These are basically models that educational/psychological professionals create to define the different ways that different people learn and help educators (or pretty much anyone) find strategies that go well with different kinds of learners. There are quite a few different categorizations-sometimes it seems like everyone in the education field has his or her own patented model of learning styles- but I’m just going to talk about one model that seems to be pretty common. It groups learners into four different categories: self-expressive, mastery, understanding, and interpersonal.
Each of these categories is determined by a person’s perception- whether they use sensing or intuition- and judgment- thinking or feeling. Self-expressive learners fall into the categories of intuition and feeling. They prefer to learn in a setting where they are given a lot of freedom to choose their own methods for doing things and express their creativity. They tend to be very curious and eager to explore new ideas and concepts and to give them their own personal touch. Self-expressive learners like to play with things and try out different possibilities until they come up with an end result that they like. These are the kinds of students who thrive when assigned open-ended projects that allow them to take an idea and just run with it. Give them some loose guidelines and the materials or resources, and they’re off.
Mastery learners fall into the categories of sensing and thinking. They tend to be more efficient and results-oriented, focusing on the end result and being able to master a skill or knowledge set (hence the category name). They want to be presented the facts in an organized manner and given ample opportunity to practice and work with what they’re learning so they can internalize it and perfect their abilities. When it comes to assignments, mastery learners need concrete, step-by-step rules about how to successfully complete the assignment. They have to know exactly what is expected of them and how to achieve it. As such, these students prefer to get immediate feedback telling them what they are doing right and wrong so they can work on improving for next time. These learners like to have structure and consistency so they can focus on what is new- the material- instead of adjusting to other changes in the environment.
Understanding learners are described under intuition and thinking. These learners like to be challenged and to think logically about the information they are presented. They are often eager to experiment and think more deeply on a subject, because they don’t just want to know the “what,” they want to know the “why.” They want to understand how formulas, theories, and ideas came about so they can test the reasoning themselves and come to their own conclusions. As such, they like to be doing things with the content they are learning- classifying, categorizing, looking for causes and effects, similarities and differences- in order to get a deeper appreciation of the subject. These kinds of learners want to focus on the details and have in-depth discussions where they can explore, analyze, and think deeply about a topic.
Interpersonal learners use sensing and feeling to make sense of the world around them. For them, it is important to be given the opportunity to interact with the content, as well the people around them. They are perceptive and empathetic, seeking to understand people’s motive’s and thoughts and how different events affected different people. For these learners,
it is important to incorporate the human side of the content. They like to learn in a group setting, where they can discuss the topic with their peers and come to better understand both the subject and the people. It is especially crucial for these learners to feel like they are in a safe and encouraging environment where they can speak freely and be received with respect and support as they do likewise.
So that’s the basics of the four different learning styles for this particular model. If you find yourself not fitting squarely into any one category, that’s normal. As is usually the case when people try to categorize people (or anything, really), it doesn’t work out evenly, where you find yourself identifying completely within a single description and don’t fit in at all with the other options. It’s more a matter of degrees- you may feel like you’re mostly an interpersonal learner, but you also recognize elements of self-expressive in your personality, and little bits of mastery and understanding. It’s also possible to change and find that, though you were quite self-expressive in high school, now your learning fits more in the understanding category.
We actually took a test about this in Block, and my highest score was mastery, which I pretty much expected. I like to have specific instructions and steps when I’m learning so I can know exactly what to do and how to do it- it drives me crazy when the teacher just gives vague directions and lets us loose (which also explains why my lowest score was in self-expressive). So what do you guys think you are? Do you like structure, freedom, people, depth? Are you mostly one category, or do you see elements of yourself in a couple of different areas?
If this was interesting, I can talk about other models in the future, or other education-y things, or completely not education-y things. But that’s all for now- I have homework and reality to get back to. Have a good week everybody!