Different Ways to Learn
GROUP WORK! It’s a popular form of instruction and it’s not going away. But it can be one of the most frustrating things about school. It can be difficult to work with people sometimes, but maybe there’s a reason for that. Consider that everyone learns and applies learning in different ways.
People tend to develop a way of learning that works for them, and each way has weaknesses and strengths. Different styles of learning were categorized in the Learning Style Inventory, developed by educational psychologist David Kolb and his colleagues. He identified four learning styles that correspond with a person’s preference for learning behaviours. Of course these aren’t the only ways that people learn, but it offers a neat system of labels that may help when you are landed with yet another group project.
Kolb’s Learning Styles
- Converger: These learners do best when they can apply what they learn in a practical setting. They like to work with “what if’s” and with things rather than people. Often these types of learners will choose to specialize in a technical subject like engineering.
- Diverger: People who draw from this learning behaviour like to see complicated scenarios from many viewpoints. They can draw from imagination, empathy, and an interest in people. These learners often head towards the humanities in careers like counselors, or sociologists.
- Assimilator: People who use this learning style are very good at creating theoretical models of problems. Like convergers, they are concerned with the practical application of a model, but they’re more interested in making sure the theory fits the facts logically. This style is more characteristic of people in mathematics, or theoretical physics.
- Accommodator: Here we see learners who prefer to learn by doing things, often by trial and error as the situation arises. They get fully involved in new experiences, and if the theory doesn’t fit, they discard it in favour of a new one. This style of learning will be seen often in people who move into sales, marketing or entrepreneurship.
If you look around the group you’re assigned with, you can probably find each kind of learner. Is there someone who loves to jump right in to a situation without a plan? Accommodator! How about the person who acts as mediator in arguments, seeing both sides of the situation? Diverger! Who else can you think of that fits into these learning styles? Sometimes people will fit into more than one, or all four. You can still identify their strongest style.
Using your knowledge of each kind of learning style, you can begin to apply it in the next group project. Perhaps the diverger will be best suited to brainstorming and taking minutes. How about assigning the accommodator to be the presenter? This is just a broad overview of the theory behind learning behaviours, but opening your mind to the idea that everyone learns in their own way, you can begin to understand how to work with others; a skill that will follow you through your entire life.
Reference: The Art of Teaching Adults: How to Become an Exceptional Instructor and Facilitator by Peter Renner, 2005.