Learner Styles and the Online Classroom – A Natural Fit?
The Learning Styles Questionnaire (LSQ) was developed to assess whether personality traits translated into style of learning. The system was to:
a) ascertain whether someone is predominantly either a Pragmatist, Reflector, Activist or a Theorist;
b) use this information to develop techniques that encourage the development of a well-reounded learner.
This would seem a more sensible system of using categorisation of learning styles than many others, as it appeals to what we already know of people’s character traits, and it crucially attempts to encourage development in areas of weakness. So the ideal learner according to the LSQ would be a Pragmatic Theorist who likes to Reflect while being Active. And the ideal manager would identify all these aspects within their team.
While researching this topic – in the early 1990s – I set up a series of sessions which aimed at providing tuition for all of these traits: the Activist activity engaged in learning through competitive brainstorming and role-playing within a group; the Reflectors’ task involved individual puzzles with no time limit; Theorists’ tasks included planning, analysing and correcting others’ work; and the Pragmatists’ activity was rooted in the real world by using mimes and role-play.
Fast forward twenty years and the opportunity for appealing to the styles within the LSQ is still there:
- Activists’ tasks can still be set against a timer or against another ‘competitor’;
- Reflectors’ activities of puzzling without time constraints are even more feasible;
- Theorists can plan, analyse and correct to their heart’s content;
- and Pragmatists can be set up in virtual environments to practice as they learn much more easily nowadays.
The big question is – is it all worth it? Are the 80 questions in the LSQ an effective way of diagnosing a learning personality? The idea of setting up tasks focussing on a range of differing learner styles is appealing, but would it be worth it, given that the very nature of the LSQ makes it difficult to prove? In my experience, no-one was a pure Activist, Reflector, Theorist or Pragmatist, so I would conclude that effective learning materials would cater equally for ALL styles.
Which brings us back to the one indispensable aspect of all learning: the guide. As long as a good tutor is available to see any weaknesses in learning styles, the student can be led toward online materials that bolster these weaknesses and work toward a student who functions on all levels.
The tools are all out there now, even more so than in the old world.