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Behind learning – the role of learning styles and environment


It's generally accepted now that the effectiveness of a programme of learning undertaken by an individual is influenced by other things aside from the role of the trainer, tutor, instructor or learning materials being used. Both the immediate environment and the individual's skill in mastering the ability to learn effectively play a strong part in establishing a successful outcome for a learning programme. A number of theories have been put forward to explain how individual differences affect the way that learning takes place, including work by Kolb and Fry and <a href="
">Honey and Mumford, whose work identifies four key types of learning style.

If you're a trainer working with a group or an individual learner, it's well worth doing some background reading on this subject to inform your delivery of or understanding of the way you interact with training. Stuart Emmett has written two practical guides for TrainingZONE which can help you put some of the learning theories into action. Effective Learning Conditions starts from the basis that learning is not automatic. To be effective it needs the correct conditions to come together with an appropriate individual skill base. Emmett has written a checklist of requirements for learning, which detail the need to establish appropriate support, atmosphere and surroundings. In addition, the guide looks at the role of companies in establishing and stimulating a successful learning environment, and examines the use of mentors to do so.

Establishing suitable conditions for learning can't guarantee that learning takes place: it needs the learner themselves to understand and make the most of their own learning skills. Effective Learning Skills views learning as a critical skill to be developed. This involves using time; funding the right location, understanding when you learn best and the development of listening, memory, note taking, reading and writing skills. The guide itself contains a number of tools to help the learner establish how they learn best and develop an 'appetite for learning'. It's useful to establish what might be stopping you from learning effectively - it's been established that no-one learns in the same way, and will be motivated in different ways. Emmett looks at the role of the different senses in influencing a learner's response to learning stimulus - some interesting ideas surface when looking at whether an individual talks about feeling, seeing or hearing in day-to-day conversation which provides useful clues to identify the way that individual approaches things.

The work carried out on how and why people learn provides a fascinating insight for anyone working in the training field or undertaking formal learning themselves. For more information about learning styles, visit


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