What’s your learning style?

It is important to recognise the way you learn best but also to identify learning activities that you less comfortable with. By embracing many different learning opportunities you will become a better learner.




In this article, we discuss three different well-known theories of learning styles:

  • Honey and Mumford
  • Bandler, Grinder and Grinder sensory systems
  • Hermann Brain Dominance Theory.

Reading the following explanations will help you to identify your learning preferences.


Honey and Mumford

Honey and Mumford’s research identified learners as being activists, theorists, reflectors or pragmatists. They found that most people have a preferred style and at least one other style they are comfortable with. To become an all round learner Honey and Mumford believe it is preferable to develop the styles for which you have a lower preference so that you get the most benefit from all activities.

  • Activists like ‘hands on’ activities where they can try out new ideas. They don’t worry about taking risks and the possibility of making mistakes. They actively seek out new experiences and ‘give anything a go.’ They are generally gregarious people. Activists tend to move on to the next task when they become bored and often don’t reflect on the lessons to be learned from their experiences.
  • Theorists like to learn about a subject and understand it totally before making decisions or taking any action. The have an eye for detail and like to consider all the implications by thorough research. Other people within a group can find this approach tedious if they do not understand the theorist’s need for completeness. Sometimes they take a long time to make decisions because of their need to know the full picture.
  • Reflectors also need completeness and like to stand back and observe and listen before reaching a decision. They prefer not to be involved too much in discussions and activities as the risk of making mistakes can prevent them from contributing. However, when the reflector decides to contribute, it is generally after careful thought. Sometimes other team members can view reflectors as being reserved and without ideas but this is not the case; they simply have not collected all the information they need.
  • Pragmatists like to try out new ideas that they can use. They like to see the relevance of new ideas and situations so that they can understand how they can apply new skills and information. Sometimes they are too quick to accept an idea if it works and don’t always investigate all the options.


Bandler, Grinder and Grinder Sensory Systems

This theory puts forward the idea that people prefer activities that appeal to their dominant senses. They view learners as visual, aural or kinaesthetic.

  • Visual learners learn with pictures, charts, diagrams and demonstrations. They like creativity. They like slide shows, DVDs and anything creative.
  • Aural learners learn from listening so enjoy lectures, discussions, tapes/CDs and music.
  • Kinaesthetic learners like to be ‘hands on’. They enjoy practical activities that involve building or handling learning resources such as cards, equipment etc.


Hermann Brain Dominance Theory

The brain has two hemispheres, the left and the right. This theory suggests we prefer activities depending on the side of our brain that is most dominant.

  • Left brained people are logical. They like sequence, lists, structure and organisation. They often prefer the traditional learning methods and like learning by rote.
  • Right brained people tend to be more creative. They like pictures, colour, mind maps, conceptual ideas and music. They may have found traditional learning methods at school difficult.


These are just three different theories. Honey and Mumford’s is perhaps the most well known but the latest research shows that we tend to change our style depending on the situation we are in and the people we are with.

The important point here is that you need to understand your preferences, use them and develop your learning abilities to enable you to take in as much new information as possible. Lifelong learning – and often, for reasons of maintaining professional memberships, continuing professional development – is necessary for us to keep up to date, remain marketable and contribute to the future of the UK.

If you embrace all available activities when learning and try out new things, you will develop as a learner. We recommend that you develop an “action plan” to set yourself objectives in order to develop new styles.


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