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What Are Learner Styles? Don’t We All Learn In The Same Way?

As there are differences in human psychological make up, it is not unreasonable to suggest that these differences are carried over into other areas of our life – such as how we learn. The theory is that if our ‘learner style’ is identified and catered for, we will be able to learn more effectively.

What are learner styles?

Is it practical to cater for learner styles in e-learning?

So the question is, how do you categorise learners and identify the appropriate style for them? There are a number of ways of ‘pigeon-holing’ people – so which aspects do you cater for in your diagnosis of learner style? I have had experience of using two such techniques, and theoretically they seem to be equally valid.

1 Neurolinguistic programming – VAK

The NLP Visual, Audio, or Kinaesthetic (VAK) system has become quite famous since I first met it in 1993. The premise is that you are a Visual, Audio, or Kinaesthetic learner – meaning that you learn best through visual input like slides and handouts, by listening to lectures and audio files, or by experiencing and doing, for example conducting scientific experiments and practical projects. Once you have found your designated style, you know how you can best experience education, using specific VAK input. You can read more about this system here http://www.denisfleming.com/eft-nlp.html.

2 Honey & Mumford’s Learning Styles Questionnaire – LSQ

The LSQ system appeals more to the character traits that we most typically assign to people; we tend to describe people as outgoing, introverted, thinkers or practical – in natural conversation more than we call them visual or auditory. The LSQ describes people as Pragmatists, Reflectors, Activists or Theorists – Pragmatists like to learn with an eye on practical applications; Reflectors like to consider things carefully in their own time and like tasks that they can just get on with alone; Activists like excitement and groupwork, and an element of competition; and Theorists like to develop a holistic view of their learning, using careful planning. Instead of pandering to these styles, the point of the LSQ system is to develop the areas which do not come naturally to the student, with the aim of developing a well-rounded learner who can interact in a number of ways. More information about this system can be found at www.peterhoney.com/content/LearningStylesQuestionnaire.html

You may think that the opportunities provided by an e-learning environment would make it easier to devise learning systems that cater for a specific learning style – or it might be that the very nature of learning from a desk makes it impossible to cater for all styles.

In the next post I will look into how just one of these systems, the Learning Styles Questionnaire, might work within the e-learning context.

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