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Learning Style

Understanding how you learn, your learning style will help you select your learning activities to ensure you learn most effectively. This does not mean that you cannot learn from activities that are not specifically suited to your style. Selecting activities outside your usual style will help you develop your learning skills.

kolb's learning styles model

Kolb's learning theory (Kolb 1984)[2] sets out four distinct learning styles, which are based on a four-stage learning cycle:

  • 'immediate or concrete experiences' provide a basis for:
  • 'observations and reflections' which are assimilated and distilled into:
  • 'abstract concepts' producing new implications for action which can be:
  • 'actively tested' in turn creating new experiences.

Peter Honey and Alan Mumford

In 1986 Honey and Mumford developed a Learning Style Questionnaire building upon Kolb's work. They identified four learning styles ('activist', 'reflector', 'theorist', and 'pragmatist'), which had much in common with Kolb's work and had strong correlations with the learning cycle.

  • Activists enjoy doing things and tend to act first and consider the implications afterwards. They learn best when:
    • involved in new experiences
    • problems and opportunities
    • working with others in team tasks or role-playing
    • being thrown in the deep end with a difficult task
    • chairing meetings, leading discussions
  • Reflectors like to collect data, review and think carefully before coming to any conclusions. They learn best when:
    • observing individuals or groups at work
    • reviewing what has happened and thinking about what they have learned
    • producing analyses and reports doing tasks without tight deadlines

  • Theorists think problems through step-by-step and tend to be perfectionists who like to fit things into a rational scheme. They learn best when:
    • put in complex situations where they have to use their skills and knowledge
    • they are in structured situations with a clear purpose
    • they are offered interesting ideas or concepts even though they are not immediately relevant
    • they have the chance to question and probe ideas

  • Pragmatists are eager to try things out and like concepts applied to their job. They learn best when:
    • there is a link between the topic and job
    • they have the chance to try out techniques
    • they are shown techniques with distinct advantages such as saving time
    • they are shown a model they can copy


Honey and Mumford (2001)[1] details the learning style questionnaire and how to determine your learning style.


  1. HONEY, P. and MUMFORD, A. (2001) The learning styles questionnaire. London: Peter Honey Publications
  2. KOLB, D.A. (1984) Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (2006) Learning Style [WWW] Available from: [Accessed