Learning Styles Matter

There are so many factors that determine effective learning. The idea that safety is simply ‘tell the rule, repeat the rule, punish offenders’ is nonsense. The behaviourist approach to knowledge and comprehension only works if you are training robots.

Amongst the many skills and knowledge teachers develop in order to be professional and person-centred in methodology, is an understanding about how people learn. In the previous blog on Social Constructivism I demonstrated how Scaffolding, ZPD and Readiness were critical for learning . In this discussion I wish to introduce the work of Howard Gardner (1983), the founder of the theory of Multiple Intelligences .

The idea of Multiple Intelligences (perhaps eight or nine) posits that we all have an unconscious learning bias. This bias is not a negative but rather a positive attribute. We teach this in SPoR semiotically to show how each intelligence views the world differently and develops knowledge differently. It is absurd to suggest that humans all learn the same behaviourist way in the same behaviourist sausage. We all have an aptitude for various learning styles that best suit or upbringing, social context and personality. These Learning Intelligences are mapped graphically at Figure 1. Learning Styles.

Figure 1. Learning Styles

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You can see iconically, graphically and semiotically how these learning styles (intelligences) compare to each other. Each of the styles are held in tension (dialectic) with other styles and in some ways oppose each other. This is why some people hate ‘classroom learning’ and others hate ‘mechanistic/mathematical learning’. It is not that any of these intelligences are wrong but rather that these intelligences add diversity in learning for a group. Training to the one intelligence perhaps in how an engineer likes to learn is completely a ‘turn off’ for those who learn best artistically or emotionally.

The key to developing effective comprehension and learning with workers is knowing how to analyse which learning styles are in a group and teaching to them. This is no different than knowing what stage of ‘readiness’ a person is at and ‘scaffolding’ their learning for success.

When we do our Supervision Program (https://www.humandymensions.com/services-and-programs/supervisor-program/ ) we run a diagnostic for participants so they can better understand their preference in learning. In this way people know not to be consumed with teaching and training to their own type. Just because you like learning in one style doesn’t mean that everyone learns that way.

Most often I see inductions and training programs in safety with accidental curriculum without any consideration for preferred learning styles of the group. My son who is a steelfixer-formworker calls this ‘sleeping bag training’. Dozens of slides of text designed to satisfy only 15% of the learning group is a disaster.

I also hear safety people complain and blame workers for not learning something as if the worker is not trying to learn. Such is the incompetence of the behaviourist safety sausage. And of course if your mantra is zero, you gave up any interest in learning a long time ago.

How easy to blame a worker for a lack of comprehension when the checklist and induction was designed NOT learn!!!

In all CLLR (https://cllr.com.au/register-to-study/ ) Education and Learning we include all styles of learning in the way we structure programs. It is unfortunate that Covid and Zoom now limit learning methodology but if your understand Learning Intelligences and curriculum design you can get around this. Even when we do Zoom sessions in CLLR we try to include practical skills development exercises and lots of doing. Talking heads only suits 15% of the learning cohort.

So if you want to learn about learning and how to make presentations, inductions and training more effective, you can study here: https://cllr.com.au/product/learning-community-and-the-social-psychology-of-risk-unit-7/

Dr Rob Long

Dr Rob Long

Expert in Social Psychology, Principal & Trainer at Human Dymensions
Dr Rob Long

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Dr Rob Long
PhD., MEd., MOH., BEd., BTh., Dip T., Dip Min., Cert IV TAA, MRMIA Rob is the founder of Human Dymensions and has extensive experience, qualifications and expertise across a range of sectors including government, education, corporate, industry and community sectors over 30 years. Rob has worked at all levels of the education and training sector including serving on various post graduate executive, post graduate supervision, post graduate course design and implementation programs.

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