Learning styles and team work

Creating the Connections
Teacher Info: Learning styles and teamwork
Our preferred learning styles affect not just the way we learn but the way we do
things and the way we interact with others in group or team situations. Some people
have a strong preference for a particular learning/interacting style and will have
difficulty if their needs are not met. Others have the characteristics of more than one
style. Project teams usually work best when they can tap into the range of strengths
represented by the different learning styles. One popular learning style model,
developed by Honey and Mumford1, suggests that there are four types of learners:
Activists like to learn from new experiences and challenges and they do not respond
well to explicit instructions that limit their opportunities for experimentation. They
like problem solving and get bored if they have to keep repeating the same task.
They like to work in groups and their enthusiasm for ‘getting on with it’ can be a
great motivator. But they can be impulsive and jump into things without thinking.
They are not ones for attention to fine detail.
Reflectors are more introverted, preferring to think, observe and review before
acting. They are thorough and methodical and like to plan before doing. They need
to feel well prepared before they have to do something. They don’t like to be put on
the spot and can be uncomfortable if they are the centre of attention. They are good
at thinking through problems.
Pragmatists concentrate on practical issues. They like to focus on the task and the
technique. They like to be given a model of how to do something and will practise
often to get it right. They prefer to apply what they have learnt as soon as possible
and like to know that there is an immediate application for what they are learning.
They are often good with details.
Theorists are ‘big picture people’ and need to understand why they are doing a
particular activity. They look for ways to make links between ideas, events and
situations. They like to ask questions and find out answers.
A project team is likely to work best when:
The individual members do not all have the same learning style. For example, a
team made up of Activists is likely to rush out to interview people without
having thought about the questions or which photographs would be best to
illustrate it. On the other hand, a team of Reflectors may think about it for too
long and not have time to finish the project.
The team uses a combination of learning styles, for example, a Theorist will
probably have a great idea but may need to work with an Activist and/or a
Pragmatist to actually put the ideas into practice. They may all need the Reflector
to think through the problems.
The individual members understand and appreciate how each others’ strengths
contribute to the successful completion of the project.
The explanations of Honey and Mumford’s learner types are taken from ANTA (1998).
Workbased Learning: A Ready Reference. Melbourne: Australian National Training Authority.
Customisable materials, © Commonwealth of Australia 2007
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