Jan 8, 2013

What's Your Learning Style?

Each of us has our own natural learning style that reflects the quality of our mind, says Anthony Gregorc, Ph.D., educator and author of An Adult's Guide to Style. It reflects the way we absorb new information, process it, and use it to form new ideas.

"I started out with learning styles - or mind styles as I call them now - about 20 years ago," says Dr. Gregorc. "I was principal of a lab school for gifted kids and I was watching youngsters in grades 7 through 12 who were not being very successful. We had tried all kinds of curriculum revisions, so what I started to do was observe them in relation to their teachers - to really watch their behavior, to see how they learned."

His approach was somewhat unusual, says Dr. Gregorc, because educators rarely study learners to see how they learn. "We normally take the position that a learner is a learner and if he only tries he can adapt to just about anything," explains Dr. Gregorc. "The implication that's at the root of this is that all of us have the capacity to learn in specific ways. It's just that we haven't been taught to.

"As I observed these youngsters, however, I found that they all had different kinds of styles. And when we tried to get some of them to learn in a style that was different than their own, there was a resistance to it.

"I didn't find the resistance was due to 'laziness' or 'contrariness,' " he hastens to add, "or things of that type. I simply found that there were indeed ways of processing information that are different."

Learning Styles

The learning styles that Dr. Gregorc discovered among his students - which have since become standard among United States educators - fall into four basic groups: concrete/ sequential, abstract/sequential, abstract/random, and concrete/random.

The idea, explains Dr. Gregorc, is that most of us obtain new information best in one of two ways: either abstractly, through the use of our emotions, intellect, and intuition, or concretely, through the use of our physical senses. Then when we get the information, we assimilate it in one of two other ways: either sequentially, in a step-by-step, methodical way, or randomly, in a scattered, nonlinear way. We can all learn in any fashion, but we each have a natural proclivity toward one. How do you know which learning style is naturally yours? The following examples should give you an idea.

All of us remember the kid in high school science class who would logically and precisely examine a lab specimen, write up his report, and get an A. He's an example of a concrete/ sequential learner - he learned best by seeing and doing. And we can remember the girl in English class who could always interpret the meaning of a Moby Dick, and explain its plot, point by point. She was an abstract/sequential – she naturally understood literature.

And remember the kid who was always into half a dozen things at once? His desk was always a mess, his attention could be caught for only a moment, and he was always thinking up new things to do. He learns what he wants when he wants - an abstract/random. And the kid who was voted "most likely to succeed in business"? She's the one who was always dreaming up new schemes to make money, then talking other kids into chipping in their allowances or lunch money - a concrete/random learner, an independent thinker and self-starter.

Once you have an idea of your natural learning style, capitalize on your strengths and don't fight your weaknesses, advises Dr. Gregorc.

The concrete/sequential learner, for example, learns best when he can examine things with his own two eyes. He prefers a quiet, ordered, predictable, and stable environment in which he can work methodically to his heart's content.

The abstract/sequential learner learns best from words and pictures of things, rather than the things themselves. He prefers an intellectual environment in which he can share his thoughts and ideas with others, although he needs solitude in order to concentrate on a particular task. An environment full of distracting sounds will make him a nervous wreck.

The abstract/random learner learns best when he can use his feelings to absorb ideas, information, and impressions as they flow around and through him. He prefers a harmonious environment that allows him both mental and physical freedom. Restrictions, rules, and negative feelings from those around him can make him anxious and/or frustrated.

The concrete/random learner prefers to learn independently. He needs his own "space" and the freedom to exercise his curiosity. He thrives on competition, but he cannot stand rules, regulations and orders, or being limited or confined in any way.

"The reason that we learn the way that we do is that we're actually 'wired' to learn and process information in a particular way," explains Dr. Gregorc.

All of us naturally lean toward one of these categories, says Dr. Gregorc. Once you identify your style, learning automatically can become a whole lot easier. . (Boost Your Brain Power, by Ellen Michaud, Russell Wild and the editors of Prevention Magazine)