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Learning Styles

Four Different Learning Styles

March 24, 2012 by Dr. Jon Warner in Learning Styles

Four Different Learning Styles

How we learn is an enormous topic that has caused the felling of many trees to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of books and articles that are written on the subject from hundreds of different perspectives. One particular but still very large ‘foundational’ part of this subject area is learning styles.

Definition of learning styles

Unfortunately, not everyone agrees on a common definition of learning styles. Some prefer to see it as part of overall perception and memory, some see it as part of human cognition and understanding and some see it as a unique human ‘stream’ of understanding or process for collecting information.

Different ways of learning

Of course, all ‘learners’ are not equal. They come in a variety of sizes, shapes and from many cultural backgrounds. In addition, their past experience and existing methods of learning may be very different. Quite apart from differences in general background or culture, some people will like to process information through text, whilst others will want visual support and images. Some will assimilate information individually whilst others will prefer to work in groups. Some will grasp information intuitively and quickly whereas others will prefer to see a strong sequential path and like time to reflect. In the end, the only thing you can say for sure is that every individual learns in their own particular way.

Why are learning style models important?

Despite the difficulties in coming up with a classification model that really works, it is helpful to determine where people’s general preferences or natural learning “biases” might lie. Although this is far from an exact science, the simple view is that the more we can understand how we perceive new information or new learning, the better and more successful our learning transfer will be.

The four learning styles model

One model of learning styles splits learning styles or preferences into the four categories of Attending, Translating, Relating, and Understanding.

  1. Attending (to the learning) – paying attention using one’s telescopic (focused and concentrated) or wide-angled (broad scanning) learning style
  2. Translating (the learning) – taking into account one’s preferences for receiving learning as a dependent learner (lecture-style), collaborative learner (with others), and/or an autonomous learner (self-led)
  3. Relating (the learning to what already knows) – processing information using a variety of channels (visual, auditory and kinesthetic)
  4. Understanding – putting the learning into perspective using a dominant style, which is either global or analytical

Understanding different learning styles will benefit you

Ultimately, an effort to appreciate learning styles will not only benefit you as an individual but it also helps when you communicate with others. For example, this could occur when coaching a colleague in aspects of your job, or teaching your children to complete a household task. In other words, you don’t have to be a formal trainer or facilitator to benefit from knowledge of the different learning styles and the awareness that you may need to adjust your approach in order to help others learn.

Our Online Learning Styles Profile measures all of the above in a single simple assessment that individuals can take in less than 15 minutes.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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  1. MarkApril 10, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    Great article. I’m a trainer myself and I found this very useful. Thanks.

    • Jon WarnerJuly 20, 2012 at 3:27 pm

      Great. I am glad you liked it.

  2. Annika HylmoJuly 3, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    Great reminders. Find this very useful in working with different types of people.

  3. KerryJuly 3, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    Hello! I just would like to give a huge thumbs up for the great info you have here on this post. I will be coming back to your blog for more soon.

    • Jon WarnerJuly 20, 2012 at 3:28 pm

      Great. Thanks for the support.

About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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