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Critically analyse the theory behind each of your three selected learning style models. You should evaluate the major ideas behind each theory, and support your ideas with appropriate literature. Consider how the theory behind the learning style model makes it appropriate for adult education. 


Describe two adult learning environments that you are familiar with. Outline the characteristics of each learning environment, including a brief description of the learners, the content, the delivery, and the role of the teacher or facilitator. Compare the advantages and disadvantages of the use of each of your three selected learning style models, and tools used to analyse them, in each of your described adult learning environments. 

Learning Style Models

Since the year of 1970s, a very important concept developed in the theory of learning, and this learning style theory propounded the fact that individuals differ in how they learn and receive information (Harasim, 2017). Hence, it became clearly evident that the cognitive style, instructional preference or perceptual response of one learner will be highly distinguished from that of the other learner.

Thus it is an obvious fact that learning styles vary amongst students learning in a given environment, and while different academic theorists have tried to hypothesize a variety of ways in which a specific learning style theory will be beneficial for the learners, it would be interesting to take note of three learning style models. Accordingly the essay intends to analyse the learning styles named Dunn and Dunn learning style, Honey and Mumford learning style and Gregorc’s Mind Style model, and critically analyse the effectiveness of employing each one in a particular adult learning context.

Behaviorism is a specific learning theory that relies on the principle of “stimulus-response”. This specific learning theory simply believes that a student is actually a passive learner who just responds to the environmental stimuli. The mind of the student is believed to be a tabula rasa, and the learning behaviour of the learning is shaped by positive and negative reinforcement. The Mind Styles Learning Model as propounded by Gregorc, in 1984, employs the use of Behaviorism learning theory as it states that any learner will learn a new thing by taking in either concrete information provided in class or abstract thought or concept derived after by interpreting the class lecture on the basis of student knowledge and intuition. Accordingly there are four kinds of learners

                                                                   Gregorc Learning Style Model

While the unstructured environment goes well with the AR learners, the CR learners learn by committing errors and learning by them. Again, while the AS learners prefer a logical and analytical approach to the learning process, the CS learners are usually able to learn by a well-structured and organized way. While the concrete learners learn directly from what is taught in the class, the abstract learners tend to think in a specifically analytical and deductive way. While teaching these learners, the concrete learners need to be offered with direct assessment tests, comprising of writing down what has been taught in the class, and they are being rewarded and encouraged to write detailed, explanatory answers (Merriam & Bierema, 2013). On the other hand, the abstract learners are being asked to engage in group projects, that offer them ample scope to interpret and analyse a specific phenomenon rather than opting or rote learning techniques. However, in both the cases, the students are being verbally explained about the teacher expectations and learning outcomes that they need to achieve.

Mind Styles Learning Model - Gregorc

The next important learning theory that should be mentioned is the theory of social constructivism that claims that a learner is not merely an individual, or an independent authority, but he is essentially an important component of the environment he is raised in. Hence, it is useless to separate the learner from the social context he develops in. The process of social negotiation and evaluation of the viability of individual understanding play an integral role the learning process of an individual learner, and hence it becomes imperative for the teacher to have an insight into the student’s opinions, engage him in creative activities that bring in possibilities of interaction beyond books, and lets him contribute with his own knowledge. According to this theory, a learner has an internal drive to learn, and in order to promote his learning process, he must be offered with the different emotional, environmental, sociological, physiological and psychological stimuli that need to be satisfied for best learning outcome (Kiraly, 2014).

The Dunn and Dunn learning style theory reiterates the learning theory motif propounded by Lev Vygotsky while explaining the theory of social constructivism, stating that every student is the product of social interaction who can best learn not by assimilation but by integrating him in the knowledge community. This learning style clearly demonstrates the importance of understanding the different emotional, environmental, sociological, physiological and psychological stimuli and provision of each to the student to encourage his successful learning process (Dunn & Honigsfeld, 2013)y are being taught in the morning session. Again, there are students who can perform well in cool and gloomy environment are being assigned tasks during the afternoon. In this way, the instructional learning environment is being matched with the individual needs of the student.

The cognitive constructivism theory claims that a student usually learns not through passive learning process, but by engaging his existent knowledge in an active way to understand what is being taught to him at a given time. The function of the teacher is to act as a facilitator of student learning process so that the student can learn a variety of important things. Peter Honey and Alan Mumford pointed out four kinds of learning styles namely activist, reflector, theorist and pragmatist. According to the learning style theory, a student should learn well only when the student has a comprehensive understanding of the learning style that best suits his purpose. An activist learner will best learn by engaging in interactive, group activities, while a reflector can learn the best when he is being assigned with creative project works offering him the scope to imagine.

Social Constructivism Theory

The theorists can learn the best when they are being offered with a clear idea of what expected learning outcome they are needed to deliver, and pragmatists can learn when they can understand the direct link between academic curriculum and practical utility in jobs or future career prospects (Duffy & Jonassen, 2013). Hence, this learning style model believes that the role of the teacher is not merely to drill the knowledge in the minds of the students, but to goad them into learning by selecting the most suitable cognitive strategy for the student.

A child not only learns in a different learning style, but also in a different learning environment. The environment in which a learner learns things can largely affect how the learner learns a thing. The school classroom is one conventional learning environment that is being used as the commonest place for imparting education. The students are the earners who are being enrolled in a specific grade and are offered a specific academic curriculum that each one of them, belonging to the grade have to follow.

The teacher acts mainly as an educator who imparts knowledge to the student through classroom interaction, classroom lectures and assess their academic progress through assessment tests and other classroom-based activities. The tools are chalk, blackboard, presentation board. The learning environment is conventionally a serious one, where the role of the teacher is to act as a leader, while that of a learner is to act as a follower. The second type of learning environment is “out of classroom” environment where the student learns by acquiring hands-on, real-life experience, by participating in excursions, field trips, through engagement in specific community projects and participating in natural environment as well. The tools are notebooks, magnifying glass, gauging machines, and others.

It would be interesting to note and critically analyse the advantages and disadvantages of the three aforementioned learning styles in the two learning environments:

Learning Theory

Advantages

Disadvantages

Behaviourism

· In the school set up, this helps in shaping the knowledge of the students through assessment activities and rote learning.

· The use of rewards and appraisal allows a student stay motivated.  

· In the “out of school” environment, the knowledge of the student is limited, as he is not allowed the opportunity to enjoy cognitive development.

· The student fails to develop knowledge in an independent way in case of “out of school” environment.

· The student is not allowed to enjoy study as a natural process, an essential important principle of learning. 

Social Constructivism

· The students benefit by learning beyond what lies in the book.

· It helps in expanding the horizon of student’s knowledge especially when he is learning in “out of the school” learning environment.

· In the out of school learning environment, the student despite having special needs like sensory processing disorder or having Autistic spectrum, can learn (Hwang et al., 2013).

· The students are encouraged to participate in a more interactive way in the learning process. However, in the school set up, it is challenging for the student to enable him participate in interactive activities (Schmeck, 2013).

· The standardized curriculum is being sacrificed that essentially implies that the teacher will have to compromise with the practical scope of education.

· Absence of structure and evaluation make it unfit for implementation in classroom settings.

Cognitive Constructivism

· Results in active engagement of the student in both kinds of learning environment.

· Helps in promoting a learning environment by autonomous teaching set up.

· The activities are primarily lesson-centric and interactive, thus is difficult to evaluate student progress in the school learning environment.

· In a school or out of the school set up, the student may be enlightened about important topics but the academic progress is slow and cannot be evaluated.

Reference List:

 Duffy, T. M., & Jonassen, D. H. (Eds.). (2013). Constructivism and the technology of instruction: A conversation. Routledge.

Dunn, R., & Honigsfeld, A. (2013, April). Learning styles: What we know and what we need. In The Educational Forum (Vol. 77, No. 2, pp. 225-232). Taylor & Francis Group.

Harasim, L. (2017). Learning theory and online technologies. Taylor & Francis.

Hwang, G. J., Sung, H. Y., Hung, C. M., & Huang, I. (2013). A Learning Style Perspective to Investigate the Necessity of Developing Adaptive Learning Systems. Educational Technology & Society, 16(2), 188-197.

Kiraly, D. (2014). A social constructivist approach to translator education: Empowerment from theory to practice. Routledge.

Merriam, S. B., & Bierema, L. L. (2013). Adult learning: Linking theory and practice. John Wiley & Sons.

Schmeck, R. R. (Ed.). (2013). Learning strategies and learning styles. Springer Science & Business Media.

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