Ever since Kolb proposed the Learning Cycle in 1984, the world of learning has become ever more conscious of the need to vary the ways in which content is delivered to the end user. We know that well-constructed blended learning programmes contain material to prime the learner, texts to read, demonstration, online elements, interactive parts and often tasks to take away and try out afterwards. All of these elements are important, but some are more meaningful to some people than others.
Honey and Mumford even proposed their own model of type in 1986, based upon the preferences we have when learning new things. Although not a measure of personality per se, the Learning Styles approach does seek to identify the preferences we have and how we like to learn; if each style relates to specific behaviour then surely there must be some inferences we can make when it comes to examining our own personality profiles?
Let’s consider the four ‘classic’ learning styles put forward by Honey and Mumford.
The Activist – just let me roll up my sleeves and have a go, it’ll be fine!
Perhaps the one we think of first. We all know one of these (it could be you…). Likes to rip open the flat packed furniture with carefree abandon and just crack on. Highly impulsive, you might say, keen to just get on with it without having too much preamble or instruction. ‘Do-think’.
But where does this come from in the world of Facet5?
You’ve probably already guessed it, but there is a lot here to do with the Energy factor. Remember, the higher our Energy score, the less likely we are to think about something before doing it. Particularly on the Vitality scale, we know that high scorers are enthusiastic and excitable and so will jump up quickly, ready for action. To those used to facilitating groups, we know that high Energy scorers will fill the silences and be eager to volunteer.
Let’s think about Control. Low scorers don’t tend to plan things out, are more permissive and allow things to happen; consequently they may be less likely to practice and prepare, perhaps preferring to improvise instead. There are perhaps close links to being an Activist here too. High Energy and low Control in the same profile has a frequency of 29% which is quite high.
The Reflector – could you send it to me first so I can have a read-through before the meeting please? Thanks!
Very much the opposite to the above, Reflectors value preparation, thoroughness and the chance to think about things first. Activities such as reading are often high on the list. Low Energy scorers are often much, much better at listening and spending time by themselves, so activities which allow them to consider matters in more depth are greatly appreciated. We can also associate these values with high Discipline, from the Control factor. Those high on Discipline like to ‘do things properly’ which often means applying structure, method and consistency; these qualities fit very nicely with learning that is reflective in nature.
If you attend a Facet5 accreditation, you may notice also that we suggest lower Will scores equate to being a Reflector; this takes some thinking through. Remember that Will relates to how you form opinions and decide things. If my score is low then my preference will be to decide carefully using all the data, which very much supports a reflective style of learning. It may also mean I like to seek others’ views and advice before committing, which is a similar approach that supports being a Reflector.
The Theorist – are there some books you can recommend on this subject, please?
Theorists like to dive into the detail and really understand the depth of a subject, working out the how and the why behind the what. Those preferring this approach to learning will value the background, context and enjoy finding out more about it – hence there will be a strong preference for reading and detail.
This time around consider the role of the Specialist Family Profile. Facet5’s Families are a great way to short-cut the intricacies of individual factors and draw rough comparisons between combinations of high or low scores*. The Specialist is low on all of the four main factors, indicating a preference for working alone, autonomy and having a subdued reserved style. Within a team, the Specialist will often be the person working away on their own tasks in depth, taking the time to understand every minute detail of their chosen area; this fits very closely with the style of a Theorist.
*with the exception of the Chameleon which is midrange on all four main factors.
The Pragmatist – could you give me some tools and tips that I can take away and try out now?
The fourth and final learning style is based upon the application of an idea or principle and is based much more in the practical than the theoretical. Pragmatists need good ideas, tools and techniques to apply on the job, otherwise learning is difficult to engage with.
The part of our profiles best suiting this preference is likely to be the Affection factor. Lower scores often indicate pragmatism, as per the descriptors, and so may correlate closely with the need to keep things practical. We know overall that low Affection scorers tend to be more data rational and have an eye for opportunity, so they are likely to scrutinise learning in the same way. A Pragmatist might be caught asking the question - so what? – and we might associate similar approach to those with lower Affection; they are discerning and weigh up the pros and cons of an idea.
We have reviewed how each of the four main factors could reveal something about how we prefer to learn, but what about Emotionality? This fifth factor may say something about our propensity to learn. We know that high Emotionality scores play into a person’s tendency to be self-improving and so they might be more open, or receptive to the learning in the first place. Low Emotionality scorers believe they are who they are and tend to be less concerned about the need to change; they may take a quite different approach to their learning, preferring it to be ‘on the job’ or more practical which suggests pragmatism.
Ultimately we are a mix of the four learning styles, just as we have different factor score combinations. There is no direct mapping, only suggestions as we have seen, but it is valuable to think about how we best learn and, if we are authors of learning programmes, to consider the blend we are offering to our audience…