Learning Styles

Learning Styles

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Term2.png Learning Styles
People learn and develop in different ways and in different directions.

Learning is a process that involves perceiving and processing information. It is a process of taking in information, making judgements based on the information and acting on those judgements. Moreover, Learning is a complex neurological experience. As yet, we cannot detect why or how learning occurs or to what it can be attributed[1]but underlying, are theoretical concepts such as:

  • Behaviour: an earlier school of thought, based on the way we react and learn from circumstances when motivated
  • Structuralist: where learners are presented with an end goal and allowed to determine what has been achieved through thinking processes
  • Cognitive: recognising that people have unique thought and mental processes that affect their learning; attention, memory, language, reasoning and problem solving are key to determining the learning environment conducive to individual learning traits.[2]

A learning style, is a preferred way of perceiving and processing experiences - of interacting with the world.[3] Moreover, it is a description of consistent preferences we each of us have for the way we like to receive, process, and evaluate information.

There is an argument that learning styles can directly influence career choices, and that a given profession can attract the same learning style.[4]


  • The notion that people think, feel and experience the world in different ways through four functions of the mind (thinking, feeling, sensation and intuition) was pioneered by the Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung.[5]His ideology became integrated into the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Test, which emerged in the 1940s as a measure of cognitive style or "thinking style”. Its continued success has prompted the development of the contemporary interest in learning-style assessments.

Diagnosing Individual Learning Styles

  • Those that champion learning style assessments claim that optimal instruction requires diagnosing individual’s learning styles and tailoring instruction accordingly. Assessments of learning style typically ask people to evaluate what kind of delivery of information they prefer (e.g., words versus pictures versus speech) and what kind of mental activity they find the most engaging (e.g., analysis versus listening) although tools for assessing are diverse.

Development of the Learning Style Model

  • Given the concept that people learn in different ways from each other and therefore need different methods of learning,[6]several learning style models have been proposed since the 1970s, together with instruments devised to assess preferences within these models.

Different Learning Styles

  • David Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory (1984), which gave rise to his Learning Styles Inventory (LSI) – an assessment method used to determine an individual’s learning style. Kolb’s LSI has gone on to impact management development training with studies to determine whether statistically there are significant differences in learning styles between supervisors, middle-managers, and upper managers; whether learning style differences could mirror the nature of the work environment; whether learning style differences could also be rooted in the different educational backgrounds found within managerial ranks[7]and the practical implications for management education[8]
  • Honey and Mumford’s model (1992), an adaptation of Kolb’s, assumes acquired preferences are adaptable to that of fixed personality characteristics - this gave rise to H&M’s Learning-Styles Questionnaire (LSQ), a self-development tool, that differs from Kolb’s (LSI), by inviting individuals to complete a check list of work-related behaviours without directly asking them how they learn.
  • Learning Styles: Dunn and Dunn Model, which identifies each individual’s strengths and preferences across five categories that includes perceptual strengths (Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic Tactile - VAK).

Impact of Learning Styles

  • The learning styles view has had a notable influence within the field of education, and a thriving industry has sprung up devoted to publishing learning-styles tests and guidebooks for instructors, many organisations offering professional development workshops for educators built around the concept.[9]

Validation of Learning-Styles-Based Instruction

  • Any credible validation of learning-styles-based instruction would require a solid body of evidence from a particular type of experiment. This would provide evidence to confirm any interaction between learning style and instructional method, and therefore demonstrate optimal learning requires learners to receive instruction tailored to their specific learning-style(s).[10]

The criteria for an experiment would require:

  • That learners be divided into groups on the basis of their learning-styles, and then particpants from each group be randomly assigned to receive one of the multiple instructional methods.
  • Learners must then sit a final test that is the same for all.

Strategy for Implementation

  • If learning styles models or concepts are to be subscribed to the following strategies might be taken into consideration:
  • Analysis of the cognitive abilities of the learning group, to allow the instructor to know how learners will relate to the content of the course.
  • Defining the perquisite knowledge or skills needed for the specific learning experience, to ensure success.
  • Knowing how students interact with information to underpin the design of the learning environment and supporting materials.
  • Consider varying the presentation of materials to match different learning styles (e.g., animation, text, verbal descriptions, and visual messages) which would ensure greater potential at reaching all learners.[11]

Distance Learning and Learning Styles

  • For some learners, the unique characteristics of distance learning tools facilitate better instruction than educational tools generally used in a traditional learning environment, and with continuing technological advances in social media tools and virtual spaces, online learning is rapidly gaining ground.
Link icon.png Web Resources
Find below additional information and resources.
Link Content
Pinterest Board on Learning Styles


Check out Click4it's Pinterest Board on the Learning Styles and discover more on Learning Styles!
Rita Dunn answers questions on Learning Styles Learning Styles in Education Leadership.
Learning Styles A simple online survey designed to help you identify your preferred learning style by the Open University and BBC programming.
Impact of Learning Styles The Influence of Learning Styles on Learners in E-Learning Environments - An Empirical Study.
Enhancing student achievement


Learning styles and formative assessment strategy: enhancing student achievement in Web-based learning.


  1. VARK learning Styles http://www.vark-learn.com/english/page.asp?p=faq (29 June 2012)
  2. Bray,T. (2006) The Training Design Manual, Kogan Page: London & Philadelphia. 104
  3. McCarthy, B. & O'Neill Blackwell (2007) Hold on, You Lost Me! Use Learning Style to Create Training That Sticks", Astd Press.
  4. ibid.
  5. Jung, C.G. (1964) Psychological types :Or, the psychology of individuation, (H. Godwin Baynes, Trans.), New York: Pantheon Books.
  6. "learning styles" A Dictionary of Education. Ed. Susan Wallace. Oxford University Press, 2009. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG). 30 May 2012 http://www.oxfordreference.com/views/ENTRY.html?subview=Main&entry=t267.e549.
  7. Wells, J.G., Layne, B. H. & Allen, D. ‘Management Development Training & Learning Styles’, Public Productivity & Management Review , Vol. 14, No. 4 (Summer, 1991, 415-428), Sharpe:. Published by: M.E. Sharpe, Inc.
  8. Fadokun, J.B. & Ojedele, P.K. ‘ Exploration of the Learning Styles of Educational Executives: Implication for Management Education, delivered at the International Conference on Learning (2008,3-6 June) The University of Illinois at Chicago, USA.
  9. Determining whether these practices were supported by scientific evidence, underpinned the research project undertaken by a team of renowned professors of psychology in the USA in 2008. Their findings should be considered before implementing prescriptive learning style models for educational training. Pashler, H. McDaniel, M. Rohrer, D. Bjork, R ( Dec. 2008) ‘Learning Styles: Concepts and Evidence in Psychological Science in the Public Interest vol.9 no. 3, 103-119.
  10. Authors Pashler, McDaniel, Bjork (2008) claim that despite the enormous amount of literature on learning-styles, very few studies had even used an experimental methodology capable of testing the validity of learning-styles applied to education. They also claimed it would be an error to conclude that all possible versions of learning styles have been tested and found wanting; many had not been tested at all.
  11. Simonson, M. Smaldino, S. Albright, M. Zvacek, S. (2009, 4th ed.)Teaching and Learning at a Distance, Pearson Education, Inc.: USA.