The concept of learning styles has great potential to enhance teaching and learning in the adult basic education classroom. It is not a new teaching method, but an approach to instruction that recognizes the individual talents and strengths of each learner.
Learning styles theory has received considerable attention in education in recent years, although its application has generally been restricted to K-12 school settings. Learning to Learn . with Sty/e is directed to the adult learner in an effort to make information about learning styles accessible, comprehensible, and usable.
The learning styles described in Learning to Learn... with Style are based on Carl Jung's theory of psychological type. He observed that people tend to behave in predictable ways, or patterns, and called these patterns "types." Each type is one part of the three dimensions of personality he identified: extroversion-introversion, sensing intuition and thinking-feeling. His work was expanded by Isabel Myers-Briggs and her mother, Katharine Briggs who added a fourth dimension- judging-perceiving-and developed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which was published in 1962. Since that time, the MBTI has been well researched and is widely used in a variety of fields, from human resources to religion, and now education. In their application to education, the types are referred to as learning styles.
Learning to Learn... with Style is based on this model of learning styles for several reasons. A committee made up of learning styles experts and teachers selected it from other learning styles models because it is the most widely validated learning styles instrument and it is appropriate for adults. In practical terms, this adaptation of the MBTI is also free of copyright restrictions and can be freely disseminated and administered to any number of adult learners. The assessment instrument, Finding your style, in Learning to learn... with Style is adapted with permission from Gordon Lawrence's book, People Types and Tiger Stripes. One additional modification the committee
agreed upon is the spelling of "extrovert" instead of "extravert" as it usually appears in MBTI literature and research. It was felt that the adult learner would be more familiar with the common spelling "extrovert" and a new spelling should not be introduced.
Studies show that the typical teacher in higher education is an intuitive type, preferring abstract and theoretical ideas. This learning style preference is reflected in how learning is organized and delivered. The needs of those students with different styles are left out of curricular and instructional planning. By learning about the learning styles preferences of students, teachers can design curriculum, instruction and evaluation that takes advantage of students' style strengths in helping them to achieve their learning goals.
For adults, the Myers-Briggs offers a richness of information that is valuable in understanding and gaining insight into their own learning processes. But it is also applicable beyond everyday school experiences. Learning about type can help adult learners to understand their preferences, their behaviors, and how they process information and make decisions. It can help them to understand what they need and what works best for them in all aspects of their lives. This knowledge can be very powerful for adult learners.
Learning to Learn... with Sty/e is only a beginning. By referring to the books listed in the bibliography, you can read more about learning styles theory, research and applications to apply to your teaching.