Developing learning activities for different learning styles

14 05 2013

I have always found Kolb’s learning cycle a helpful concept but have been a little more uncertain about his learning styles.  I suppose I don’t like the idea of “putting people in boxes”.  (Kolb’s four-stage cycle of learning is: ‘immediate or concrete experiences’ provide a basis for ‘observations and reflections’. These ‘observations and reflections’ are assimilated and distilled into ‘abstract concepts’ producing new implications for action which can be ‘actively tested’ in turn creating new experiences).

This week the ocTEL course asked us to read this summary of Kolb’s Learning Styles Theory and to think about what learning activities might work well for the four learning styles identified by Kolb.  I found this a helpful question to consider because rather than putting people into boxes, it provides a way for thinking about including a range of different learning activities in our courses that cater for and encourage the expression of a range of different ways of learning.  If we as teachers work towards including a range of activities in our courses (whatever mode they are offered in and whatever technologies they use), this will not only help to address the learning preferences of individuals but also provide a variety of learning activities and assessments, and ensure that we don’t cater (whether intentionally or unintentionally) for only some ways of learning.

So here are my very preliminary thoughts about the kinds of learning activities and assessment tasks that might be relevant to the four learning styles identified by Kolb. I’d appreciate any suggestions from others and will add to this as I gather more ideas.

Diverging (feeling and watching – CE/RO) Assimilating (watching and thinking – AC/RO)
Creative assignments
Group work (summariser, motivator)
Peer feedback
Social media
Written analysis, critique
Discussion forums which focus on analysis/critique/ideas
Group work (summariser, leader, note-taker)
Converging (doing and thinking – AC/AE) Accommodating (doing and feeling – CE/AE)
Practically oriented and applied assessment tasks e.g. devise a plan, produce a set of resources
Discussion forums that focus on application of knowledge
Group work (producer)
Practical tasks
Group work (leader)
Create own learning tasks
Report on outcomes of trials/experiments



2 responses

15 05 2013

Hi Diane, reading your thoughts above I was reminded of Diana Laurillard’s taxonomy of media forms (Narrative, Interactive, Communicative, Adaptive and Productive) see more details here: Ive used this taxonomy quite a bit in the past to help design learning activities and Ive always fund it more useful than Kolb because it seems to separate out different affordances and learning outcomes much more clearly than Kolb’s model. For example, Laurillard draws a clear distinction between simulations and creative, productive activity.

17 05 2013

Thanks. I agree that Laurillard’s five-fold taxonomy does seem more comprehensive and useful in terms of thinking about designing learning activities. I suppose that may be because Laurillard’s main focus is on pedagogy and learning design, whereas Kolb was coming at the issue from a perspective of understanding differences between learners.
I do think that one of the potential issues with Kolb’s approach is that it places too much focus on the style of learning, rather than focussing on appropriate methods of teaching that might meet learner needs (and stretch them to go beyond their comfort zones and preferred learning styles too.)

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