People - Top Tips - Learning Styles

Learning Styles

This document is designed as a quick reference guide to learning styles.

This will enable you to gain knowledge of a particular skill, task or process.

Have a look means you can quickly find the key information that you need and refer to it on an ongoing basis whenever you need to refresh your knowledge.



When we need/want to learn something new we all approach this in a different way. Out of all of the possible approaches we could take no one way is better than another in terms of what we learn as we all have to do what works best for us. This is because everyone has a preferred learning style.


There are essentially four learning styles:


     Activist – Learn by doing / having a go. This represents the first stage of the learning cycle


     Reflector – Learn by thinking about what has happened after the event and often prefer to watch others before having a go themselves. This type of activity falls into the second stage of the learning cycle.


     Theorist – Need to understand the theory behind actions and gather information in order to learn about them. This relates to the third stage of the learning cycle.


     Pragmatist – keen to try out new ideas and need to put learning into practice in the real world to see how it works. This ‘experimentation’ falls into the fourth stage of the learning cycle.

If we put these preferred styles into the context of when a brand new product arrives in store that everyone needs to learn about…


     Those with a preferred style of activist, would have a go at using the product straightaway


     Reflectors would benefit greatly from speaking to others about their experience of using the product or watch a demonstration


     Individuals with Theorist as their preferred style would get a lot out of reading about the product using the instruction book, product launches and so on in order to get lots of information about it


     Those whose preferred style is Pragmatist would probably refer to the instruction book and then have a go at using the product


Whilst we each have a preferred learning style that tends to come naturally to us when learning something new, depending on the situation we are in and what we are learning we will display characteristics of the other styles as we move through the cycle. We must not use our preferred learning style as an excuse to hide behind e.g. ‘I don’t want to take part in that activity as I don’t learn as well that way’

It is beneficial to understand preferred learning styles so that we can seek learning and development opportunities using that style and work to develop an ability to learn using the other styles. Achieving a balance of all four styles enables us to make the most of every development opportunity and learn effectively. This applies both when managing your own development and when helping to develop others.

Therefore when planning training activities and delivering training sessions it is important to bear learning styles in mind and ensure that there is something for everyone to maximise the benefit of the session.

People - Top Tips - Learning Styles

What you need to know

Development Activities

There are many activities you can undertake, all of which will help you in some way. Knowing your preferred learning style and the results that you want to achieve will support you in identifying the best development activities to use in each situation.

To get lots of information, you could:

     Use ‘Top Tips…’ training materials

     Read a book, brochure or magazine, trade press, libraries,

     Watch a video or DVD

     Listen to an audio tape or CD

     Use a CD-ROM

     Access the internet


Working with other people in the business:

     Use ‘development challenge’ and ‘self-coaching’ materials

     Manage a project

     Role play a situation

     Buddy up with an ‘expert’ in the field you want to learn about

     Attend a coaching session with your line manager or a colleague

     Take on new responsibilities


You could:

     Visit other stores, a distribution centre or competitors

     Assist on a project e.g. a refit

     Spend time with a field manager


Further Information

If you would like to learn more about learning styles, the following resources are recommended:

     Learning styles self-check