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Learning Styles

Page history last edited by Khalid Ait-Kass 14 years, 1 month ago

John James

Understanding Different Learning Styles

What is the best way to learn?

The best way for a person to learn depends on the person, of course. It is well know that people have different leaning styles that work best for them. The best approach for an instructor to take is to address a variety of learning styles with their teaching plan. It is also helpful to encourage students to understand their preferred leaning style. By the time students reach the college level it is often assumed that they have figured out the best and most productive way to study to retain information. Of course, this is not a correct assumption. Teachers should make students aware of the various learning styles and encourage them to consider their preferred style as they complete their studies.

Providing the right environment conducive to learning

The classroom environment can also have a big effect on the amount of learning that occurs. Here again, people are different and have different environmental preferences. Nevertheless, understand what effects the learning process is important to know. Some of the common learning styles and environmental factors that should be considered when attempting to create the best learning conditions are listed below.

(This following information was adapted from: Moore, Carol. (1992). Learning Styles - Classroom Adaptation<based primarily on Carbo Learning Styles>.

Learning Styles


Structure of Lessons

Most students learn best when there is a logical sequential, delineated lesson that provides the objective and systematic steps to do the assignment. This type of student benefits from the use of rubrics so that they can better follow lectures and assignments. However, some students do not like much structure and appreciate being given choices and allowed to be creative.


Some students benefit greatly from group activities and other do not. For those who are peer learners, pair them with another student when possible. For those who are self learners, do not force them into a group/peer-learning situation all the time. Cooperative learning is an important learning tool but some students are more introverted than others and may have difficulty participating in group activities.


Some students learn best by listening. Auditory learners do well with lecture, class discussions, etc. While lecture is considered the least effective teaching method, some students learn best by simply listening. These students may also be more sensitive to outside noises.


Visual learners benefit from a variety of ocular stimulation. One example would be the use of colors. These students like images and written information. They like to be able to read instructions or the text on their own to increase their understanding. When studying it is helpful for these student to use different color highlighters or pens as they are reading and taking notes. These students may also be more sensitive to visual distractions.


Most people learn best with hands-on activities, but some gain a lot more from it than others. Some students really increase their learn potential when they are give they opportunity to do something by themselves Especially in a science classroom there should be plenty of opportunities to learn by doing.


Environmental Factors



Formal vs. Informal

A formal setting would be the traditional desk and chair or possibly a table. An informal setting would be the floor, a couch, a beanbag, etc. Every student's brain will not function the same in the same postural position. So when you see a student slouching in a traditional desk or chair, it may simply mean that they would learn better in more of a informal setting.

Noise vs. Quiet

Some students find sound distracting and some find it calming. It may be beneficial to have several study areas established. One where the noise level is kept to a minimum and one where some background noise is present.


Room temperature also plays a key role in learning. If a student is too cold or too hot, they will have more of a hard time concentrating on what their learning task is. It is recommended that the classroom temperature be cool if possible. This way those who do not like being cold can simply wear another layer of clothing and be comfortable.

Bright vs. Dim

Everybody's eyes react differently to light. Some students may need to sit by a bright reading lamp while others may get a headache when too much light is present. A light level that all students find comfortable should be sought.


Some people need to have continuous movement as they are studying, such as tapping there fingers or foot on the floor, fooling with their hair, using a stress ball, or chewing gum. This is absolutely natural but if they are not alone studying, make sure they do not distract others.


The human body is built to move and it does particularly like to sit still for long periods of time. Have students to stand, stretch, and take short breaks as needed during studying. It is good to study in 20-30 minute increments with a brief break between each block of time. Research has shown that it only takes 30 seconds to rest and recharge the brain.



Khalid Ait-Kass,

Background research on learning styles:

The purpose of learning styles analysis is to assess the performance of student.  The teacher tends to give instructions to students based on their own individual learning style.

Why should teachers focus on learning styles? 

  1. Learning style will help students learn their topics effectively.
  2. Teachers should be careful with their teaching style not to affect their students learning style.
  3. Different social, cultural and even religious differences between students could affect their learning ability, style, and performance.


In the first day of school , teachers do activities to  ask students about their background, and their short terms and long terms goals in order to develop a better understanding of the students interest level in a specific subject matter. This activity helps teachers determine what students wish to know and how all they are going to learn in classrooms is relevant to real skill of life.

Learning styles: Studies and many researches done on individual differences indicate that people have different styles of thinking and different ways of processing information. The word style is used in common language to describe differences between people.  Learning about a subject matter will depend on the individual style, qualities, and personality of the student.

The idea of how students learn about a topic is to investigate the cognition skills, motivation, and perception skills of the students. Among other factors of dealing with the importance of learning styles is to determine what technique to use for those students who respond to verbal instructions or those who needs visual aids to better understand the instructions.

Strategies: Learning styles cannot easily be changed. Teachers need to develop a strategy that will fit with most if not all students learning style. This strategy should include developing goals, creating good instructional methods for problem solving, assessing performance. Teachers should have self awareness (meta-cognition) and always reflect on their teaching styles, by employing various assessment or testing methods, activities. The aim is to implement a strategy that will help the students to have an effective learning style.

Thoughts and comments on how we incorporate learning style into my teaching

In the first lesson of unit one, I decided to test my students learning style by addressing the scientific method.

I focused on the learning styles of my students used to find answers to questions about the world around us. How they use educated guess to form hypothesis, and what observations they make to identify the problem. What procedure they need to develop to create an experiment, and how will they perform it? And how will my students analyze the data and communicate the results.


Description of learning styles instruments used in my class:




I followed the Gregorc Style Delineator

“The Gregorc Style Delineator is based on the idea that individuals learn through concrete experience and abstraction in either a random or sequential way.  This leads four styles of learning

·         Concrete- sequential (CR) learners that that favor a step-by-step- orderly approach to organize sensory information

·         Concrete- random (CR) learners who learn mostly by trial-and error.  They are also intuitive and independent.

·         Abstract - sequential (AS) learners are strongly analytic and logical and favor verbal form of instruction.

·         Abstract – random (AR) learners who prefer an unstructured environment and learner holistically.  They show strong visual preference toward instruction and information input. “

 (Gregorc, 1982).

More update on learning styles by khalid Ait-Kass.

Since the wiki experience, I went to my classroom, and tried to see under what gategory did my students fit in, and I noticed that the majority belonged to the visual learners, I looked closely to their study habits and most of these students preferred to take notes and make lists of things,they use highlights, and underlines definitions and concepts, and seem to respond well, and understand better when I draw graphs on the board. I started to caterert o the needs of these students, but I also took into consideration my Kinesthetic learners, and especially, those of tactile kinesthetic learners.; for example, I designed an activity ob building molecules of  compounds by using molecule models, and I relate to these students abstract theories with practical experiences.As for my Auditory learners, I organize from time to time class discussions and debates, and also I use the word association as method to have them remember facts about the content. I did get interesting results and seem to reach most of my students with these types of learning activities that I incorporate in my lesson plans. 


Tiering-- Multiple Intelligences-- Learning Styles-- Homework Options 



“Organismic” view

The mind acquires knowledge by making sense of the world.  We assess to see if the individual is applying existing structures to new experiences.

Researched by Khalid Ait-Kass.








The concept of learning styles is wide open to a multitude of different interpretations. The diversity in view of the different ways that learners respond to stimuli has been a subject of intense research at least from the early 1900 when Carl Jung began to consider divergent personality patterns. There are a number of different ways of classifying learning styles. Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences (which we consider on another page) is one of the more widely accepted recent learning style classifications. Other major learning style classifiers that should be considered are:



Visual, Auditory, Read/Write and Kinesthetic



This is not in and of itself a learning style. It is a method by which preferences for learning styles can be assertained.

Fleming and Mills (1992) determined four main categories that fit with the styles of both students and teachers. Some overlap between the categories has been seen.


The four categories (below) are defined by www.vark-learn.com


Visual (V):

Visual Learners

Making up about 65% of the population, visual learners absorb and recall information best by seeing. Some of their primary characteristics include:

  • Love books, magazines, and other reading materials
  • Relate best to written information, notes, diagrams, maps, graphs, flashcards, highlighters, charts, pictures computers.
  • Like to have pen and paper handy
  • Enjoy learning through visually appealing materials
  • Feel frustrated and restless when unable to take notes.
  • May have exceptional "photographic memories"
  • Can remember where information was located on a page
  • Need a quiet place to study
  • Benefit from recopying or making their own notes, even from printed information
  • Have trouble following long lectures
  • Tend to be good at spelling
  • Benefit from field trips where observation skills can be used
  • Tend to be detail oriented
  • Are usually organized and tidy
  • Often ask for verbal instructions to be repeated
  • Benefit from previewing reading material.
  • Skilled at making graphs, charts or other visual displays
  • Write down directions or draw a map
  • Need to see the instructor's facial expressions and body language
  • Concentrate better with clear line of sight to blackboard or visual aids
  • Remember how people looked and dressed in the past




Aural / Auditory (A):

This perceptual mode describes a preference for information that is "heard or spoken." Students with this modality report that they learn best from lectures, tutorials, tapes, group discussion, email, using mobile phones, speaking, web chat and talking things through. It includes talking out loud as well as talking to yourself. Often people with this prefernce want to sort things out by speaking, rather than sorting things out and then speaking.

Read / Write (R):

This preference is for information displayed as words. Not surprisingly, many academics have a strong preference for this modality. This preference emphasises text-based input and output - reading and writing in all its forms. People who prefer this modality are often addicted to PowerPoint, the Internet, lists, filofaxes, dictionaries, thesauri,quotations and words, words, words...

Kinesthetic (K):

By definition, this modality refers to the "perceptual preference related to the use of experience and practice (simulated or real)." Although such an experience may invoke other modalities, the key is that people who prefer this mode are connected to reality, "either through concrete personal experiences, examples, practice or simulation" [See Fleming & Mills, 1992, pp. 140-141]. It includes demonstrations, simulations, videos and movies of "real" things, as well as case studies, practice and applications.


Kinesthetic learners are the ones we may dismiss (or at last categorize) as ADHD. They may have trouble sitting still, they may be more active and want to touch things and move their bodies. That said, those people who work with true ADHD students need to be especially mindful of learning styles.



Learning Strategies for each of these four learning styles:


Auditory Learners:

  • Join a study group to help you in learning course material.
  • When studying on your own, try to make it a habbit to read your notes out loud.
  • Tape record your lectures. So if their is a confusing part in the lecture you can go to that part on the tape and re-hear it until it is clearly understood.
  • Create audio tapes by reading out your notes or texts into a tape recorder. Before an exam listen to these tapes as much as possible.
  • When learning mathematical or technical information read the new information out loud.
  • When solving a mathematical problem, state the steps required to solve this problem out loud. This way you guarantee that the sequence of steps needed to solve this certain type of problem will not be easily forgotten.


Visual Learners:

  • Make flashcards using symbols and pictures of key information that needs to be memorized. Limit the amount of information you present on each card so that it becomes easier for you to create a mental picture of each card.
  • Mark the margins of your textbooks or notes with symbols, diagrams, and key words to make the recollection of data easy.
  • Use graphic organizers when learning mathematical or tchnical information.
  • When solving a mathimatical problem, use boxes to arrange your sequence of steps.
  • Use graph paper when making charts and diagrams that show key concepts.
  • Use the computer in organizing the information you need to study. Word processors in creating, tables, charts, and diagrams. Spreadsheets and database software may also be useful in organizing material.
  • Try to always translate words and phrases into symbols, pictures, and diagrams.


Kinesthetic Learners:

  • Try to sit near the front of the class and take notes as much as possible.
  • When studying, walk around and read the information out loud.
  • Try to make your learning tangible. (make a model that illustrates a key concept)
  • Spend extra time in a location related to the key concept being taught. (the lab when setting up an experiment, a museum,...etc.)
  • Make flascards using words, symbols and pictures of key information that needs to be memorized. Limit the amount of information you present on each card so that it becomes easier for you to create a mental picture of each card.
  • Use a chalkboard, whiteboard, or any large surface to review material when studying.
  • Make use of the computer to reinforce learning through the sense of touch.
  • Use audio tapes of the course information and listen to them whenever possible.


Read/Write Learners:

  • Write out sentences and phrases that summarize key information.
  • Make flashcards using words and phrases that need to be studied. Use highlighter pens to color different concepts clearly. Limit the amount of information you present on each card.
  • When learning information that is presented on diagrams or charts, write explanations of the interpreted information.
  • When learning mathematical or technical information, write out in sentences and phrases the key ideas that you understand.
  • When solving mathematical problems, write out the sequence of the steps used to solve the problem so that it is easy to recall such sequence later on.
  • Copy key information on the computer. Print them out for visual review.
  • Before an exam make yourself visual notes and place in locations you access regularly. Post-its are very useful for this strategy.



About the Test

  • VARK questionnaire of 16 questions can be used to determine the preference people have for both taking in, and putting out information as it relates to a learning context. Only 16 questions are asked, as it is thought that too many questions mean that the person being tested does not take the test seriously enough.
  • The test is available in many different formats (for younger people as well as adults), and in a wide range of languages.


About the Results

  • The results produced from answers given in the questionnaire reveal if the learner is of a Visual, Aural, Read/Write or Kinesthetic type.
  • Test takers may be Mulitmodal (MM). They may prefer many modes almost equally. These people may be slower to take in and give out information, but may end up having a deeper understanding of the material.


Online test based on the VARK model.




Two additional online learning style evaluaions to help comprehend one's learning style.




In a hurry and pressed for time? Find out your learning style in 2 minutes below!



Performance Learning Systems offers an online help|Kaleidoscope to help determine ones own learning styles, ones organizational styles and to help give an indication of ones personality style. Access requires a login, which can be acquired from PLS.

The Kaleidoscope uses the following learning styles, which are close to the VARK model.

  • Visual: Which here includes reading and writing.
  • Auditory.
  • Kinesthetic: Which refers to a person who learns best when being able to move and use large muscles.
  • Tactual: Which refers to a person who best learns when, being able to feel using small motor muscles, and through personal relationships.

Per learning style the Kaleidoscope offers a breakdown of a typical educator’s needs and behaviors, values, motivations, curricular preferences, most likely classroom management and approach to disciple.

The Kaleidoscope adds organizational styles to the mix, which refer to the brain’s organizational preferences. First inventoried by Anthony Gregorc. It combine the way people tend to perceive the world - either concretely or abstractly- with the way a person tends to organize things – either sequentially or randomly (global) -. Her are the four possible combinations.

  • Abstract Sequential: A person who, prefers to work with symbols, words, numbers, and abstractions and with step-by-step, orderly, logical information.
  • Abstract Global: A person who, prefers to work with symbols, words, numbers, and abstractions and with the "big picture," large chunks, and intuitive leaps.
  • Concrete Sequential: A person who, prefers to work with real objects, sounds, colors, and experiences and with step-by-step, orderly, logical information.
  • Concrete Global: A person who, prefers to work with real objects, sounds, colors, and experiences and with the "big picture," large chunks, and intuitive leaps.

The personality styles recognized in the Kaleidoscopes are the four Keirsey-Bates temperament Styles. A more restricted model than the Myer-Briggs indicator covered later in this wiki.

  • Intuitive Feelers: 
Who value integrity, relationships, and personal and emotional content issues.
  • Intuitive Thinkers: 
Who value competence, rational reasoning, and intellectual complexities
  • Sensing Judgers: 
Who value authority, organization, predictability, and usefulness.
  • Sensing Perceivers: 
Who value action, excitement, style, competition, and immediate responses.

Per personality style the Kaleidoscope gives the same type of educator-analysis as offered for the learning styles.


The learning style pyramid model

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a personality style indicator, an instrument created by Isabel Myers Briggs and her mother Katherine Briggs to help make Jung's theory about how seemingly random behavior choices are actually individually consistent and based upon the way that individuals prefer to use their perceptions and judgement. There are 16 different types which are based upon any combination of a preference for each of the following pairs:

  • Extroversion (E) / Introversion (I)
  • Sensing (S) / Intuition (N)
  • Thinking (T) / Feeling (F)
  • Judging (J) / Perceiving (P)


The Basic Model

2 Kinds of Mental Processes
2 Kinds of Mental Orientations
“Perceiving” Mental Process
Sensing vs. Intuition
(2nd letter)
Favored Energy Source
Introversion vs. Extraversion
(1st letter)
“Judging” Mental Process
Thinking vs. Feeling
(3rd letter)
Outside World Orientation
Judging vs. Perceiving
(4th letter)
The 16 personality types are explained in detail in the following link:
Online test based on Jung - Myers-Briggs personality approach provides personality type description.

[http://[www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/JTypes2.asp]|Jung-Myers personality test]





How to apply the theory to the classroom

There is not a whole lot out there about how to apply Myers Briggs to specific lessons, what is emphasized is the need for a variety of approaches so that students of every type can have lessons which challenge them and lessons which suit them. You will never be able to make a lesson to suit all types of students at the same time. I found the following recommendations from a good general guideline for how to incorporate some of this into a lesson plan.

Extraverts work best if they can:

  • interact in small groups
  • talk about their ideas to think them through

Introverts work best if they can:

  • read lessons before or write them out before discussion
  • have an opportunity to reflect and think before responding

Sensors work best if they can:

  • use practical applications
  • view films, videos, audio visuals; have hands-on exercises

Intuitives work best if they can:

  • see global patterns, possibilities, big picture
  • use their imaginations and create new ideas

Thinkers work best when they can:

  • analyze problems logically
  • make fair and objective criteria
Feelers work best if they can:
  • find work that is personally meaningful
  • work in a friendly work environment
Judgers work best if they can:
  • work in a predicable environment
  • bring things to closure; make decisions

Perceivers work best if they can:

  • work in flexible and changing environments
  • allow for spontaneity




Keirsey Tests


Information from www.keirsey.com give a test that is similar to the Meyers-Briggs test. They define different temperament and character types. There is also a short list of careers aligned with the character types. Architect, for example, is aligned with rational, teacher is aligned with idealist, etc. Teachers can use these to plan instructional strategies.

The Keirsey Temperament Questionnaire:
  • Students (and instructors) can complete this questionnaire (the Keirsey Temperament Sorter II) on line and have it scored immediately. Bar graph scores indicate whether they are more attentive or expressive, introspective or observant, tender or tough, and probing or scheduled.


The Keirsey Character Questionnaire:
  • Students (and instructors) can complete this questionnaire (the Keirsey Character Sorter II) on line and have it scored immediately. Bar graph scores indicate the degrees to which they are idealist, rational, guardian, and artisan. Part of the questionnaire reveals temperament tendencies -- reserved, expressive, prober, scheduler.


The Dunn and Dunn Learning Style Model


This model has 5 strands of 21 elements that affect each individual's learning. Some of these elements are biological and others are developmental. The interesting thing about the philosophy of this model is that they state that style changes over time.

A summary of these elements is provided below (Dunn, 2000).

  1. Environmental. The environmental strand refers to these elements: lighting, sound, temperature, and seating arrangement. For example, some people need to study in a cool and quiet room, and others cannot focus unless they have music playing and it is warm (sound and temperature elements).
  2. Emotional. This strand includes the following elements: motivation, persistence, responsibility, and structure. For example, some people must complete a project before they start a new one, and others work best on multiple tasks at the same time (persistence element).
  3. Sociological. The sociological strand represents elements related to how individuals learn in association with other people: (a) alone or with peers, (b) an authoritative adult or with a collegial colleague, and (c) learning in a variety of ways or in routine patterns. For example, a number of people need to work alone when tackling a new and difficult subject, while others learn best when working with colleagues (learning alone or with peers element).
  4. Physiological. The elements in this strand are: perceptual (auditory, visual, tactile, and kinesthetic), time-of-day energy levels, intake (eating or not while studying) and mobility (sitting still or moving around). For example, many people refer to themselves as night owls or early birds because they function best at night or in the morning (time-of-day element).
  5. Psychological. The elements in this strand correspond to the following types of psychological processing: hemispheric, impulsive or reflective, and global versus analytic. The hemispheric element refers to left and right brain processing modes; the impulsive versus reflective style describes how some people leap before thinking and others scrutinize the situation before moving an inch. Global and analytic elements are unique in comparison to other elements because these two elements are made up of distinct clusters of elements found in the other four strands. The elements that determine global and analytic processing styles are: sound, light, seating arrangement, persistence, sociological preference, and intake. Global and analytic processing styles will be discussed in detail in the next section.

Following are some tips based on the Dunn & Dunn learning styles Model, for raising awareness on how learning styles have a major factor on our students learning process. I have focused on a few math specific skills.


  • When dealing with numbers try to use counters, blocks, chips, cuisenaire rods,...etc when appropriate.
  • For more advanced students, use number lines, charts, computers,...etc.
  • When working with early geometry concepts, points, lines, angles, and planes, have your students use their hands and arms to illustrate the ideas.
  • When working on measurements, use rulers, tape measures, protractors, timers,...etc.
  • When teaching statistics use newspaper graphics, newspapers, dice, coins, cards, colored cubes,...etc.
  • Use story books to teach math concepts like, time, money and problem solving.
  • Encourage your students to create their own word problems in context with the material you are studying.
  • Using cards and board games, allow your students the chance to create their own games.



Applications of the DUNN MODEL to The Classroom


Apart from administering individual Learning Style Instruments for each student and analyzing the results to find strengths and preferences, teachers can attend to individual differences by being attentive to individual stimuli and elements that influence learning. One way to do this is to focus on a particular stimuli or element of the model. Consider the environmental stimuli. Attention to the classroom learning environment may include changing the physical layout of the room, allowing for seating changes with regard to light from natural or bright light (near windows), or to softly lit areas. Temperature differences may also be addressed with careful seat arrangements or placement of fans. Some classrooms lend themselves to greater flexibility than others, allowing space for some assignments to be completed at large tables or on the floor. Temperature preferences can be noted when some students are often seen wearing their coats or layered sweaters indoors on warm days, while others have a preference for cooler temperatures. Attention to some of these environmental details can be carried over to home study environments as well. Individual student-teacher discussions may reveal environmental preferences, such as those for studying while reclining or while music is softly playing, that may be more easily accommodated at home. Sociological elements can be addressed in how teachers structure learning activities. Do certain students always prefer to work by themselves, in pairs, in small groups, or only with an adult or authority figure? Instructors may vary the way they require students to work together, noting the number of opportunities in a given week or month that students are able to work in the various social arrangements. Teachers may also encourage students to study or prepare assignments outside of class using particular social arrangements and discussing the results following assignments or assessments.


Some instructional strategies can easily be adapted to include elements of the Dunn Model. For example, having students move around the room at teacher-directed time intervals in order to complete practical questions for laboratory exercises or make observations can be great for students requiring much mobility or kinesthetic activity. Allowing students to use blackboards, bulletin boards, and large floor space to demonstrate concepts or team teaching tasks can be enriching. Varying assessment strategies and employing peer review, portfolios, and interviewing, or similar techniques can tap learning strengths. Assignments and activities can be structured to include some flexibility so students can utilize perceptual strengths (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, or tactile).


Psychological elements can be addressed by considering the manner in which lessons are initiated. Sequential and analytic teachers often prefer to get to the details of a lesson while global students may need a hook or meaningful overview before focusing on the details. The planned use of stories, cartoons, anecdotes, and diagrams can help global students see how details fit into a larger schema. Biographical anecdotes of historical figures can put a personal face on otherwise impersonal content. Varying assignments to accommodate student preferences, sometimes with increasing structure and guidance, sometimes with increasing freedom and open ended outcomes may attend to psychological preferences. Students need to spend time working with the finer details and the larger interdisciplinary scope of concepts. (Caine & Caine, 1991)



Caine, R., & Caine G. (1991). Making connections: Teaching and the human brain. New York: Addison-Wesley.


Kolb's Learning Style Inventory


David Kolb developed four learning styles, which support his model for the adult learning process called The Experiential Learning Theory (ELT). This ELT model of learning is a constructavist and multilayered approach to learning that echos many educational and learner scholars such as John Dewy, Jean Piage, and Carl Jung. The Cycle of Experiential Learning consists of four stages: Concrete Experience, **Observation and Reflections, ****Formation of Abstract Concepts and Generalization, and Testing Applications of Concepts in New Situations. According to Kolb, effective learning incorporates each of the four areas. However, learners are predispositioned towards certain learning approaches or styles.


Adams, Kayes and Kolb (2005) state that team work is becoming more and more required in the workforce. However, many workers do not enjoy such team work. They showed that the negative factors can be eliminated by focusing on the learning of the group. Members of the team need to develop an 'executive consciousness' so that the whole team is working together to come to a decision. The ELT method provides a way of understanding and managing the ways that teams learn from their experience.


The Four Learning Style:

  1. Converger;
  2. Diverger;
  3. Assimilator;
  4. Accomodator


Kolb and Fry on Learning Styles (Tennant 1986)

Learning style


Learning characteristic



Abstract conceptualization + active experimentation

· strong in practical application of ideas

· can focus on hypo-deductive reasoning on specific problems

· unemotional

· has narrow interests



Concrete experience + reflective observation

· strong in imaginative ability

· good at generating ideas and seeing things from different perspectives

· interested in people

· broad cultural interests



Abstract conceptualization + reflective observation

· strong ability to create theoretical models

excels in inductive reasoning

· concerned with abstract concepts rather than people



Concrete experience + active experimentation

· greatest strength is doing things

· more of a risk taker

· performs well when required to react to immediate circumstances

· solves problems intuitively



The Kolb Learning Style Inventory (PDF)



  • concrete active:
    • You are primarily a "hands-on" learner. You tend to rely on intuition rather than logic. You like to rely on other people's analysis rather than your own. You enjoy applying your learning in real life situations.
  • concrete reflective:
    • You like to look at things from many points of view. You would rather watch rather than take action. You like to gather information and create many categories for things. You like using your imagination in problem solving. You are very sensitive to feelings when learning.
  • abstract active:
    • You like solving problems and finding practical solutions and uses for your learning. You shy away from social and interpersonal issues and prefer technical tasks.
  • abstract reflective:
    • You are concise and logical. Abstract ideas and concepts are more important to you than people issues. Practicality is less important to you than a good logical explanation.

(adapted from http://www.algonquinc.on.ca/edtech/gened/styles.html)


Experience Based Learning Systems ie Alice and David Kolb's homepage


david a. kolb on experiential learning






Anthony Gregorc

  • developed his own theory of learning styles based on the work of Kolb. Gregorc's theory includes four basic areas, similar to Kolb's above: top-down or holistic learners (general to specific) become random, bottom-up or serialist learners (specific to general) become sequential learners. Kolb's categories of abstract and concrete are retained by Gregorc. The following is an asssessment of a person's learning style based on Gregorc's work. It is adapted from http://www.thelearningweb.net/personalthink.html


Personal Thinking Styles

Not only do we have our preferred learning and working styles, we also have our favorite thinking styles. Professor Anthony Gregorc, professor of curriculum and instruction at the University of Connecticut, has divided these into four groups:

  • Concrete Sequential
  • Concrete Random
  • Abstract Random
  • Abstract Sequential

Concrete Sequential Thinkers tend to be based in reality. They process information in an ordered, sequential, linear way.

Concrete Random Thinkers are experimenters.

Abstract Random Thinkers organize information through reflection, and thrive in unstructured, people-oriented environments.

Abstract Sequential Thinkers love the world of theory and abstract thought.

We stress that no thinking style is superior; they are simply different. Each style can be effective in its own way. The important thing is that you become more aware of which thinking style works best for you. Once you know your own style you can then analyze the others. This will help you understand other people better. It will make you more flexible. And perhaps we can all pick up tips from each other on how to be more effective.

To check your personal thinking style:

1. Read each set of words and mark the two within each set that best describe you.

1 a. Imaginative 9 a. Reader
  b. Investigative   b. People person
  c. Realistic   c. Problem Solver
  d. Analytical   d. Planner
2 a. Organized 10 a. Memorize
  b. Adaptable   b. Associate
  c. Critical   c. Think-through
  d. Inquisitive   d. Originate
3 a. Debating 11 a. Changer
  b. Getting to the point   b. Judger
  c. Creating   c. Spontaneous
  d. Relating   d. Wants direction
4 a. Personal 12 a. Communicating
  b. Practical   b. Discovering
  c. Academic   c. Cautious
  d. Adventurous   d. Reasoning
5 a. Precise 13 a. Challenging
  b. Flexible   b. Practicing
  c. Systematic   c. Caring
  d. Inventive   d. Examining
6 a. Sharing 14 a. Completing work
  b. Orderly   b. Seeing possibilities
  c. Sensible   c. Gaining ideas
  d. Independent   d. Interpreting
7 a. Competitive 15 a. Doing
  b. Perfectionist   b. Feeling
  c. Cooperative   c. Thinking
  d. Logical   d. Experimenting
8 a. Intellectual    
  b. Sensitive    
  c. Hardworking    
  d. Risk-taking    

2. After completing the test above:

In the columns below, circle the letters of the words you chose for each number. Add your totals for columns I, II, III, and IV. Multiply the total of each column by 4. The box with the highest number describes how you most often process information

1. C D A B
2. A C B D
3. B A D C
4. B C A D
5. A C B D
6. B C A D
7. B D C A
8. C A B D
9. D A B C
10. A C B D
11. D B C A
12. C D A B
13. B D C A
14. A C D B
15. A C B D
Total ____ ____ ____ ____
I _ x 4 =   Concrete Sequential (CS)
II _ x 4 =   Abstract Sequential (AS)
III _ x 4 =   Abstract Random (AR)
IV _ x 4 =   Concrete Random (CR)


3. Graph your results.

To graph your preferred thinking style, just place a dot on the number that corresponds to your score in each of the classifications and link the dots shown in the miniature diagram.

Graph Your Results #2

Our thanks to John LeTellier and Dell Publishing, 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10103, for permission to reprint this test from Quantum Learning, by Bobbi DePorter. The test is based on research by Professor Anthony Gregorc.




Lesson Ideas

A kinesthetic lesson plan about the cell.Community Cell.doc

A description of a computer lesson for grade 6 using Kolb's theory, paying attention to types as groups are formed.

Several lesson plans utilizing the cycle of experiential learning can be found on Leslie Wilson's site, these are all high school lessons: ecology, band, math, biology and english.


Addressing Learning Styles in the Humanities

Ideas on addressing learning styles using technology in the humanities classroom


Integrating Learning Styles in an ESL classroom

Authors makes use of what they call the 4MAT system, which makes sure lessons are geared to each of the 4 Learning Types, and "left" and "right" activities within each. Offers a number of practical examples in ESL.



From a study done in a university by science professors; interesting to see that not just K-12 instructors interested in learning styles. First two sentences of the abstract follow: In a longitudinal study at North Carolina State University, a cohort of students took five chemical engineering courses taught by the same instructor in five consecutive semesters. The course instruction made extensive use of active and cooperative learning and a variety of other techniques designed to address a broad spectrum of learning styles. http://www4.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/public/Papers/long5.html Summarize key conclusions regarding lesson planning below (bold emphasis mine):


  • Preparation and communication of multilevel instructional objectives
  • Inductive presentation of course material with a heavy emphasis on real-world applications as opposed to abstract mathematical formulations
  • Extensive active learning supplementing traditional lecturing in class
  • Formal cooperative learning in out-of-class assignments
  • Routine assignment of a wide variety of closed-ended and open-ended problems
  • Challenging tests designed to be consistent with instructional objectives, in-class exercises, and homework assignments, with comprehension maximized and problem-solving speed minimized as factors in test performance
  • Criterion-referenced course grading (no curving)



What is Your Learning Style? Everyone learns differently for a reason.


Have you ever noticed how younger generations seem to adapt to technology more easily than older ones? There's more to it than age. The ability to learn and use technology is in direct relationship to the generation in which we were born. Most young people today have never experienced life without a computer. It's important to recognize these generational differences because they can divide us within our workplace.

One of the more frustrating aspects of teaching—as well as learning—is getting a better understanding of potential problems concerning "Why don't I get it?" This month I want to focus on how generational diversity affects not only how we learn but also how we teach.

What is Generational Diversity?

The generation we were born into can have a direct effect on our ability to learn. It also affects how we teach and interact with colleagues when using and adopting technology. Knowing more about generational diversity will give you a better understanding of your colleagues and their ability to learn, teach and adopt technology.

Let's take a closer look at the four recognized generational groups. You should identify not only your own learning style but also those of your peers. We can then rethink our learning space with improved understanding of the generations, generational approaches, communication, expectations, engagements and collaboration techniques.

The Traditionalist

The Traditionalist is someone who comes from the World War II generation. These people were born before 1946. Traditionalists prefer the classroom instructional method. They like to learn in an orderly manner and write methods down in a sequence of logical, repeatable steps. This approach sometimes is referred to as risk-free learning: the learner is passive, and the instructor provides a chalk-and-talk lesson. Traditionalists typically dislike technology. These dedicated individuals are practical, committed to teamwork and willing to make sacrifices.

The Boomers

The Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964. These people enjoy interactive learning. They like the incorporation of personal anecdotes when working with others as well as learning. Receiving praise and perks is important to them. They subscribe to a nonauthoritarian viewpoint. Boomers are competitive and have a can-do attitude. Considering that many from the previous generation viewed Baby Boomers as the lazy hippie generation, Boomers, in general, have a very serious work ethic.

The Xers

The X Generation was born approximately in the years 1965–1980. The exact demographic boundaries seem to vary depending on whether the source means people born just before the end of the boom, or just after, or sometimes just whoever happens to be twenty-something. This group is the first technology generation. The use and incorporation of technology in work and life is important to them. Not only do the Xers embrace technology, they require a great deal of personal freedom. The X Generation also prefers and thrives on a self-directed schedule. This generation is the first to be viewed as true multitaskers. They provide fast feedback on the job and enjoy a good work-to-life balance.

The Yers

The Y Generation, or Millennials, generally is considered the last generation of people born in the twentieth century, between 1981 and 2000. Those in this generation were born with Palm Pilots in their hands! They are efficient and effective multitaskers who have known nothing but technology. They like to keep busy, and they ask questions all the time. Sometimes viewed as needing lots of structure, this group is built on the mentoring model. They thrive and enjoy working when they are part of a team. (see Integrating Technology and Multiple Intelligences)

Learning Style Differences

Now that you recognize the key aspects of the learning and working styles of the various generations, it's important to embrace these differences when teaching, learning and working with a diverse group.

As trainers, it's our job to find a way to incorporate the learning styles of each group. We tend to teach from the generation we came from and become frustrated with those outside our generation.

It's also worth noting that we can experience equal frustration with an instructor who doesn't recognize our generational learning styles and doesn't adapt a training session to include instructional methodologies that meet them.

The challenge is always to create a teaching and learning model that addresses these styles when two or more generational groups are in the same class.

Working in Teams

Generational differences sometimes may cause clashes in the workplace, especially among workers on teams. For example, many Boomers believe Xers are too impatient and willing to throw out tried-and-true strategies. Xers may view Boomers as always trying to say the right thing to the right person and being inflexible to change. Traditionalists may view Baby Boomers as self-absorbed and prone to sharing too much information, and Baby Boomers may view traditionalists as dictatorial and rigid. Finally, Xers may consider Millennials too spoiled and self-absorbed, while Millennials may view Xers as too cynical and negative.

Recognize Our Differences

The sooner you can start encouraging members of your staff to recognize generational diversity, the sooner these teams will seek a balance between building on traditional procedures and supporting flexibility and creativity to build an effective, blended learning and working environment.

For example, effective messages from team members for Traditionalists may be, "Your experience is respected" or "It's valuable to hear what has worked in the past." Baby Boomers may need to hear messages such as "You're valuable and worthy" or "Your contribution is unique and important to our success." Meanwhile, Xers may need to hear messages like "Let's explore some options outside of the box" or "Your technical expertise is a big asset," whereas Millennials may seek messages such as "You'll be collaborating with other bright, creative people" or "You've really rescued this situation with your commitment."

Each generation learns differently and brings a unique perspective to work-related tasks. Those of us who provide training should address the specific needs of the participants. This attention includes providing support for each generational group and using practical examples from their backgrounds whenever possible so that your material is engaging and meaningful.



Learning Styles Self-assessment

A) Score each statement in the columns below by giving yourself the appropriate number:
  1 Very Little Like Me
  2 A Little Like Me
  3 Like Me
  4 A Lot Like Me



1. 1 2 3 4 I feel the best way to remember something is to picture it in my head
2. 1 2 3 4 I follow oral directions better than written ones
3. 1 2 3 4 I often would rather listen to a lecture than read the material in a textbook
4. 1 2 3 4 I am constantly fidgeting (e.g. tapping pen, playing with keys in my pocket)
5. 1 2 3 4 I frequently require explanations of diagrams, graphs, or maps
6. 1 2 3 4 I work skillfully with my hands to make or repair things
7. 1 2 3 4 I often prefer to listen to the radio than read a newspaper
8. 1 2 3 4 I typically prefer information to be presented visually, (e.g. flipcharts or chalkboard)
9. 1 2 3 4 I usually prefer to stand while working
10. 1 2 3 4 I typically follow written instructions better than oral ones
11. 1 2 3 4 I am skillful at designing graphs, charts, and other visual displays
12. 1 2 3 4 I generally talk at a fast pace and use my hands more than the average person to communicate what I want to say
13. 1 2 3 4 I frequently sing, hum or whistle to myself
14. 1 2 3 4 I am excellent at finding my way around even in unfamiliar surroundings
15. 1 2 3 4 I am good at putting jigsaw puzzles together
16. 1 2 3 4 I am always on the move
17. 1 2 3 4 I excel at visual arts
18. 1 2 3 4 I excel at sports
19. 1 2 3 4 I'm an avid collector
20. 1 2 3 4 I tend to take notes during verbal discussions/lectures to review later
21. 1 2 3 4 I am verbally articulate and enjoy participating in discusions or classroom debates
22. 1 2 3 4 I easily understand and follow directions on maps
23. 1 2 3 4 I remember best by writing things down several times or drawing pictures and diagrams
24. 1 2 3 4 I need to watch a speaker's facial expressions and body language to fully understand what they mean
25. 1 2 3 4 I frequently use musical jingles to learn things
26. 1 2 3 4 I often talk to myself when alone
27. 1 2 3 4 I would rather listen to music than view a piece of art work
28. 1 2 3 4 I need to actively participate in an activity to learn how to do it
29. 1 2 3 4 I frequently tell jokes, stories and make verbal analogies to demonstrate a point
30. 1 2 3 4 I frequently touch others as a show of friendship and camaraderie (e.g. hugging)






Attending to Learning Styles in Mathematics and Science Classrooms 


This website offers ways in which learning styles can be incorporated into math and science classes.





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