With the rapid advancement of technology, the need for managing the on-going changes in this transition economy is even more important than ever and it is essential that we get the training right the first time.  

Ultimately we will be able to offer our students the choice of how they want to learn and it is best to remember this for long term planning requirements.  Today, we need to become aware of the different learning styles and what can make people gain the maximum knowledge from the learning experience on offer.

Remember: An improvement in the learning experience will inevitably create an improvement in target performance.

In this section, we will look at the work of 3 specialists in the field of 'how people learn'.

1. Richard Felder and Barbara A. Soloman, Learning Styles and Strategies

2. Neil D. Fleming - VARK

3. Barbara Prashnig - Multi-Modal Learning


1. Learning Styles and Strategies - R. Felder and Barbara A. Soloman extract.

While the following extract focuses on learning styles as they relate to discussive (face to face) learning structures, there are valuable insights that should be considered in the developing field of self directed 'e' learning; insights that may assist to contribute to the user experience for different learning styles and influences.

Richard M. Felder
Hoechst Celanese Professor of Chemical Engineering
North Carolina State University.

Barbara A. Soloman
Coordinator of Advising, First Year College
North Carolina State University.


  • Active learners tend to retain and understand information best by doing something active with it - discussing, applying, or explaining it to others.  Reflective learners prefer to think about it quietly first.
  • "Let's try it out and see how it works" is an active learner's phrase; "Let's think it through first" is the reflective learner's response.
  • Active learners tend to like group work whereas reflective learners prefer to work alone.
  • Sitting through lectures without getting to do anything physical but notetaking is hard for both learning types, but particularly hard for active learners.

Everybody is active sometimes and reflective sometimes. Your preference for one category or the other may be strong, moderate, or mild, however balance of the two is desirable. If you always act before reflecting you can jump into things prematurely and get into trouble, while if you spend too much time reflecting you may never get anything done.

Click here to see how active learners can help themselves?

Click here to see how reflective learners can help themselves.

Click here to see how active learners can help themselves.



Visual learners remember best what they have seen - pictures, diagrams, flow charts, time lines, films, and demonstrations. Verbal learners get more out of words - written and spoken explanations. Everyone learns more when information is presented both visually and verbally.

In most college classes very little visual information is presented; students mainly listen to lectures and read material written on chalkboards and in textbooks and handouts.

Unfortunately, most people are visual learners, which means that most students do not get nearly as much as they would if more visual presentation were used in class. Good learners are capable of processing information presented either visually or verbally.


Click here to see how visual learners can help themselves.


Click here to see how verbal learners can help themselves.


  • Sensing learners tend to like learning facts, intuitive learners often prefer discovering possibilities and relationships.
  • Sensors often like solving problems by well-established methods and dislike complications and surprises;
    intuitors like innovation and dislike repetition.
  • Sensors are more likely than intuitors to resent being tested on material that has not been explicitly covered in class.
  • Sensors tend to be patient with details and good at memorising facts and doing hands-on (laboratory) work; intuitors may be better at grasping new concepts and are often more comfortable than sensors with abstractions and mathematical formulations.
  • Sensors tend to be more practical and careful than intuitors; intuitors tend to work faster and to be more innovative than sensors.
  • Sensors don't like courses that have no apparent connection to the real world; intuitors don't like "plug-and-chug" courses that involve a lot of memorisation and routine calculations. ________________________
  • Everybody is sometimes sensing and sometimes intuitive.  Your preference for one or the other may be strong, moderate, or mild.
  • To be effective as a learner and problem solver, you need to be able to function both ways.

    If you over emphasise sensing, you may rely too much on memorisation and familiar methods and not concentrate enough on understanding and innovative thinking;
    If you over-emphasise intuition, you may miss important details or make careless mistakes in calculations or hands-on work.

Click here to see how sensing learners can help themselves. 

Click here to see how intuitive learners can help themselves. 



  • Sequential learners tend to gain understanding in linear steps, with each step following logically on from the previous one. Global learners tend to learn in large jumps, absorbing material almost randomly without seeing connections, and then suddenly "getting it."
  • Sequential learners tend to follow logical stepwise paths in finding solutions; global learners may be able to solve complex problems quickly or put things together in novel ways once they have grasped the big picture, but they may have difficulty explaining how they did it.

Many people who read this description may conclude incorrectly that they are global, since everyone has experienced bewilderment followed by a sudden flash of understanding. What makes you global or not is what happens before the light bulb goes on. Sequential learners may not fully understand the material but they can nevertheless do something with it (like solve the homework problems or pass the test) since the pieces they have absorbed are logically connected. Strongly global learners who lack good sequential thinking abilities on the other hand, may have serious difficulties until they have the big picture. Even after they have it, they may be fuzzy about the details of the subject, while sequential learners may know a lot about specific aspects of a subject, but may have trouble relating them to different aspects of the same subject or to different subjects.


Click here to see how sequential learners can help themselves.


Click here to see how global learners can help themselves.

Click on tell me more for more information about the learning styles model and implications of learning styles for instructors and students.

Richard M. Felder
Hoechst Celanese Professor of Chemical Engineering
North Carolina State University

Barbara A. Soloman
Coordinator of Advising, First Year College
North Carolina State University

Richard Felder's Website is a great resource for Trainers


What am I asking them to do? and how are they going to feel about doing it?  What do I want them to achieve before they leave and what is the take-out?

These are key questions and in order to focus on what they take-out, we need to consider how they prefer to learn. Clearly, if someone can gather and retain more knowledge by listening and seeing at the same time, then as communicators we need to be striving to offer both.

However before you go rushing off into high techno multi-media land, research your target market as to technological capabilities and preferences. One interesting approach to how people learn is in work done by Neil D.Fleming, Lincoln University, New Zealand, noted for his work in academic development, called Vark.


No, not a swear word, the letters VARK stand for the 4 common learning styles that people have.

V – Visual
A – Audio
R – Reading
K - Kinetic

According to Fleming, very few people fall into just one category; most people have various combinations.

V - this groups’ ability to learn is greatly enhance by visuals:
pictures, diagrams, slides, videos, and the internet. (Broadband issues)

A – Audio. This group loves the sound of the spoken word. They find their learning capacities are enhanced when material presented to them is accompanied by sound. (Broadband issues)

R – This large group like to read information in order to assimilate it. The Baby-Boomer market falls into this category.

K Kinesthetic, those that like to touch. The interactivity of the internet is enjoyed by the majority of this group, but an equal number like to see before they buy and thus look to attend a retail or distribution outlet.

Visit the VARK website


A good interface designer will also suggest that you at least present your web site as a ‘text only’ format for those who appreciate a fast load and the facts first, before they invest time waiting for your graphics to download.  Example
Trying to target all learning styles, the communication models overlap to the point of ‘messiness’.  Eric Gould suggests using the product message as the foundation for the design.

To explain, he writes "if producing a site about a culture where the relationships between people and social institutions are something other than hierarchical, be sure not to use a hierarchical system of choices for navigating through the content. We might try links between screens that are more representative of the kinds of interpersonal relationships that exist in that culture."

Blended Learning will offer the most ideal platform for personalising the learning experience.  Just as you can easily understand the VARK concept, for a lot of people there are many layers of the learning experience that need to 'line up' in order for them to gain the maximum results from the learning.  This is highlighted by the next work we will look at


"Don't Teach Me....Let Me Learn!"

This is the title of an interesting article by

Barbara Prashnig - The Creative Learning Company

 Barbara has conducted enormous research over the last 10 years to bring together the complexities of multi-modal learning in an easy to understand performance assessment programme. Click on the graphic below for a larger view.


The above pyramid shows all the major environmental, sensory, attitudes, and left/right brain activities/capabilities that affect learning and performance.  Barbara has also developed multi-modal assessment tools for junior and senior students

All these pyramids are interactive (go to the site and 'mouse-over' each graphic for a short explanation of the learning component)   Visit CLC


Next Page: What is the difference between
a Learning Management System and
a Learning Content Management System?



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Last Updated: 3/03/2011 9:12:51 p.m.