There have been several different ideas and developments into learning theories and how individuals perceive and apply new knowledge, but one of the most explored ideas came from Peter Honey and Alan Mumford.
Their learning system was developed during the 1970s and was a variation on the David Kolb learning theory.
Both were based on four key elements of learning, but where as Kolb’s system was to follow a learning cycle by starting at one point or stage and then progressing along a set learning path, Honey and Mumford’s approach was to identify the learning preferences of an individual learner with a view to structuring learning materials and experiences around that preferred learning style or styles.
The idea was that a preferred learning style or a combination of the four main styles would result in the learner being able to absorb, understand and apply new information more quickly and effectively, rather than the ‘one style fits all’ approach, such as theory only or practical only work sessions.
Honey and Mumford’s four main learning style preferences can be briefly described under the following four headers, along with one or two positive and negative factors.
Activist-Now, let me get on with it!
Activists like to experience things straight away. They are enthusiastic and like a challenge when working with others through new problems and are generally open minded and are eager to contribute during group discussions.
They do not like repetition and struggle when left to their own devices.
Lectures and factual information with little or no input or discussion are also problematic and precise instructions can be difficult to follow.
Reflectors-Wait, sum-up look before you leap.
Reflectors like to sum-up a situation and view a problem or discussion from various perspectives before making or expressing any opinions they may have without the feeling of being rushed. They can be initially quiet within a group and like the time to be able to sit back and absorb information and listen to others before digesting it and offering their own views.
They do not operate well under strict or rushed conditions and shy away from leading group discussions or activities. Direct questioning without time to think would also cause a negative learning environment for someone whose learning style is that of a reflector. Theorist-What is this for? What is the main goal? Methodical
Theorists are methodical and prefer to work in a structured and logical fashion that requires some application of existing knowledge. They will often view things in black and white, yet are able to tackle new ideas without the need for an immediate reference to a relevant topic. Questioning of ideas and theories and how to develop them are also paramount to a theorist.
They do not like to work in an unstructured fashion with no set goal or conclusion. Instructions must be clear and if involved with a group activity, then they should be working with people of a similar learning style.
e.g. Reflector and Theorist
Pragmatists-practical and open to new ideas
Pragmatists work well when they have a direct link to a relevant situation either at work or within their personal lives. They are open to new ideas
and like to work practically from a peer or model example (copying). Clear reasoning behind tasks and activities are an advantage.
They do not work or learn effectively if there is no clear advantage to a task or information. They require a starting point or reference and need a variety of learning methods, such as both theory and practical.
Here are some practical examples of these four different learning styles.
Martin is a 16 year old guitar player who is enthusiastic when working in a performance group, is reasonably open minded to ideas and has good communication skills. He does however; tend to over shadow quieter members of the group during discussions and struggles when things have to be slowed down and problem solving strategies put in place. He also finds it difficult to focus when asked to work on repeated sections of material. This has also translated into his individual practice, as to be able to perform certain sections of songs such as a complicated solo; he has had to work on repetitive technical exercises to improve. He finds this boring and this has hindered his progress and to some extent, his enthusiasm to better himself when returning to familiar problem areas.
Solution: Develop a variety of exercises to improve the same problematic technique and apply to a short rotated practice routine.
Andy is a 22year old studying music technology. He is quite quiet and does little to drawn attention to himself when working in a group. He is happy to take a back seat when a group discussion is taking place and will often only contribute when asked by the tutor. Andy struggles with some aspects of practical class work due to the large number of students working around only one or two work stations and having to complete tasks within a set time. This can be a problem and has had a negative effect on his input during
these sessions. Because he often waits for others to give opinions, he has in the past being accused of not thinking for himself. Only when he offers a different perspective to a problem, do others realise he is just thinking of alternatives to the task in hand.
Solution: Try to organise practical tasks as individual or in smaller groups with less emphasis on time restraints. Encourage contributions and alternative views when having a class room discussion and try to bring his input forward before everyone else has made input. Use question and answer techniques in smaller groups to offer opportunity for feedback from all learners.
Steve is a 19 year old guitar player and although he was reasonably competent on his instrument he did initially struggle to progress within a group performance environment when first starting the course. The problem seemed to be that the rest of his group were quite happy to just ‘go with the flow’ and experiment with new ideas even if there was no obvious or instant result. He however, needed to work in a more structured fashion and this caused some drawbacks during rehearsals. There was also a lack of enthusiasm from Steve during these sessions and this bought about some interesting discussions and views to communication within a rehearsal space.
Solution: Awareness of others needs within a group environment through discussion and question and answer sessions. Implement different approaches to learning and experimenting with new materials, such as rehearsal planning, song study and breakdown and use of recourses such as white board and smart board. A mixture of different techniques had a positive result on the group as a whole.
Steve has since developed into an important and on occasion extremely influential member of his group, demonstrating wider communication skills and certain leadership qualities.
Chelsey is a 17 year old bass player who has only being playing for 2 years and although she is extremely enthusiastic and eager to learn, she has struggled when trying to tackle theory based topics. When questioned about this it became clear that she could not see the link or relevance between the theory and practical topics being covered during various session on her timetable and that she would find it easier if she could see how these topics were being covered in a practical sense.
Solution: After discussing this with Chelsey and her bass tutor, it was decided that she would take any theoretical topic into her instrumental sessions and discuss practical applications for them. This would involve some discussion followed by a practical demonstration then application by Chelsey.
Applications to real life situation/uses for the Honey and Mumford learning styles.
Key skills-Numeracy and Literacy
Honey and Mumford-1992-Learning Styles
References and useful web sites.
Questionnaires and other information
Learning cycle and presentation including diagrams and some dates.
Starts with Kolb then moves onto H&M
David Kolb Learning styles
“The Birmingham Grid for Learning has a fascinating on-line activity, comprising 40 questions aimed to help individuals find out how they prefer to learn. Based on the work of Gardner, the ‘Multiple intelligences’ activity is a simple-to-use questionnaire that, when completed, draws a wheel of your preferred learning styles”.
12 Learning styles