"We are going to interview new learners - what should we look for?" This is a question I am frequently asked. To answer this question I refer to some of the research I did during my studies in trying to determine what, if any, traits are predominantly found in artisans.
I believe that, if you understand the way people learn, you will get some insight into the type of person you should employ. With this in mind, I will introduce the Kolb learning styles, its definitions and descriptions.
Knowing a person's (and your own) style of learning allows learning to be orientated according to the preferred method. That said, everyone responds to and needs the stimulus of all types of learning styles to one extent or another - it is a matter of using the emphasis that fits best with the given situation and a person's preferred learning style.
Here is a brief description of the four Kolb learning styles:
• Diverging (feeling and watching - CE/RO): These people are able to look at things from different perspectives. They are sensitive. They prefer to watch rather than do, tending to gather information and using imagination to solve problems.
They are best at viewing concrete situations from several different viewpoints. Kolb called this style ‘Diverging' because these people perform better in situations that require ideas-generation, for example, brainstorming. People with a Diverging learning style have broad cultural interests and like to gather information. They are interested in people, tend to be imaginative and emotional, and tend to be strong in the arts. People with the Diverging style prefer to work in groups, and they listen with an open mind to receive personal feedback.
• Assimilating (watching and thinking - AC/RO): The Assimilating learning preference is for a concise, logical approach. Ideas and concepts are more important than people. These people require a good, clear explanation rather than a practical opportunity. They excel at understanding a wide range of information and organising it into a clear, logical format.
People with an Assimilating learning style are less focused on people and more interested in ideas and abstract concepts. People with this style are more attracted to logically sound theories than to approaches that are based on practical value. People with this learning style are important for effectiveness in information and science careers. In formal learning situations, people with this style prefer reading, lectures, exploring analytical models, and having time to think things through.
• Converging (doing and thinking - AC/AE): People with a Converging learning style can solve problems and will use their learning to find solutions to practical issues. They prefer technical tasks, and are less concerned with people and interpersonal aspects. People with a Converging learning style are best at finding practical uses for ideas and theories. They can solve problems and therefore make decisions by finding solutions to questions and problems. A Converging learning style enables specialist and technology abilities. People with a Converging style like to experiment with new ideas, to simulate, and to work with practical applications.
• Accommodating (doing and feeling - CE/AE): The Accommodating learning style is ‘hands-on', and these people rely on intuition rather than logic. They use other people's analyses, and prefer to take a practical, experiential approach. They are attracted to new challenges and experiences, and to carrying out plans. They commonly act on ‘gut' instinct rather than logical analysis.
People with an Accommodating learning style will tend to rely on others for information than carry out their own analyses. This learning style is prevalent and useful in roles requiring action and initiative. People with an Accommodating learning style prefer to work in teams to complete tasks. They set targets and actively work in the field trying different ways to achieve an objective.
As with any behavioural model, this is a guide and not a strict set of rules. Nevertheless, most people exhibit clear, strong preferences for a given learning style. The ability to use, or to ‘switch' between different styles is not one that we should assume comes easily or naturally to many people.
Simply, people who have a clear learning style preference, for whatever reason, will tend to learn more effectively if learning is orientated according to their preference.
This is why, when I am interviewing potential learners, I like to get an understanding of their learning style. In my experience, I have found that people with a Converging learning style make better artisans because they can solve problems, find solutions to practical issues, they prefer technical tasks and are less concerned with people and interpersonal aspects.
To find out more about Kolb's learning styles, go to http://www.businessballs.com/kolblearningstyles.htm