of the most popular and well used learning models.

Our logic ? well simply because they are the learning models you are most likely to come into contact with.

Just look at the many and confusing terms used in the learning field. Learning style, learning strategies, approaches to learning, learning models, learning inventories, teaching styles, learning orientations, learning conditions, thinking styles, cognitive styles.

Different learning models reflect different assumptions on learning. For example, a number of the learning style models derive from brain research and the use of different parts of the brain for different functions.

Other models are more aligned with more established psychological theories of personality traits and intellectual abilities. From this latter perspective, it is claimed that learning can be defined accurately and then measured through psychological testing in order to predict behaviour and performance.

This suggests that learning styles are more fixed and stable and don’t change much over time. Other researchers put forward the view that, it is more useful to look at learning behaviour in different situations in which suggests our learning is more flexible.



Read more on styles of learning here

Kolb Cycle

Kolbs favourite quotation from Confucius has become synonymous with experiential learning. He refers to: “I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand”,

According to Kolb:
“Experiential learning training ELT is important for training professionals and educators because, it provides an effective framework for the design and conduct of educational experiences, that is proven more effective than the traditional information transfer lecture style of education,”

“ELT is also a useful framework for organisational learning, helping to integrate learning with daily work and helping organisations adapt to today’s rapidly changing circumstances.”

Kolb’s model classifies students on two dimensions: concrete experience (CE) or abstract conceptualization (AC) and active experimentation (AE) or reflective observation (RO).



More information on Kolb here



More on learning styles here

Using this model, students are classified into one of four types based on how they perceive information (CE/AC) and how they learn information (AE/RO).

The most direct application of the model is to use it to ensure that teaching and training activities give full value to each stage of the process. This may mean that for the trainer or mentor, a major task is to "chase" the learner round the cycle, asking questions which encourage Reflection, Conceptualisation, and ways of testing the ideas. (The Concrete Experience itself may occur outside the training /mentoring session).

Kolb also developed a Learning Inventory (LSI) to categorize students


Honey and Mumford’s Model

In the mid 1970’s Peter Honey and Alan Mumford adapted David Kolb’s model for use with a population of middle/senior managers in business. They published their version of the model in The Manual of Learning Styles (1982)[6]

Two adaptations were made to Kolb’s experiential model.

Firstly, the stages in the cycle were renamed to accord with managerial experiences of decision making/problem solving. The Honey & Mumford stages are:


1. Having an experience
2. Reviewing the experience
3. Concluding from the experience
4. Planning the next steps.

Secondly, the styles were directly aligned to the stages in the cycle and named Activist, Reflector, Theorist and Pragmatist.

These are assumed to be acquired preferences that are adaptable, either at will or through changed circumstances, rather than being fixed personality characteristics.

A MORI survey commissioned by [The Campaign for Learning][1] in 1999 found the Honey & Mumford LSQ to be the most widely used system for assessing preferred learning approaches in the local government sector in the UK.


More on Honey and Mumford here

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