TOPIC 4: How to use different learning styles

TOPIC 4: How to use different learning styles

We are different as humans and we have different ways of learning effectively. Awareness of different learning styles can help us understand, why certain activities during learning are for some participants highly effective and difficult to grasp for others. The most important message for our practice, then, is that we need to create educational activities to balance elements appropriate for different learning styles. In this topic we will define 4 main types of learning style preferences and we will find out the pros and cons of each.

Peter Honey and Alan Mumford have identified four main learning style preferences.

  • Activist – Activists like to be involved in new experiences and are enthusiastic about new ideas. They enjoy doing things and tend to act first and consider the implications afterwards. They are unlikely to prepare for the learning experience or review their learning afterwards.
  • Reflector – Reflectors like to view the situation from different perspectives. They like to collect data, review and think carefully before coming to any conclusions. They enjoy observing others and will listen to their views before offering their own.
  • Theorist – Theorists like to adapt and integrate observations into complex and logically sound theories. They think problems through step- by-step. They tend to be perfectionists who like to fit things into a rational scheme.
  • Pragmatist – Pragmatists are eager to try things out. They like concepts that can be applied to their job. They tend to be impatient with lengthy discussions and are practical and down to earth.
Learns Best when:Learns Less 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
➤ listening to lectures or long explanations
➤ reading, writing or thinking on their own
➤ absorbing and understanding data
➤ following precise instruction to the letter
Learns Best when:Learns Less 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
➤ acting as leader or role-playing in front of others
➤ doing things with no time to prepare
➤ being thrown in at the deep end
➤ being rushed or worried by deadlines
Learns Best when:Learns Less when:
➤ put in complex situations where they have to use their skills and knowledge
➤ they are in structured situations with 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
➤ they have to participate in situations which emphasise emotion and feelings
➤ the activity is unstructured or briefing is poor
➤ they have to do things without knowing the principles or concepts involved
➤ they feel they’re out of tune with the other participants, for example people with different learning styles
Learns Best when:Learns Less when:
➤ there is a link between the topic and job
➤ they have the chance to try out techniques
➤ they are shown techniques with obvious advantages such as saving time
➤ they are shown a model they can copy
➤ there is no obvious or immediate benefit that they can recognise
➤ there is no practice or guidelines on how to do it
➤ there is no apparent benefit to the learning
➤ the event or learning is “all theory”
Learning style preferences

How do you find out what types of learning styles do people in your community garden have?

You can guess your learning type from having read the brief descriptions above together in your community garden. Once you know your areas of strengths and weaknesses, you are in a much better position to choose learning experiences and opportunities that suit you, as well as strengthen your weaker styles.

Most likely we are working with groups where there will be participants with all sorts of preferences learning styles. Also, if we learn most effectively with one way, it doesn’t mean that we can’t learn in other ways. It may just be slightly less effective. Therefore, it is necessary to be very careful about pigeonholing. This theory is NOT a method to quickly and easily sort people and could lead to the risk of stereotyping. A great tool is to ask WHY a community garden member prefers a particular learning style at this particular moment.

PHOTO SOURCE: Magdalena Velátová, Kokoza, 2022
Additional material

Free online test: What kind of learner are you?


Mumford, A. (1997) How to manage your learning environment. Peter Honey Publications.

Identifying your personal learning style. Australian Government, The Departement of Health ans Aged Care.