Coursework 2: Learning Styles
Learning styles theory originated in the 1970’s and is based around the idea that people have preferences about how they like to learn. Theorists believe that each individual has a particular learning style that is best suited to them and allows them to collect and process information successfully in order to learn. The principle idea is that these learning style differ from one individual to the next and theorists argue that school teachers should incorporate these learning styles into their lessons so that student is catered for and everyone can learn effectively. Many educationalists believe that differences in learning styles are responsible for some student difficulties, for example, if a student is taught in a style they do not prefer they may not learn as successfully as those students being taught in their preferred style. David Kolb is one of the main researchers who studied learning strategies and processes and put forward his idea of experimental learning. Kolb stated that; “Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience.” (David A Kolb, 1984) Kolb’s experimental learning model draws on the ‘Lewin Cycle of Adult learning’ and proposes that there are four stages which follow on from each other to complete the learning cycle. Kolb’s model suggests that in order for learning to be effective that an individual must include the four stages; Concrete Experience, Abstract Conceptualization, Reflective Observation and Active Experimentation, in their learning process. He believed that this would result in the individual finding that they had strengths and weaknesses in particular stages and their preferred learning style derived from this. Kolb stated that there are four instrumental learning styles which follow on from the four previous stages, these are; the diverging learning style, the assimilating, the converging and the accommodating learning styles. Kolb’s theory was generally widely accepted however recent critics have found it unreliable. Two management development specialists named Peter Honey and Alan Mumford further developed Kolb’s theory and created a questionnaire designed to find out a person’s preferred learning style. The questionnaire asks a series of questions which help the individual to identify their preferred learning habits. The answers to these questions are scored and the person then falls into one of four categories which is the learning style best suited to them based on the answers they have given. Honey and Mumford put forward four main learning styles; Reflectors, theorists, pragmatists and activists, each with their own characteristics. Reflectors prefer to learn through activities which allow them to observe, think and review situations. They like to collect data and mind map. Theorists prefer to think problems through step by step using lectures, systems, case studies etc. Quite often they are perfectionists. Pragmatists enjoy applying new ideas and techniques to actual practise to test their use. They prefer learning through lab work, field work and observations rather than lectures or lengthy discussions. They are practical and like concepts which can be applied to their own jobs. Activists enjoy new things and like challenges. They prefer to learn through activities role-playing, problem solving and small group discussions. They are unlikely to prepare for their learning or to review it afterwards. This was Honey and Mumford’s interpretation of learning styles theory however other theorists have different opinions. Neil Fleming’s VAK model of learning styles is one of the most popular interpretations. Fleming developed an inventory designed to help students learn more about their individual learning preferences. Fleming’s VAK model identified three learning styles; Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic. According to this theory most people have a preferred learning style however some people may prefer to...
Kolb, D. (1984) Experimental Learning: experience as the score of learning and development
Kolb, D. (1976) The Learning Style Inventory: Technical Manual, Boston, Ma: McBer
McLeod, S.A. (2010) Kolb – Learning Styles retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/
Mumford, A. (1997) How to manage your learning environment, Peter Honey Publications
The Learning Styles Questionnaire: by Peter Honey and Alan Mumford, Maidenhead, 2001
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