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
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."
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
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
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)