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Learning styles (Markus Gärtner)

On March 19, 2014, in Syndicated, by Association for Software Testing
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During DEWT4 I reached the conclusion that there are different learning styles, and they have different levels of effectiveness, at least for me. I think it was Alistair Cockburn that triggered the thought with his model on communication effectiveness. I think there are various levels of learning effectiveness related to Cockburn’s communication effectiveness as well. I think the axes for learning styles are the amount of interactivity, and its effectiveness for the student.

Reading

In my past, I received a lot by reading about different models, styles, and models. I learned a lot by engaging with folks afterwards. I also learned a lot by incorporating the thoughts from the books that I read into my daily work.

That said, I think reading about new ideas is a style of self-directed learning that has a role to play. I am heavily engaged with this learning style, and it necessiates a lot of passion, and discipline.

Reading alone does not solve a problem. You still need to incorporate time to deal with the different outside influences. Most of the effective learning will take place while you put down the book, and try to incorporate the various foreign elements that you noticed. At least that has been my experience.

Class-room training

In class-room training, traditional style, there is usually someone that tells you how to do stuff. There is someone that is leading the conversation, and providing you with more directive input. There is still some self-direction involved when it comes to pick the right training course for you; and of course you can reframe and refuse some of the lessons taught to you. The teacher usually does not have a direct feedback when it comes to incorporating the different thoughts into your daily work-life.

Training effectiveness can suffer a bit here when it comes to pick the training course to attend to, and which ideas you are going to follow up on, and try to integrate into your daily life. Usually the trainer will be gone for the integration part, and at times the trainer will also be missing for the selection of ideas to follow up onto. This is unfortunately as so much intangible and tacit knowledge is not transported between the trainer with the experience and the student that should be seeking that knowledge. On the other hand it may work for folks that are able to learn from distinct impulses alone.

Experiential Learning

Rather than having someone tell me what to do in my daily work, there are other training formats rising up right now. Training from the back of the room, simulations, and experiential learning build upon students experiencing how the learning objective translates into their daily business. The learning effectiveness is a different one for these learning styles.

This type of learning has more self-directed elements in it while providing concrete experiences that people can leverage to help them realize which lessons to bring back into their work environment. This kind of learning style uses feedback cycles to help students evaluate for themselves which learning topics bring more value for them, and their companies, at times on several levels of meta.

Coaching

My current picture is that Coaching helps you realize more things about the topics that you want to improve. It’s highly meta in the way that it helps you to realize the different areas of knowledge that you would like to invest in.

Coaching makes you realizes about all the areas that you could invest time and energy in – and helps you to come with conclusions about which one should be first. Coaching is a style of learning that makes you aware of all the things that you don’t know, yet, and how you could prioritize them. Coaching makes you aware of the right questions to ask to reach that conclusion, and derive the next steps for your self-direct learning next.

Mentoring

Mentoring solves a different problem. While coaching relies to throwing up a bunch of questions, mentoring tries to engage with the answering process a bit more. Mentoring helps to make more directive decisions when it comes to learning fields. Mentoring provides some options here, and provides guidance for the individual learning style, and ties back some feedback about personal preferences.

Some folks refer to mentoring as a life-long learning opportunity for the mentor and the mentee. I think that the intangible outcome lies in more direction towards possible learning goal than coaching provides. When it comes to me personal coach, I learn a lot about models, but not so much about when to apply them. That’s something more suitable for mentoring.

Pick your weapons

Depending on the stuff that you would like to see addresses for your personal learning journey, you should be clear on your goals, and next steps. Based upon that pick the learning style that addresses your personal style best, and helps you receive the best outcome. Thereby you ensure that you get the most out of whatever model you pick as your favorite.

As my father taught me, when finishing your apprenticeship, your learning journey starts. Make sure to know what helps you most based upon your personal style and preference. From there on inspect and adapt. Oh, and enjoy!

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