Thursday, 16 May 2013

ocTEL Week 5 - Learning Styles

I’m currently involved in running professional development sessions for staff looking at how they can use various technologies, including our VLE (Blackboard) in their teaching and development. The aim of the sessions is to showcase what the various technologies can be used for and try to stimulate interest and enthusiasm among teaching staff, rather than ‘click-after-me’ style training sessions.

The latest session I ran was about Developing a Personal Learning Network, so I'll look at that in relation to learning styles. As staff are so time-poor, we're currently experimenting with giving a one-hour session which is largely aimed at showcasing examples, giving the rationale for using certain technologies and discussion of the issues, followed by a 'free practice' practical session which staff can choose to stay on for if they want to try things out and get support while they do so. The session is also supported by a website and a Blackboard module which contains examples of the technology tools covered in the session, links to further information (both theoretical and practical), a Discussion Forum and so on, which allows staff to catch up, fill in the gaps as and when they have time. 

For the learning styles task, I tried to breakdown the four types of learning style (diverging, assimilating, converging, accommodating) outlined by Kolb into the types of learning approach/activity related to it, then thought about how I try to include these in my sessions.

(I’m uneasy about pigeon-holing individuals into one of these specific learning styles. In my view, many learners display different traits which could belong to any of these styles, depending on what they’re learning, who they’re learning with, their level of motivation etc. I also notice that Kolb has recently expanded these 4 learning styles to 9 (Initiating, Experiencing, Imagining, Reflecting, Analyzing, Thinking, Deciding, Acting and Balancing) which makes me wonder what happened to the original 4 mentioned below…

Having said that, despite my suspicion of learning styles generally, I do think there's some merit in thinking about learning styles, and trying to identify learners who have more of one kind of style than another, even if only to remind ourselves that when it comes to learning, one size doesn't fit all.

Developing a Personal Academic Network

LEARNING STYLE                               ACTIVITY/APPROACH

Look at things from different perspectives
Watch rather than do
Gather information
Work in groups
Personal feedback

·        Start session with brief discussion in pairs / small groups to find out what they know and their ideas on the subject
·        Find out who uses which types of Social Media and what they use them for
·        Demonstrate my own Personal Learning Network

Logical approach
Clear explanation
Abstract concepts

·        Small section devoted to how to use a particular technology – e.g. Twitter, Diigo etc (followed up after initial one hour session)
·        Explain rationale behind building your own PLN and how it can help expand access to research and expertise
·        Provide links to further reading/theory in module and on website
·        Diagram of my PLN

Technical tasks
Work with practical applications

·        Set up a tool during the session, or, if short of time, set aside time after session for questions/hands-on working with tools
·        Allow participants to try setting up instance of tools themselves and provide support where necessary

Practical approach
New challenges
Gut instinct
Work in teams
Set targets

·        Discussion Forum and Groups set up in Blackboard module to support session
·        Allow time after session for hands-on practice setting up/using tools (they might need less help)
·        Ask participants which tools they aim to use and to report back in next session


  1. I enjoyed reading your post. Kinda share your scepticism about learning styles, but liked the way you matched Kolb's original 4 learning styles to a practical project that you're currently doing. Nice.

  2. Thanks Jim, enjoying your reflections.

    Perhaps the revised 9 style version is aligning to Bloom's? Methinks I need to do an 'Andrew Churches' Digital Taxonomy' style makeover on the new version of Kolb LSI.... thinking already..