Tip #120: Learning Styles

In the previous weeks, our discussion has centered around learning styles that are essentially based on the senses of sight, hearing, and touch, This week’s learning styles model introduces a cognitive element, the ability to think, reflect, and generate theories.

The two previous models focused on learning input, or how the learners learn. This experiential model introduces an active generative output element. The learner ultimately demonstrates his or her learning by making decisions and solving problems.

In David Kolb’s Experiential Learning Model, learning is conceived as a four-stage cycle: immediate concrete experience (CE), which provides a basis for reflective observation (RO), which can be formulated into a theory known as abstract conceptualization (AC), which can be stated through active experimentation (AE), which results in guides for creating new experiences and repetition of the cycle.

The effective learner must be:

  1. totally involved in an experience (CE);
  2. able to reflect on and observe the experience from many perspectives (RO);
  3. able to integrate personal observations into sound theories (AC); and
  4. able to use the theories to make decisions and to solve problems (AE).

Because of heredity, experiences and the demands of our present environment, each of us has developed a learning style that emphasizes some learning abilities over others.

Further experimentation with the experimental learning model has led to the identification of four dominant learning styles. They are called: the diverger, the assimilator, the converger, and the accommodator.

1. The diverger. The diverger’s greatest strength lies in viewing problems from many perspectives. Ideas can be generated in a short time and with a great deal of creative imagination. The diverger’s shortcoming, however, is one of avoiding problem-solving situations or taking action unless forced to do so.

The diverger relies on concrete experience and reflective observation. S/he learns best through exercises, discussion, guest speakers, and lectures.

2. The assimilator. The assimilator excels at creating theoretical models by taking a few facts and fashioning them into a purposeful theory. Like the diverger, the assimilator is not interested in making practical use of theories, but only in being sure theories are logical and sound. The assimilator tends to think before acting, but may fail to act at all.

The assimilator relies on reflective observation and abstract conceptualization. S/he learns best through films, research, and theory building.

3. The converger. The converger is interested in the practical application of ideas to specific problems or situations. This individual seems to be most comfortable in situations where there is a single best way of doing things. The converger’s biggest drawback is a rather narrow, single-minded approach.

The converger relies on abstract conceptualization and active experimentation. S/he learns best through writing, case studies, and application.

4. The accommodator. The accommodator likes to get things done, carry out plans, take action, and become involved in new experiences. A risk-taker, the accommodator is willing to adapt readily to any situation; theories that do not fit the facts will be thrown out. The accommodator is impatient to act, and tends to act before thinking.

The accommodator relies on active experimentation and concrete experience. S/he learns best through role playing, speaking, and simulations.

I definitely have an accommodator learning style. What is YOUR learning style?

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