Learning styles and all that stuff…

The www is strewn with material about different learning styles, theories, and models. How do I try to make sense of all of this? For a start, I like this for an overview. It breaks down learning into:
– learning as a product
– learning as a process
– learning explained by theory

Perhaps a short definition of what some of the terms mean to me may help others come to an understanding of their own. These are pulled together from many web and book resources and you can easily find variations on these themes on the web or in books. This is not a definitive explanation, just my take on a very, very complicated field of knowledge.

Learning style – a preference/s for the way in which we chose to approach learning that are evidenced by how we respond to and use stimuli to learn. There are many instruments used to determine learning styles. For example search the www for:
– VAK (Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic)
– Kolb
– Myers Briggs
– Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences

Non-formal learning – ongoing learning through experience that often remains tacit and is closely related to context and the task in hand.

Formal learning – conscious and planned learning and can include learning through work and learning at work. Approaches such as learning activities or tasks can be used to formalize non-formal learning, that is making the tacit explicit. This form of learning is guided or facilitated.

Model – a simplified description and explanation of a complex process

Learning theories – try to explain how learning comes about. There are many ways in which they can be grouped and following broad categorises is just one such example based on the previous website.

– behaviourist (Skinner, Pavlov)
– cognitive constructivist (Piaget, Bruner)
– social constructivist (Vygotsky)
– social learning (Wenger, Bandura)
– humanist (Maslow and Rogers).

Learning strategies – ways of implementing approaches to learning that incorporate learning styles, models, theories. For example, in Ultraversity we have developed our approach drawing on social constructivist, social learning, and humanist learning theories. We have developed our own model to describe how the degree programme works that includes theories that describe learning in terms of support from a learning facilitator, social participation, and self-direction. We also try to support a wide range of learning styles and so encourage the use of media other than the written text such as diagrams, audio, images, etc.

Talking to my friend and colleague Richard Millwood has helped me get a handle on what this might mean for the busy practitioner. Richard’s model is one of simplicity and it is founded on two principles. These are a framework of expression (both internal and external) and evaluation (both internal and external)? For me this equates to offering opportunities and tools (both mental and resources) and skills (through practice and guidance) for learners too:

– think alone
– share out loud
– listen to feedback
– construct ideas and understanding with others

Expression is the what you do as a learner. Internally this is the thought process in response to some form of stimulus. Externally this might be the speaking, playing, making something, etc.

Evaluation is the feedback loop that helps you decide if you have made enough sense of something to move on or is further expression required to clear things up.

internal– does it make sense to me

external – connected with others

Take a look at Richard Millwood’s resource for some more information on this.

1 thought on “Learning styles and all that stuff…

  1. A Quinlan

    Straight forward explanations – I am looking into the concept of elearning styles has anyone any comments/experiences in this field, does anyone know of a learning questionnaire that could be used to explore the concept.


Leave a Reply to A Quinlan Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s