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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Four Learning Styles

The book Teach What You Know has an interesting list of four learning styles:
  • Purpose-Driven learners need to know why something is important before they begin to learn about it. While you are teaching away, they are trying to figure out why the topic is important. Once they have an answer, they will give you their attention.
  • Just The Facts learners don't care so much about the big picture – what's important to them is the steps to do the job. They want you to skip the fluff and just tell them the main points.
  • Contextual learners seemingly ask you about everything except the topic at hand. "OK, let's get back on topic," you say gently. But that's how contextual learners learn: by seeing the connections to things on the periphery.
  • Out-of-the-Box learners are ornery devil's advocates. "What if we took a totally different approach and try this?" they ask, to your chagrin. "What would happen if that part failed?" Out-of-the-Box learners learn by pushing the limits of knowledge, by asking about hypothetical situations.
In the book, these styles are called: Why learners, What learners, How Does It Work learners, and What If learners.

Update: The book's author, Steve Trautman, sent me this helpful clarification:
Hi Jon

Thanks for posting about my book. I wanted to offer a slight correction. I’d say you’ve mixed your “contextual learner” with your “out of the box learner.” The hallmark of a contextual learner is needing to see the relationships between the components in a situation. For example, they like to see an org chart and job descriptions so they know how the people fit together. They like to see a site map to know how the grounds are laid out and they like to have information about external factors like competition or seasonal issues. They’re the ones who need to see the “big picture” in order to learn.

Otherwise your paraphrase is good.

The other note you might want to share is that since not everyone learns the same way, we need to be a little tolerant of the differences when we’re the teacher/mentor – adjusting for the learning style of our apprentices rather than making them adjust to us.

Hope this helps.

All the best

Steve Trautman


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