“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” — W.B. Yeats
Wanna learn more effectively or be a better teacher, or how to communicate and connect with people better, or how to influence more effectively?
Learn to match or bridge learning styles.
It’s one of those things you do every day, but you might not be aware of. It’s about how you sequence information and how you relate to it.
The key is to first know your own preferences, and then understand others.
Here are my key takeaways:
- Know yourself first. Figure out your own learning preferences.
- Figure out if you prefer concrete or random.
- Figure out if you prefer random or sequential.
- Adapt your approach for others.
- Test what works for you.
- Explore other styles.
Concrete, Abstract, Random, Sequential
Here are the parts that make up the styles:
- Concrete – You’re dealing with the here and now and processing information based on what you see, hear, think, feel, and taste. “It is what it is.” You want a real example.
- Abstract – You’re looking for the patterns. You’re more cerebral in your analysis. You’re using your intuition and imagination. “Things aren’t always what they appear to be.” You abstract from the examples.
- Random – You’re processing chunks of information in a random way. You can hop around with ease.
- Sequential – You process chunks of information in a linear way. You prefer a plan or set of steps to follow.
If you prefer random, you might have bounced around or skimmed the bullets. If you prefer sequential, you may have read that line by line, building up on what you know.
If you were looking for the example each time, you might prefer concrete. If you were saying, ah, I can use this to improve my approach to learning or sharing information, you might prefer abstract.
Concrete Sequential, Concrete Abstract, Abstract Sequential, Abstract Random
Here’s the learning styles in a nutshell:
- Concrete Sequential – You want your information presented sequentially with concrete facts and data. What I’ve seen with concrete sequential learners is they learn well when one example or concept follows another in a linear way. Hopping around is a problem and can create frustration and confusion.
- Concrete Random – You don’t care what sequence the information comes your way, as long as it’s concrete and you can relate to it. What I’ve seen with concrete random learners is, they can skip around pretty quickly, but they need examples to latch on to. They’re pretty effective at cutting through fog and finding where the rubber meets the road.
- Abstract Sequential – Abstractions are great as long as they follow a sequential flow. What I’ve seen about abstract sequential learners is
- Abstract Random – Abstractions are great and it doesn’t matter what sequence. What I’ve seen is the abstract random learners have the simplest time learning because the sequence doesn’t matter but can have a hard time sharing what they know. I’ve also noticed they get bored when information is sequential and detailed.
We’re all a mix of styles, but we have preferences. It’s a also a continuum.
The important point is to know yourself and to realize that other people may not be processing information the same way you do. If they don’t like hopping around, create a path for them.
If you are going too slowly for them, try jumping to the main points, even out of sequence. Basically, test what works for you.
Now, you have to ask yourself — is was it ever really ADD or just a different learning preference?
Back at Work
It’s a simple gathering of the minds and exchange of ideas, but the team was clearly talking past each other. The one architect was painting a picture of a wonderful castle in his mind. The other architect wanted specific examples he could relate to.
It was a deadlock.
The interesting thing I noticed is they were both sequential in how they were going through their logic. It was one logical point followed by another, and one logical question after another, but they missed each other.
The real difference was, the one architect prefers abstractions, while the other prefers concrete. If they would have known this, or if I would have known this at the time, then I could have spotted it and bridged the gap. In fact, not knowing this, I hopped from point to point, not realizing they were both operating in a sequential way.
It was a mismatch of three styles simply by a lack of awareness.
It’s a lot easier to solve a problem, when you can see what’s really going on!
Adapt Your Style by Knowing Yourself and Others
What surprised me is when my colleague first pointed these styles out to me, I had a hard time figuring out what my preferences were. Partly it had to do with how the information was presented but is also had to do with my job context.
What I realized is that I adapt my style a lot because as a team leader, I have a lot of different styles to match all the time.
I also realized that it depends on the scenario and context, so the next trick for me was learning to optimize how I learn in certain scenarios. For example, in a lot of cases, I cut to the chase and get an example and abstract from there.
I don’t waste time trying to connect fuzzy dots up front. This saves me a lot of time.
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