David Kolb developed a set of learning styles, published in 1984, to help explain the learning behaviours of humans, and to also assist individuals with understanding and improving their own learning, whether it be in an academic or practical sense. Within the context of the IAG environment, these four learning styles can be incredibly useful for both the advisor and the client.
In terms of the advisor, being able to identify one’s learning style can help the advisor develop and grow themselves, which will in turn increase their efficiency for their clients. Understanding your learning style can help with working in a team as well, as will teach the advisor ways of working that will lead to them absorbing the most information from other colleagues. A vast part of careers information, advice, and guidance is actually keeping up-to-date and learning away from the client, and so it is vital to ensure that the advisor is learning in the correct way for them.
Learning styles can also be very helpful for the client. Identifying a learning style is something that the advisor and the client can do together as an initial activity, and is particularly beneficial for clients who are uncertain as to what careers or educational options would best suit them. The advisor can learn a lot about the client from identifying their learning style, and so can use this to deliver effective IAG sessions with them. Once you have identified your own learning style you can ensure that your sessions are not always guided in this way – something that many of us do subconsciously
Image sourced from Maoria Kirker
The diagram above shows the four different learning styles, and the methods of experiencing that relate to each (Kolb’s Learning Cycle). Each learning style tends to learn from two methods of the cycle, although in reality it is of course not quite so black and white.
The first learning style is ‘accommodating’ – someone who learns through concrete experience (feeling) and active experimentation (doing). This type of person will be practical and hands-on, wanting to learn from physical activity and intuition. They are more likely to take risks as they will rely on their gut feeling rather than logic, and will work well within teams, being able to delegate and rely on others. Assimilators work really well in sectors such as sales and marketing, where their jobs revolve around a lot of action.
The second learning style is ‘diverging’, and these are people who learn through feeling and reflective observation (watching). Preferring to observe from the side-lines, these are the brainstormers who learn best from observing others and creating ideas from this. They are often imaginative and empathetic, and are able to view situations from different perspectives. Divergers work best in careers that utilise creativity and emotion, such as music, the arts, and social roles.
The third learning style is ‘assimilating’ – someone who learns best from watching and abstract conceptualisation (thinking). Analysis, reading, and lectures are several efficient ways of learning for these people, as they prefer to think things through and look at things from a logical stance. Ideas and abstract concepts are more important than people, and clear explanations are key. Science and maths-based careers are often suitable for assimilators.
The last learning style is ‘converging’, which relates to people who learn from thinking and doing. People in this category are generally quite technical, and enjoy problem-solving and then applying their new knowledge to various practical situations. They are generally quite good at applying theories and ideas in a practical way, and use their ability to question to their advantage. Convergers suit careers in fields such as technology and media, where roles are less about people and more about specific problems and issues.
Kolb’s learning styles can come across as quite complex to clients, as they require a lot of understanding and introspection. The VARK learning styles are similar, but can often be simpler for younger or more vulnerable clients.
Image sourced from Rowntree Montessori Schools
The VARK learning styles were originally developed by Fleming and Mills in 1992 to reflect student and teacher learning, although again can be adapted to suit the IAG environment. The four types above show how a person learns, and can then be used to aid future learning and to understand the best situations for the person to work within. An effective way of identifying VARK learning styles with a client is by getting them to do quick introspective questionnaire, such as this one here.
Both Kolb’s learning styles and Fleming and Mills’ VARK modes are highly useful in helping an unsure client to understand which future is right for them. Try them on yourself first and see how accurate they are – once you have done this, you can start to implement them into your own IAG sessions for more personalised and inclusive discussion.