This week we had to reflect on Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory and answer the following questions:
- Reflect on whether you accommodate these learning styles in your teaching practice. Do the technologies you use help you achieve this? If so, how? Or do they hinder it?
- What tools relate to the quadrants of the diagram? Does the situation change if the activity is accessed from a mobile, or done ‘in the field’?
- What other types of technology works well with activities in these quadrants? For example, where do classroom clickers (mentioned in the Eric Mazur story in Week 1) belong? What about social media?
I may or may not have answered the above questions, but boy, did it bring back memories of 1994…
I attended the Advanced Instructional Techniques Course at the RAAF School of Management and Training Technology at Wagga Wagga. It was an exciting time for me because it was my first Tri-Service training course and an opportunity to meet and learn from others in the Services.
Not only was Army and RAAF joining us, but I recall a small group of foreign female Indonesian officers who were part of our course. This course was a pre-requisite for any officer who was posted to a “Divisional Officer” role at the Australian Defence Force Academy. As I had been posted to look after 48 cadets in one squadron, this course ensured that experiential learning was critical to how theses cadets (aged 17-19 years old) were going to be trained by yours truly.
Even after all these years, I still haven’t had the heart to throw out my old course manuals from this course. I dug them out and took photos…
Even though they called it “Advanced Instructional Techniques” the modules were all related to experiential learning. Half of the course was within the classroom and the other half outside on various obstacle courses where we each took turns with our group to give them a task, brief the group, observe them performing a task and then debrief the group. In all cases, the debrief was as long as the task itself where we delved, explored every action of the members in this team activity.
It was hard going but the three things I distinctly remember about this course were:
(a) We were put through a battery of Learning Styles assessments (Kolb’s, NLP, Hemisphere and others)
(b) Everyone’s results were different – the female Indonesian officers had completely different results to our western standards (theirs was skewed towards “Accommodating ‘ Feeling and Doing”)
(c) We were given coloured texta pens rather than ink pens for taking notes to inspire creativity. (This was a first for me – coloured pens at a military course?? Who would have thought? Army officers snickered and continued to use their standard issue pens; Navy officers shrugged their shoulders; and the RAAFies exclaimed delight and started drawing).
The first test we did was the Learning Type Measure designed to help people understand and identify the differences in ways people learn. It was developed with the 4MAT system for teaching and leadership. My results were heavily skewed towards the bottom half of the quadrant with the following results:
- Conceptualising and Watching (43) (Type 2)
- Conceptualising and Doing (41) (Type 3)
- Doing and Experiencing (38) (Type 4)
- Watching and Experiencing (28) (Type 1)
Interestingly, I haven’t referred to these notes since 1994 but already, I’m seeing that my learning style hasn’t changed and it’s answering a lot of questions I have about my need to reflect but then do when it comes to applying what I learn.
Nothing much has changed in 18 years…18 years?? OMG….
According to this model, I’m a Type Two Learner. One who perceives information abstractly and processes it reflectively (hey, is that why I have taken to blogging so easily?!) I like to form theories and concepts by integrating my observations into what is known and I learn by thinking through ideas (YES!). I’m thorough and industrious (mmm, don’t know about thorough) and it says here that I enjoy ‘traditional classrooms – schools are made for us” (ooh, see? I’m not totally against them) and more interested in ideas than people (alas, yes – and this annoys me).
All up these are the Learner Types:
- Type 1 Learner: Strength is Innovation & Ideas – favourite question is ‘why?’
- Type 2 Learner: Creating Concepts and Models – favourite question is ‘what’?
- Type 3 Three Learner: Practical application of ideas – favourite questions is ‘how does this work?’
- Type 4 Learner: Action, Getting Things Going – favourite question is ‘what if?’
Immediately I could see that my learning style hasn’t changed since 1994. I still ask ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘what if’ much to the annoyance of people around me.
Therefore if we were to use Kolb’s Learning Style framework, I would sit under the ‘Assimilating‘ quadrant (thinking and watching) and ‘Converging‘ (thinking and doing).
I do recall that I had an “A Ha” moment there where it was made obviously clear to me that I would have to design my training programs to cater for all different learning styles. When they talked through the various roles of the teacher and how to incorporate various instructional techniques such as Information, Discussion, Coaching and Self-Discovery, the jigsaw pieces fell into place as to why I preferred university than to my school days and why I struggled in some classes over others in my earlier years. It also made me realise why my father struggled and didn’t complete school. As an extremely creative, artistic, right brain thinker – the formal classes of the 1950s were not conducive to his learning style.
I also recall slightly ‘miffed’ that I didn’t have much “feeling” in my readings – although I kept this quiet from my Army buddies.
Here’s another one we did…The Hemisphere Mode Indicator (crikey, this exercise is bringing back lots of memories, in particularly the discussion between the differences of the learning styles of our Indonesian colleagues versus the rest of us in that room). It also made me realise that I had a sneaking suspicion that I was going to be more Left brain orientated in these test results….
Sure enough I came out heavily left brain learner who responds to the following:
- Responds to verbal instructions
- Problem solved by logically and sequentially looking at parts
- Planned and structured
- Controls feelings
- Prefers hierarchial authority structures (what the?! maybe back then, but definitely not now, not anymore – objection, your honour)
- Talks, talks, and talks (wrong, I’m fairly quiet and err towards introvert even though my writing may reveal I’m “extrovertish” – if anything, I ramble on in my writing – this blog post a case in point)
- Is logical, sees cause and effect
Well some of these I agree with and others I don’t which goes to show that learning styles can be generic and there will always be slight differences between people. On the whole, having grown up with parents who are artistic, expressive, creative and intuitive, there have been many times when I actually wish I had more of what they had – they just grew up in the wrong time when they couldn’t fully express it.
So with that, I recall using my coloured texta pens in that course openly and at every opportunity. If my learning style reflected rationality and structure and order, then I had to be open to other ways for how people learn – and at least give it a go.
And here’s what I drew…
This week’s activity made me recall the tests I did for Learning Styles back in the military and just how much they still ‘hit home’ for me. Nowadays when designing and developing a course, I don’t overly think about it too much because it’s something that I just do. That is, I’ll vary the activities so that there’s a mix for everyone but by far, I have a preference to on-the-job experiences and always incorporate the activities to include these in real time, under realistic conditions.
This may be because the basis of my L&D experience was heavily focused on performance improvement and experiential learning in the military and it’s where I learned the most – and it was a given that I was going to include these in the learning programs I developed.
I cannot recall the best ‘facilitator’led workshop or cannot recall the most engaging online learning compliance program – what I do recall is being lifted to be pushed through a web or ropes, hanging off an obstacle course above a pool or being in a life raft being circled by sharks.
Learning at its best.