You may have realized over the course of your student life that you have a preferred method for learning new information. It seems all of us have different learning styles – how we concentrate, process and retain new and challenging information – depending both on inherited characteristics and environmental influences. For example, some of us might better understand new material in accounting training from listening to a lecture, while others benefit more from reading course materials. Internal preferences may change over many years with motivation but understanding your preferred learning approach and connecting it with the unique teaching method is the most effective route to academic achievement.
Kolb Learning Style Model
The cognitive theorist David Kolb developed the Learning Style Inventory, identifying four learning modes:
- Concrete Experience – intuitive decision-makers who feel more than think
- Reflective Observation – those who prefer to watch and observe, tending to more appreciate differing perspectives
- Abstract Conceptualization – approaching problem-solving from a more scientific method, thinking more than feeling
- Active Experimentation – taking an active role in influencing others and situations, welcoming practical applications and participation
Type 1 students seek personal meaning as they learn, and interaction with peers and instructors, benefiting from extra feedback and group studying. The degree of optimal instructor interaction decreases from Type 2 to 4, with Type 4 learners thriving when self-discovery is encouraged.
Surface vs. Deep Learning
When learning a new subject, students will often study differently depending on the perceived objectives of the course they are studying. Surface learning is characterized by focusing on parts of the material to memorize that may be quizzed on. It concentrates on details and course requirements, motivated by the pragmatic task at hand. The deep approach to learning actively seeks to understand the subject by vigorously interacting with the content, relating new ideas to previous content and everyday experience, while making use of evidence, inquiry and evaluation. Clearly there is a different degree of motivation between the two styles and both can be productive in certain situations.
Moving to deeper learning enhances longer term memory and a more thorough understanding of material. Developing a greater capacity of synthesis and analysis with a more proactive attitude to learning may require integrating various methods of acquiring knowledge. For example, for difficult material in your healthcare courses, try talking about the material with other students after class before going back to independent study. Peer instruction has proven effective in all types of courses to gain a greater perspective on material. By having a little less traditional lecture but complementing learning with virtual interactive media, software, and various other forms, a deeper comprehension level is encouraged. If, for instance, you find that for some reason you aren’t sufficiently connecting with one aspect of your IT training, experiment with using different learning styles. Whatever works to maximize your learning!