Skip to content

Empowerment Through Knowledge
No.16: Learning Styles

Upcoming Events

There is no upcoming event at the moment.

Empowerment Through Knowledge
No.16: Learning Styles

There are a variety of theories about the learning processes of human beings. Each one has its own merits, since they each provide some partial explanation of how we humans learn things, and each theory may even apply fully to certain people. One of the most prominent theories of learning is attributable to David Kolb in his 1984 book “Experiential Learning: Experience As The Source Of Learning And Development” which builds on the work of various psychologists from the earlier part of the same century, namely Jung, Rogers and Piaget.

Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory and the corresponding Learning Styles model was later developed by Peter Honey and Alan Mumford (H&M) in 1986 by developing a Learning Styles Questionnaire that had higher validity with managers amongst other test subjects. The Honey and Mumford (H&M) model provides for four distinct styles: the Activist, the Reflector, the Theorist and the Pragmatist. These four styles or profiles would, however, fit into a continuum so that each person can have different elements of each profile within their particular character. It is almost impossible for a person not to have elements of each style as part of their own learning system, but it is also very likely that each person has some preference or preferences.

One of the practical implications of this model is that when a team involves different members having strong preferences towards one style or another, tension might arise if not managed properly. If one style dominates, it can be very frustrating and stressful for the individuals with other styles. For example, the Theorists and Reflectors are more thought-oriented, while the Activists and Pragmatists are more action-oriented. If managed well, each style can provide a vital contribution to the team managing a task or project.

Malta Business School has had the opportunity to apply this model in various companies through our Corporate Training programmes, particularly in team building and team management workshops, as well as in various project management courses. This has brought many useful insights to participants.

If you would like to complete the Learning Styles Questionnaire; here is a link:


The four learning styles/profiles
Activist (Feeling & Doing)

The Activist is a doing/feeling kind of person, who wants to get their hands dirty to experience something and to learn. They will not be too good at sitting and just listening to absorb information, and in all probability will not pick up a how-to-do manual of a gadget before trying to see how it works. They will want to try things themselves first. They feel very uncomfortable with what they would term as “overthinking things” and “endless discussions”. They want to act. They tend to be more flexible and open to ideas and least likely to resist change. They will bore themselves easily, and hence seek challenges and novelty, many times taking (undue) risks by acting without thinking.


Reflector (Feeling & Watching)

The Reflector learns best when they can first observe and process that experience/observation in their head before feeling confident enough to try it themselves. They prefer to first watch and learn, before they would dare to do something themselves. They feel very uncomfortable with rash decisions and spontaneous action that has not been thought through properly and extensively. They tend to be good listeners and observers, are thoughtful, thorough and methodical. They tend to only feel comfortable with participating in an activity after they have considered all angles and are sure of themselves. They, therefore tend to be cautious and slow at decision-making.


Theorist (Thinking & Watching)

The Theorist is the logical, analytical pattern-finder. They are the ones who will create the theory or pattern after observing some happenings. They tend to be logical and disciplined, and not very good at lateral thinking or thinking outside the box. They tend to ask very probing and insightful questions, and hate ambiguity, since they need to see how things fit into patterns. They have a tendency towards perfectionism. They are uncomfortable in situations where they have to participate in unstructured activities, or without proper guidelines. They tend also not feel too comfortable dealing with situations that emphasise emotions and feelings.


Pragmatist (Thinking & Doing)

The Pragmatist tends to be realistic and practical, many times going for the first expedient solution without waiting to see other options. They tend to see knowledge being applied, and not have knowledge for knowledge’s sake. They can be impatient, wanting things to be business-like and get to the point. They tend to be task-oriented and dislike hypothetical situations and theorizing. Pragmatists need to see the light at the end of the tunnel to be motivated to do something, whether it is the reward or the benefit of the activity.


After completing it yourself, sharing the Learning Styles Questionnaire with your team members or colleagues could provide some valuable insight into the best management practices for working together.


Executive Coaching

We believe that sustainable change can only be achieved through a genuine understanding of the real issues facing organisations. We consult by working collaboratively with you, as our client, involving you in creating and developing a participative process to bring about real change. 

We deliver strictly confidential individual or group coaching sessions in a safe and secure environment tackling issues for personal or professional improvement and growth. Our executive coaching sessions are led by qualified coaches with experience in dealing with people coming from different cultural backgrounds and diverse business roles and situations.