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Learning Preferences

In order to determine how to organize learning, there's a need for a common language about learning. For this reason, we've the biggest differences in images, say 'the beliefs' around learning, grouped in five preferences: 1. copying art, 2. participating, 3. acquiring knowledge, 4. practicing and 5. discovering.

As common as 'learning' is, it turns out to be difficult to talk about. The word has many different nuances and meanings. We use it as an indication of what happens in an education, at work or at other moments in your life; for individual or rather communal activities; for what happens intuitively or precisely targeted.

Learning has different meanings for different people. People also learn and develop in different ways. They've different environments in which they like to learn and different ways in which they solve problems. These differences in learning preferences and habits are due, among other things, to a person's 'learning history' (how learning was handled at school and at home). It's undoubtedly also determined by things like culture, age and personality.

Five different learning preferences

In order to determine how to organize learning, there's a need for a common language about learning. For this reason, we've grouped the main differences in images, say "the beliefs" around learning, into five learning preferences:

- copying art
- participate
- acquire knowledge
- to practise
- to discover

We'll further explain these preferences separately.

Learning preferences are fairly stable

Preferences and habits are fairly stable, but aren't fixed. A new working environment, a new phase in someone's development, but also insight into their own learning, can bring about changes in learning. No more than there's one meaning for learning or one way of learning, there's no way to organize learning. For example, there are training courses, learning projects, communities, learning on the job, and so on. In addition, action learning isn't 'better' than training and problem-based education doesn't take precedence over traditional education.

The best way to organize the learning doesn't exist. However, we can search for a match between what needs to be learned, who should or wants to learn, where to learn and how we can best organize it.

What are the five different preferences in learning?

Thought has six building blocks, which can be arranged two by two. Together they form the thinking habits. For this reason, the biggest differences in images, say 'the beliefs' around learning, are grouped into five learning preferences.

To determine how to organize learning, there's a need for a common language about learning. For this reason, the biggest differences in images, say "the beliefs" around learning, are grouped into five learning preferences.

1. Copying art: learning isn't always necessary in a safe environment

Learning is often associated with rest and safety. Copying art flourishes under tension. Daily practice is the best learning environment, which is hectic, unpredictable and constantly changing. Art viewers learn by observing well and seeing what works. They analyze what leads to success and what's useful and adopt that. They don't find all information interesting. They're particularly interested in what works. The statement 'you can learn from mistakes' isn't theirs. Talking about learning is often experienced as a delay: can we just talk about real life? It goes without saying that these learners aren't motivated by a game or practice situation. Copying art is a fast, goal-oriented way of learning, which we see a lot in the top of an organization or with marketers, for example.

2. Participate: strong together

In the past, learning was often seen as an individual process. However, the social side of learning is increasingly underlined. You learn with and from each other. Knowledge isn't objective, meaning is formed in the conversation, in the exchange between people. 'Together' has many different forms in this: by complementing each other, by exchanging perspectives, by listening to others or simply because others are a sounding board and thus clarify and sharpen their own ideas. In contact with the other you search for words and resonate insights. In 'participating' you're nurtured by reactions and ideas of others. Participation is a mild form of learning that's easy to shape both in the learning environment and in work. We see this preference a lot among administrators, HRM professionals or in healthcare.

3. Acquiring knowledge: wanting to know what's known

Although many supervisors and teachers are eagerly looking for ways to bring theory closer to practice and to get out of the grip of the classroom system, there are also people who have a great preference for knowledge transfer. They attach great importance to objective knowledge. If they're faced with an issue, they first wonder what's already known. Knowledge acquirers are looking specifically for the information. Brainstorming is generally not their thing. Experts and professionals (who know the hat and the brim) are beloved interlocutors and although "books" can play a role in all preferences, the readers among the acquirers are people who like to read from cover to cover. Acquiring knowledge is a goal-oriented way of learning that we see in professional groups where 'knowing' and 'facts' play a role. Think for example of technical professions and ICT.

4. Practice: space to practice

Besides acquiring knowledge, practicing is perhaps the best-known 'learning' context. Characteristic of the practice is to try it out first, preferably in an environment that's safe enough to be allowed to and dare to make mistakes, before putting the new insights into practice. The 'learning' context here is a context with a limited degree of complexity, so you can practice step by step with something new and focus on what you still have to learn. There's sufficient rest for reflection. Errors are a source of information. There's someone next to you who can guide you, simplify situations, point things out or offer you something that will take you a step further. Repetition is important. People with a lot of practice in their profile generally talk easily about their development and have an easy entrance to improve and accelerate their own learning. We see this preference a lot in teachers, for example, but also in sports.

5. Discover: jump into the deep

Discovery learning assumes that life and learning are synonyms. You don't only learn during training, you learn continuously. There's no learning. This awareness means that much is learned from the daily course of events and the unexpected events that occur. Learning in a formal learning situation (such as an education or workshop) is often restrictive, too structured for explorers. Explorers like to find their own way. That doesn't necessarily have to be the most efficient way, as long as it's the most interesting. Whether it's about wanting to build and the urge for creativity, or the critical eye, leading is itself at the helm. As a result, many discoverers together, such as a team of professionals, are often difficult to manage.

It concerns the entire profile

A person's learning profile consists not only of five separate learning preferences, but of the overall picture that's created when completing a learning scan. That profile can then be deepened by overlapping and differences between the learning preferences.

It's about the entire profile

To be clear, learning can't be characterized in five types. The combinations of preferences lead to an infinite number of different ways of learning. For example, someone with the most important preferences 'discovering' and 'acquiring knowledge' penetrates through the content, while someone who has 'discovering' together with 'participating' as guiding preferences, learns more through a joint search for new meanings and is more focused on interplay than the content.

A person's learning profile therefore consists not only of five separate learning preferences, but of the overall picture that's created when completing a learning scan. That profile can then be deepened by overlapping and differences between the learning preferences.

Each preference has its own quality

Each of the learning preferences has its own qualities, things that are easier to learn in that particular context than in the others. For example, learning skills is easy through practice. Organizational-specific action - 'that's how we do it here', for example about management and customer focus - can be learned very effectively with the use of 'copying art'. Each of these contexts also has its own forms that support this. For example, training fits well with 'practicing', while peer supervision belongs to 'participating'. You choose a shape, initially, because it supports the goal.

What are the learning preferences?

People often know relatively little about their own ways of learning and hardly direct it. Nevertheless, information about your own learning or information about the way of learning in a group or organization is important to choose interpretations that actually fit and lead to success.

A learning profile typifies someone's learning or learning from a group or organization. It provides information to consciously shape learning from the impending assignment. So one time consciously choosing a comfortable form (appropriate to your own preferences and habits) or another time working on an extension of the profile (and experimenting with less individual ways of learning).

These five learning preferences are part of the language for learning. With the help of these preferences you can map:

- under which conditions someone prefers to learn and how you can best shape his or her development.
- which preferences can be recognized in a team and how insight can be used to strengthen collective growth
- what the shared vision of learning is within an academy, department or study program
- which preferences participants in an intended development process have and how this can be organized.
- which learning preferences an organization has, why certain changes are difficult to get off the ground or how learning and development can be optimized.

Mapping individual learning preferences and the patterns at group and organizational level are important sources of information for these issues.

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