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Improving learning skills through adaptability, understanding

and practice
by Adelina Roman

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

(Benjamin Franklin)

Ever since the beginning of times, whether they have faced good, known or otherwise
unpredictable situations, people have had to acquire certain knowledge, information to survive, to
adapt and cope with challenges. Therefore, beyond the concept of learning, people needed to know to
adapt, so they assimilated different information that they pass it on to future generations.

An important contribution to this subject is the Theory of Experiential Learning developed by

Kolb in 1975. He believed that our experiences are necessary in shaping the way we learn. In his theory,
Kolb discuss and analyze four stages of learning from experience and that each person has a different
personality and a different way to absorb information.[1]

Figure 1 Kolb’s experiential learning cycle (adapted from Kolb and Fry, 1975)

Later on in 1986, Peter Honey and Alan Mumford developed the Manual of Learning Styles
based on Kolb contribution. The theory defines four practical learning styles: the reflectors, the theorist,
the activist and the pragmatist. The reflector is described as the person who prefer to observe from
different perspectives, being a good listener and methodical in his actions, reflecting on the evidence
until getting to a final conclusion. The theorist is characterized as a disciplined person with the ability to
adapt and having a step-by-step logical thinking. They question, analyze and have a low tolerance for
uncertainties making them theoretical personalities. The activist is a practical and social person who
easily integrated and get’s involved into discussions.” Activists are those individuals who learn by
doing”(Mobb, 2010). As an activist, the person is described as a problem-solver, maximizing their
learning abilities in a challenging environment and is willing to take risks. The fourth style is the
pragmatist who is described as a business-like personality who doesn’t necessary believe in theory and
they count on clear applications.” They learn better through taking time to think about how to apply
learning in reality, case studies, problem solving and discussion” (Mobb,2010). As personalities, they
often tend to take the simplest and obvious decision in solving a situation.[2][3]

All these learning types are connected and all have different strengths and weaknesses. Honey
and Mumford believed that the learning styles can be maximized once the individual is aware of his
preferred style, allowing the person to be more efficient and effective in learning. It increases the way
they adapt and learn from different environments.

Figure 2 Honey and Mumford’s learning styles (Honey and Mumford, 2006)

A critical consequence of this theory is the need for people to assume a high degree of
responsibility in the context of learning and to actively choose their goals and manage their learning.
Being aware of your own style of learning it provides a greater opportunity for further self-development,
being more capable and conscious. “These styles shape behavior not only in traditional educational
settings but shape an individual’s basic mode of adaptation to the world around him”(Kolb and Fry,

Through the years, these learning styles contributed to managing quality systems by using the
reflection of past experiences, concluding from these experiences by analyzing, planning the next steps
to improve the quality of products and services, testing it and repeat the loop until the satisfaction of
the performance reflects a visible improvement. “Knowing your learning style helps individuals to make
smarter decisions in adjusting the learning opportunities and your preference of best learning, increases
the range and variety of experiences which are potential learning opportunities, improves learning skills
and awareness ”(Zwanenberg, 2016).

In reality, there is no right or wrong way of learning because each person is unique through their
knowledge and experiences, we approach situations in a different way and each person has their own
suitable way of learning.”Understanding is important, but only when combined with practice and
repetition in a variety of circumstances, you can truly gain mastery over what you’re learning” (Barbara

1. Kolb, D. A., & Fry, R. E. (1974). Toward an applied theory of experiential learning (Chapter 3).
In C. Cooper(ed.)Theories of group processes. N.Y. :John Wiley & Sons

2. Honey, P. & Mumford, A. (1982). Manual of Learning Styles London: P Honey

3. Mobbs, R. (2010). Honey and Mumford Learning Styles. Retrieved from
University of Leicester [Online]

4. Ruby Rumson (March 2017). Honey and Mumford Learning Styles. Retrieved from

5. Zwanenberg, N. (2010). Felder and Silverman's Index of Learning Styles and Honey and
Mumford's Learning Styles Questionnaire: How do they compare and do they predict academic
performance? (Pages 365-380) DOI: 10.1080/713663743

6. Barbara Oakley [TedX Talks](5 August 2014). Learning how to learn | Barbara Oakley |
TEDxOaklandUniversity [Video file]. Retrieved from