Training programmes are more rewarding for all delegates if they take into account the four learning styles identified by Honey & Mumford, argues Christine Knott. She explores the four styles, and suggests some activities to engage the different types of learner.
Honey and Mumford still offer one of the most reliable theories for recognising and stimulating different learning styles. As trainers it is important that we are aware of our own preferred style. By doing so we can ensure that we avoid falling into the trap of designing and delivering methods to suit our own needs and preferences, and unconsciously ignoring the needs of the group.
Honey and Mumford styles fall into four categories: activists, reflectors, theorists and pragmatists. They cover the spectrum of delegates' learning preferences when taking on board new information. If, as a designer of training programmes, you take all of them into account in order to stimulate each person, you will be much closer to embedding key messages. Employing different media to engage different learning styles will also create more interest and enjoyment for all learners, whatever their style.
The use of technology has opened up a world of opportunities for using and creating different training vehicles that can be targeted at different learners. More traditional methods still have their place and can be equally rewarding, so it's worth revisiting them.
We all enjoy having the 'activists' on board. It's comforting to know there's someone present on the training programme who's ready to volunteer for almost anything!
Activists love to get involved and are rarely afraid of jumping in with two feet. They learn by 'doing' and thoroughly enjoy experiencing the moment. Because they are keen to 'try anything once' in both work and social environments they will be forced to consider the consequences of their immediate actions - and this is part of their learning process.
If your training session will be improved by including role plays, activists will relish the opportunity to take a leading part. They are happy to lead discussions and thrive on competitive tasks.
Activities to help activists learn and embed their new knowledge:
- Team games were they can get involved and work out problems
- Brainstorming – allowing their imagination to run wild on a project
- Presenting back to a group – in the format of a TV advert
- Competitions – competing against other group members. For example: create a 'Mastermind' or 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire' game
- Charades – based around the new skills
It won't come as a surprise to know that many activists join the ranks of reflectors as they get older. Having suffered the consequences and learnt the hard way, most will think twice about 'jumping in' before volunteering.
A key trait of reflectors is to stand back and consider different options. If you were considering project work as a training medium, reflectors would benefit from the opportunity to research and analyse the data. They also enjoy watching and listening - whether it's a presentation or a video.
Activities to help reflectors learn and embed their new knowledge:
- Showing a DVD related to the subject matter and following it with a quiz
- A group activity allowing them to listen and observe others - e.g. guessing the charades the activists are performing
- Creating a debate situation with panel and audience (they would be the audience)
- Elearning programmes where they can work at their own pace
Equally keen to analyse data are the theorists. Being logical thinkers they also thrive on systems and models, so whatever the subject matter, if you link it to a process they will gain a faster understanding. Theorists love to read and investigate, so a great learning tool would be to give them written information and ask them to attach a logical model or system to it.
Activities to help theorists learn and embed their new knowledge:
- Presenting information in graph format and asking them to prepare a report on their findings, or complete a quiz sheet
- Giving them a reading task, to be followed by question and answer session or quiz
- Logical thinking puzzles – based on information from the session
- Quizzes – creating word searches, crossword puzzles or a word game based on scrabble
- A team quiz game that involves giving a full explanation to a question – e.g. 'explain how x works'
With their enthusiasm to try new ideas, the pragmatists are similar to activists - but only if they have been convinced of the theory beforehand. If there is an opportunity to watch an expert demonstrate how to do something, they will eagerly model them. The introduction of webinars into the training arena is an excellent opportunity for pragmatists to watch and follow suit.
Because pragmatists are keen to return to the workplace and quickly put their new skills into practice, their learning curve is relatively short.
Activities to help pragmatists learn and embed their new knowledge:
- Creating a working model to demonstrate the subject matter
- Practical demonstrations which they can copy
- A team quiz game that requires a demonstration of how something works
- Building games – jigsaws etc
Carefully planned activities based on 'University Challenge' or 'Never Mind The Buzzcocks' could include several tasks taken from the above lists, to ensure that all delegates are stimulated and have a part to play in the overall game.
Christine Knott is managing director of Beyond The Box which provides training, marketing and promotional services. For more information telephone 0845 270 6520