by Melanie Greene

Become an all-round learner

You can enhance the way in which you learn by developing a learning style that might be the opposite to your preferred way of learning.

To do this you need to start by identifying what might be blocking you from using certain learning styles and then consider what you could do to support yourself in developing new ways of learning.

What’s blocking you?

Either on your own or with someone else, think about what stops you from being an activist, reflector, theorist or pragmatist.

Some of the things that people have identified in the past as blocks are listed below.

  • What is stopping me from being an [activist, reflector, theorist or pragmatist]?
  • What can I do to overcome this block?

Low activist preference:

  • Lacking self confidence, doubting yourself
  • Always aiming for 100 per cent perfection and fearing any mistakes
  • Wanting to have everything planned out before saying or doing anything.

Low reflector preference:

  • Not wanting to stop and think about things carefully
  • Wanting to move on to new experiences/tasks, rather than think about what you have just done
  • A fear of ‘navel gazing’, rather than getting on with the task.

Low theorist preference:

  • Fear of intellectualising about things that have happened or of going in deeper than is necessary
  • Wanting to take things at face value, rather than questioning the underlying causes and issues
  • Wanting to rush on to the next activity.

Low pragmatist preference:

  • Wanting to find the perfect technique or way before committing to making concrete plans (going for perfection rather than practicalities)
  • Not wanting to commit yourself to plans in case they do not work in practice.

Completing the learning cycle

Now you know your preferences, you can look at how you can make the most of your strong preferences and develop your weaker styles. This will assist you in completing the learning cycle and getting the maximum amount of learning from any given situation.

At each stage of the learning cycle, ask yourself questions that will help you to complete the cycle. This will then increase your learning from a given situation and assist you in working more effectively. At each stage of the cycle, ask yourself some of the questions, rather than all of them. Experiment and find out which questions assist your learning.

Doing something – using your activist style

For some people, it is a matter of encouraging themselves to be more of an activist. If you fall into this category, this will ensure that you put into practice things that you have learned or are learning. You will also have more opportunities to learn as you will be having more experiences that you can learn from. Questions to ask yourself include

  • What might be stopping me from putting my learning or new ideas/skills into practice?
  • What opportunities can I seek out/volunteer myself for to give me a chance to develop myself further?
  • What can I do to build up my confidence that will enable me to seize opportunities as they arise?
  • Who can I use as a coach who will encourage me to take action?

Reviewing an experience – using your reflector style

In order to learn from a situation, it is a good idea to start by asking yourself questions to review what happened. Sit down and picture yourself back in the situation (It can help to look up to do this). Look at what happened; listen and get a feel for it. Talking this through or writing it down can help the process. Ask yourself

  • What really happened? (Often you can come away with an impression of what went on and it is important to find out what really took place.)
  • How was I feeling? What was happening at the time?
  • What was being said? How were people behaving?
  • What were all the things/issues/factors that I know about this situation that might have been affecting what was happening? What evidence do I have to back up these thoughts?

Drawing conclusions – using your theorist style

This part of the cycle is important for drawing conclusions about what you have learned. By asking yourself different types of question, you can arrive at new insights and ways of tackling situations and problems.

  • What would I do the same if I were in the same or similar situation?
  • What would I do differently if I were in the same or similar situation?
  • What would ‘X’ do in such a situation? (Think of someone who has more experience, whom you respect or who does things differently from you.)
  • What would I have done if I had ‘ABC’ experience, skills, knowledge or confidence?
  • What would/did help or hinder me?
  • What led me and/or them to behave in that way? What were all the things that led up to that point?
  • What led me to think/feel that way? What evidence do I have to back up my thoughts, beliefs or feelings? (By exploring the evidence, you can find out whether there is any real reason for you thinking or feeling as you do.)

Planning what to do next – using your pragmatist style

Here you are looking at how and where you can use what you have learned.

  • How can I do it differently next time or in a similar situation?
  • How can I make sure I duplicate the bits that went well?
  • When will I have an opportunity to put this into practice?
  • Where else can I use what I have learned?
  • What might stop or hinder me from putting my learning into practice? Is there one thing that might become a sticking point?
  • What can I do to overcome these blocks?

Learning from past experiences

The following exercise can help you to learn from past experiences. You can either complete it on your own or talk it through with someone else.


Following the steps described below, you will take yourself around the learning cycle to maximise your learning from past experiences.

  1. Think back to a specific situation (for example, carrying out a new task or talking to a difficult person), or think back over a number of similar experiences (for example, times when you have had to carry out a specific task).
  2. Look up and visualise the situation. Once you have a clear picture in your mind start to reflect on what happened. Either talk this through with someone or write it down in a Learning log. Take time to find out what really went on: what were all the factors influencing the situation? Then ask questions to help you draw conclusions, before planning how to use what you have learned in similar or different situations.
  3. Identify which questions might help you learn (see Completing the learning cycle, above) and answer those questions. Questions which can help you
  • reflect
  • draw conclusions
  • plan what to do next
  • put things into practice

Make sure that when you are completing the learning cycle you do not pander to your strong preferences. If you are a low activist, for example, think of ways to overcome any barriers you may have against putting your plans into action.

Increasing your ability to learn in the future

The following exercise can help you to remove blocks that could prevent you from learning from future experiences. It can be completed on your own.


Consider the following questions:

  • What will be the benefits to me of completing the learning cycle on a regular basis and learning from everything I do?
  • What do I need to do to ensure that I develop myself on a regular basis? What techniques can I use?
  • Is there one particular block which, if I do not find a way of overcoming it, will hold up my whole learning and affect my ability to change?

If your answer to the last question is yes, then you need to think of ways to overcome that blockage. It could be very beneficial to seek some coaching around clearing this blockage.