Honey and Mumford's Learning Styles

Honey and Mumford's four Learning Styles act as a simple framework for identifying suitable activities in order to maximise time spent learning. 

Table of contents

Honey and Mumford's Learning Styles [edit]

Honey and Mumford's four Learning Styles act as a simple framework for identifying suitable activities in order to maximise time spent learning. 


Different approaches to learning

When we learn something new, our first concern is generally what we have learnt - very few people stop to actually consider how they learn. Learners often operate with the same learning methods for years, without any thought as to whether it is the most effective way to absorb and retain information. 

There is no single "most effective" way of learning; it varies from person-to-person and also depends significantly on the task or the information. Once you know the different approaches to learning, you can consider which is most beneficial for you and when each style is appropriate. 


The Learning Styles

Though there are many different theories and frameworks regarding learning styles, Peter Honey and Alan Mumford (1986) identified four different approaches people took to learning new information:


1. Activist

2. Theorist

3. Pragmatist

4. Reflector


In their view, most people generally stick to one of the styles, or vary between two depending on the scenario. Each of these styles comes with different educational activities which may be more appropriate to those individual learners, listed in the table below alongside attributes of each style. Understanding your learning style - based on the attributes of each, or a questionnaire designed by Honey and Mumford - one can identify their specific style and therefore choose activities which are beneficial to their learning.  


Learning StyleAttributesActivities
Activist
  • Learn by doing, and happy to jump in
  • Enjoy the challenge of new experiences, without bias
  • Often guilty of acting before they think
  • Do not learn well from teaching, theory, reading or analysing data
  • Puzzles
  • Competitions
  • Role-play
  • Brainstorming
  • Problem-solving

Theorist

  • Like to understand the theory behind actions
  • Enjoy models, concepts and facts
  • Analyse and synthesise testable hypotheses
  • Not suited to learning without instruction
  • Not good in situations that involve 'feelings' or when objectives or instructions are ambiguous 
  • Models
  • Statistics
  • Stories
  • Quotes
  • Applying theories
Pragmatist
  • Need to be able to see how they apply their learning to the real world
  • Abstract concepts are useless if they cannot see how it is applicable
  • Enjoy trying new theories and techniques
  • Do not happily engage when objectives and instructions are unclear, or when it is heavy in theory
  • Thinking about how to apply theories to reality
  • Case studies
  • Problem-solving
  • Discussion
Reflector
  • Learn through observation and reflecting on results
  • Prefer to watch from the sidelines
  • Take information in from multiple perspectives and work to a conclusion
  • Reflectors are not good at leading activities or being rushed, with no preparation
  • Observing activities
  • Feedback from others
  • Coaching 
  • Interviews
  • Paired discussions


Applying your style

Individuals naturally show a preference for one (or perhaps two) of Honey and Mumford's learning styles. And each of these styles is associated with a different set of learning activities. Often, you will not have the luxury of being able to choose your learning activities; but if you do, you can pick those which best suit your learning style or tailor them as best you can. It is possible to improve yourself in other learning styles, so often it is beneficial to practice them for future occasions when you have little choice.  

If you are a teacher or coach - by understanding the learning styles of those under your supervision you may be able to tailor your activities to get the most out of their potential.