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Learning Styles

It is very important to consider how you learn and how others learn when you are training your employees, clients or suppliers, when you are taking part in training yourself and when communicating with others.

Four main learning styles have been identified, which are activists, reflectors, theorists and pragmatists. Most people have more than one learning style but usually one is much stronger than the others.

Have a look at the explanations of these learning styles below. Try using them to decide the appropriate training for yourself, your employees, suppliers and clients. They can also be useful in communication, by adapting your method of communication to the other person's learning style. Using a style that suits the people you are talking to or training will increase satisfaction, whilst participating in training that matches your style will mean a greater chance of success.

Activists like to be involved in new experiences. They are open and enthusiastic about new ideas, they enjoy doing things and usually act first and consider the implications later. They like working with others and feel comfortable in the limelight.
Activists learn best when involved in new experiences, when working with others in group situations and role playing, when thrown in at the deep end with a difficult task, when there is an element of risk and when chairing meetings and leading discussion
Activists learn less when listening to long explanations or talks, when working on their own, when absorbing and understanding data and when following precise instructions.

Reflectors like to stand back and look at a situation from different perspectives. They like to listen, observe and collect data and information before coming to any decision or conclusion. They tend to be cautious and conservative and will listen to the views of others before offering their own.
Reflectors learn best when observing others, when they have time to review what has happened and think about what they have learned and when doing tasks without tight deadlines.
Reflectors learn less when acting as leader or working in group situations, when doing things with no preparation time, when they are thrown in at the deep end and when they are pressurised by tight deadlines.

Theorists are interested in ideas for their own sake. They like to assimilate new information and fit it into their theories and explanations. They tend to be perfectionists and think things through in a step by step way. They are usually detached and analytical rather than subjective or emotive in their thinking.
Theorists learn best when using their skills and knowledge in complex situations, when in structured situations with a clear purpose, when offered interesting ideas and when they have the chance to question things.
Theorists learn less when in situations which emphasise emotion and feelings, when in unstructured situations or the briefing is poor, when doing things without understanding the concepts involved and when they are with people of very different learning styles.

Pragmatists are interested in ideas to see if they work. Ideas in the abstract have little meaning for them. They like to solve problems, are practical and want to put new knowledge to use.
Pragmatists learn best when there is an obvious link between the subject and what they are doing, when they have the chance to try things out with feedback as in role playing, when shown techniques with obvious advantages and when shown a way of doing things that they can copy.
Pragmatists learn less when there is no obvious or immediate benefit, when there are no examples or guidelines to follow, when there are no apparent advantages to the learning and when the event or learning is theoretical.

Author: Liz Makin
Published: October 2007

Makin It Happen has a range of personal development online courses to purchase, created by Liz Makin, including communication, resilience, time management, stress management and coaching. Liz Makin also provides personalised business coaching, business mentoring and stress management services to business owners, directors, managers and professionals.


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