Learning styles, which is different to approaches to learning, is a term used to describe the attitudes and behaviours, which determine an individual's preferred way of learning. Most people are not aware of their learning style preferences. Learning styles are usually more intrinsic, part of the learners inherent personal traits, whereas learning approaches (deep, surface or strategic approaches to learning) are more externally driven by other factors, i.e. overload, assessment method, etc. This however does not mean that learning styles cannot be modified.
Performers can easily become bored and frustrated if the coaching method is only tapping into one type of learning style, as most groups will have students with a range of learning styles preferences.
Peter Honey and Alan Mumford (1992), two British psychologists developed a very popular Learning Styles Questionnaire, which categorised people by their preferred learning style into:
Activists - those who like to take direct action. They are enthusiastic and welcome new challenges and experiences. They are less interested in what has happened in the past or in putting things into a broader context. They are primarily interested in the here and now. They like to have a go, try things out and participate. They like to be the centre of attention.
So, in summary, Activists like:
• to think on their feet
• to have short sessions
• plenty of variety
• the opportunity to initiate
• to participate and have fun
Reflectors - those who like to think about things in detail before taking action. They take a thoughtful approach. They are good listeners and prefer to adopt a low profile. They are prepared to read and re-read and will welcome the opportunity to repeat a piece of learning.
So, in summary, Reflectors like:
• to think before acting
• thorough preparation
• to research and evaluate
• to make decisions in their own time
• to listen and observe
Theorists - those who like to see how things fit into an overall pattern. They are logical and objective systems people who prefer a sequential approach to problems. They are analytical, pay great attention to detail and tend to be perfectionists.
So, in summary, Theorists like:
• concepts and models
• to see the overall picture
• to feel intellectually stretched
• structure and clear objectives
• logical presentation of ideas
Pragmatists - those who like to see how things work in practice. They enjoy experimenting with new ideas. They are practical, down to earth and like to solve problems. They appreciate the opportunity to try out what they have learned/are learning.
So, in summary, Pragmatists like:
• to see the relevance of their work
• to gain practical advantage from learning
• credible role models
• proven techniques
• activities to be real
Coaches are learners too! - a coach's own preferred learning style will effect their behaviour as a coach. Understanding how our own preference effects our coaching behaviours is essential if we are to ensure our teaching can be modified in response to the learners needs.