Types of Learners

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3.0 Your Learning Style

Honey and Mumford (1982) devised an influential self-test, which indicates whether you are predominantly an activist, a reflector, a theorist, or a pragmatist. There are websites where you can take a test — but you will probably get just as good an idea about your learning style (and those of your colleagues) by reading what each type likes and loathes.

3.1 Activists

Activists learn best from activities in which there are:

• new experiences and challenges from which to learn

• short ‘here and now’ tasks involving competitive teamwork and problem-solving

• excitement, change and variety

• ‘high visibility’ tasks such as chairing meetings, leading discussions and presentations

• situations in which new ideas can be developed without constraints of policy and structure

opportunities for just ‘having a go’.

Activists learn least from, and may react against, activities where:

• they have a passive role (lectures, instructions, reading)

• they are observers

• they are required to assimilate, analyse and interpret lots of 'messy' data

• they must work in a solitary way (reading and writing alone)

• statements are ‘theoretical’ - an explanation of cause

• there is considerable repetition (practising the same skill)

• there are precise instructions with little room for manoeuvre

• they must be thorough, and tie up loose ends.

3.2 Reflectors

Reflectors learn best from activities where they:

• are allowed or encouraged to watch / think / ponder on activities

• have time to think before acting, to assimilate before commenting

• can carry out careful, detailed research

• have time to review their learning

• need to produce carefully considered analyses and reports

• are helped to exchange views with other people without danger, by prior agreement, within a structured learning experience

• can reach a decision without pressure and tight deadlines.

Reflectors learn least from, and may react against, activities where:

• they feel ‘forced’ into the limelight

• they must act without time for planning

• they are asked for an instant reaction, or ‘off the cuff’ thoughts

• they are given insufficient data on which to base a conclusion

• in the interests of expediency, they have to make short cuts or do a superficial job.

3.3 Theorists

Theorists learn best from activities where:

• what is being offered is part of a system, model, concept or theory

• they can explore methodically the


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