Training of trainers – NFL and interactive methods in Youth work – ACHIEVE

Lesson 11 – Model of Learning styles – text

text lesson

General Description

In order to understand the basics of Kolb Learning Model, imagine that you bought a new software product. One of the options to get to know Learning stylesit is to sit in front of the computer immediately trying to figure out how it works through trials and mistakes. Gradually, in the learning process you will figure out some general rules and relationships which together with the knowledge gathered previously will help you to get familiar with the software and can be further applied in new areas. This is one of the options.

Another possibility is to dedicate yourself to the Help menus and from there to form skills and understanding of its use.

It is also possible that you sit together with a colleague who knows how to use the program and learn from him.

All methods follow the Kolb model but each one reflect the learning style and preferences of the person who is trying to learn how the software works.

Kolb’s model works on two levels:

Level 1 – cycle of 4 stages:

  1. Concrete Experience (CE)
  2. Reflective Observation (RO)
  3. Abstract Conceptualization (AC)
  4. Active Experimentation (AE)

Level 2 – four learning styles (each represented by a combination of two consecutive stages):

  1. Diverging (CE/RO)
  2. Assimilating (RO/AC)
  3. Converging (AC/AE)
  4. Accommodating (AE/CE)

Learning Styles

Kolb explains that different people naturally prefer certain learning styles. The factors which determine this preference are various. At his Theory of Experiential Learning (TEL) Kolb defines three stages in human’s development and reveals the aspiration towards coordination, successful integration and improvement of the four different learning styles in the process of experience gathering and our development. The development stages are:

  1. Acquisition – from birth to adolescence – development of general abilities and cognitive structures
  2. Specialization – school education, early job and personal experience from the maturity phase – development of specific learning styles, formed by social, educational and organizational experience
  3. Integration – from the middle point of the career until the end of the life – expression of non-dominant learning style at work and in personal life

No matter what are the influences for choosing a style, the preference towards a learning style is a combination between two pairs of variables or two different choices that we make.

  1. Concrete experience (CE)/ I feel – Abstract Conceptualization (AC) / I think
  2. Active experimentation (AE)/ I do – Reflective Observation (RO) / I observe

 Kolb calls those variables “Processing Continuum” (how we complete the task) and “Perception Continuum” (our emotional reaction, how we think or feel about the task).

These learning styles are a combination of: “Influential experience” (I do or I observe) and “Transforming experience (I feel or I think).

Kolb puts OR in the definition because he considers that we cannot do both at the same time. When we persistently try to do the two at the same time a conflict emerges which can be solved by facing a learning situation. We decide inside of us whether we want to do or to observe, to think or to feel.

The results from this (which helps us during all our lives) is a preference towards certain learning styles as shown 2X2 in the Graph. In other words we choose the whether to reach for the task or the experience.

Concrete experience – by experiencing something concrete, tangible, which bears a sense of quality

Abstract conceptualization – by finding new information by thinking, analysis, planning.

At the same time we choose how to emotionally transform the experience in something meaningful and useful:

Observation and reflection – through h observation how the others involved manage the situation and reflection of what is going on

Active experiment – by “throwing ourselves in the deep” and facing the situation


A person with a dominating learning style I do, stronger than I observe in relation to the task and I feel, stronger than I think in relation to the experience will have an adaptive learning style.

Definitions and Descriptions

Knowing your personal (and others) learning styles helps to direct the learning towards a preferred method. To some extend everyone needs some stimulus from the different learning styles but it is important to find out those that are the most suitable for a certain situation or preferences.


(do and feel – AE CE)

This style is ‘hands-on’, and relies on intuition rather than logic. These people use other people’s analysis, and prefer to take a practical, experiential approach. They are attracted to new challenges and experiences, and to carrying out plans. This style is useful for roles which require action and initiative. People with an accommodating learning style will tend to work with deadlines for task completion setting goals and actively working for their completion using various methods.





(feel and observe – CE RO)

These people are able to look at things from different perspectives. They are sensitive. They prefer to watch rather than do, tending to gather information and use imagination to solve problems. They are best at viewing concrete situations at several different viewpoints.

Kolb called this style ‘diverging’ because these people perform better in situations that require ideas-generation (brainstorming). People with a diverging learning style have broad cultural interests and like to gather information. They are interested in people, tend to be imaginative and emotional, and tend to be strong in the arts. They prefer to work in groups, to listen with an open mind and to receive personal feedback.


(think and do – AC АE)

People with a converging learning style can solve problems and will use their learning to find solutions to practical issues. They are best at finding practical uses for ideas and theories They prefer technical tasks, and are less concerned with people and interpersonal aspects. They like to experiment with new ideas, to simulate, and to work with practical applications.






(observe and think – RO АC)

The Assimilating learning preference is for a concise, logical approach. These people require good clear explanation rather than practical opportunity. They excel at understanding wide-ranging information and organizing it in a clear logical format.

People with an assimilating learning style are less focused on people and more interested in ideas and abstract concepts.  They are more attracted to logically sound theories than approaches based on practical value.

In learning situations, people with this style prefer readings, lectures, exploring analytical models, and having time to think things through.

Some Truths

Most people clearly demonstrate specific and clear preferences to a certain learning style. The ability to use or switch from one style to another is neither easy nor natural for most people. That means that people who have clear preferences towards a certain style will learn much more effectively if the process is oriented according to their preferences.

(Example: the people who prefer accomodating style are easily frustrated if they have to read lots of instructions and rules and when they are incapable to statr their practical experience as soon as possible.)

  • Learning is a continuous proces. It never ends (…everything that we learn we already know…);
  • The direction oflearning is dependant of the individual needsof the learnerand its objectives;
  • Given the importance ofindividual needsand goals,learning stylesare highlyindividulizedin the sence of directionand

Types of People According to Their Learning Style Preferences


The thinkers like to stay away from the experience, to think it out, and observe it from various perspectives. They gather first-hand information and information from the others and prefer to analyze it in depth before they reach a conclusion. What matters for them is the comprehensive collection and analysis of the information so they prefer to postpone the conclusion for as late as possible. Their philosophy is “Be careful”. Their actions are part of a more general picture which includes the past and the present together with the observations of the others and their own.


  • Attentive
  • Diligent and methodical
  • Profound
  • Good listeners of the others and good receivers of information
  • Rarely rush towards making conclusions


  • Inclined to stay away from direct participation
  • Slow decision-makers
  • Inclined to be too attentive and not to take too many risks
  • Not insistent – they are not often available for talking

Learning tools: magazines, brainstorming.

Saying: I want to think about it

Trainer’s tool: Lectures

Trainer’s approach: Has to secure expert interpretations; the performance is evaluated by external criteria


Theoreticians adapt and integrate their observations in complicated but logically-sounding theories. They think about issues in a vertical, logical, step-by-step process. They transform radically different facts in harmonious theories. They are apt to professionalism and do not settle down until the issue is cleared and organized in a rational scheme. They love to analyze and synthesize. They are keen on thinking based on prerequisites, principles, theories, models and systems. Their philosophy praises the rationale and the logic: “If it is logical then it is good”. The questions they often ask are: “Does this have a meaning”, “How this relates to that?”, “What are the prerequisites for…?” They are unprejudiced, analytical, devoted to the rational objectivity and not to the subjectivity and doubtful things. Their approach towards problems is consistently logical.


  • Logical “vertical” thinkers
  • Rational and objective
  • Good in asking research questions
  • Disciplined approach


  • Limited in their “side” thinking
  • Low tolerance towards insecurity, unpredictability and ambiguity
  • Intolerant towards everything subjective and intuitive
  • Too many “has to, it is necessary, etc.”

Learning tools: lectures, newspapers, analogies

Saying: How this relates to that?

Trainer’s tool: case studies, reading of theories, thinking on their own

Trainer’s approach: there is almost nothing out of the set of tools which can be recommended


Pragmatists are keen on trying ideas, theories and techniques to see if they work in practice. They look for new ideas and use every opportunity to try them. They are people who will come back from a management training full of ideas that they want to apply in practice. They love to get to know things rapidly and act fast and with confidence on ideas that attract them. They are impatient during discussions that are full of long thoughts or are with an open end. They are exceptionally practical, well-grounded, problems-solvers who take practical decisions. They approach the problems and the new opportunities as a challenge. Their philosophy is “There is always a better way” and “If it works then it is good”.


  • Try things in practice
  • Practical, well-grounded, realists
  • In business – go directly towards the aim
  • Technically oriented


  • Inclination to reject everything which does not have obvious application
  • Not interested enough in theories and general principles
  • Inclination to hold to the first solution of the problem
  • Inpatient during reflection
  • Task-oriented and not people-oriented

Learning tools: labs, observations, field-work

Saying: How can I use this in practice?

Trainer’s tool: feedback, activities that require skills

Trainer’s approach: to help, to be an assistant of a self-directing, autonomous learner


The activists give themselves fully to new experiences without thinking. They enjoy “here and now” and are happy when dominated by firsthand experiences. They are open-minded, not skeptical and this makes them enthusiastic about everything new. Their philosophy is “One day I will try it all”. They are prone to first act and then to think about the consequences. Their days are full of activities. They approach the problems through brainstorming. Right after the thrill of an activity has passed they engage themselves in finding a new one. They are inclined to live for the challenge and get bored by things that require time and repetition. They are communicative, constantly involved in relationships with others and by this they are trying to attract all activities towards themselves.


  • Flexible and open
  • Love to act
  • Love to face new situations
  • Optimists for everything new, open to changes


  • Ability to act immediately without thinking
  • Often undertake ill-grounded risks
  • Inclination of making too many things independently and appropriate the attention for themselves
  • Rush into something without preliminary preparation
  • Get bored by consolidation of experience

Learning tools: simulations, case studies

Saying: What’s new? I am ready to play.

Trainer’s tool: Problem solving games, small group discussions, feedback, homework

Trainer’s approach: The trainer has to serve as a model of a professional, to leave the trainee to define their own criteria for the applicability of the material


Acknowledgement of above article is made on an “await claim” basis. The copyright holder has not been traced. Any information enabling us to contact the copyright holder would be appreciated


The training program “Training of Trainers” is an educational product that is currently missing in the partner countries – Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania. Due to the early stage of development of the youth sector and youth work in these countries the educational materials aimed at non-formal learning are still limited and insufficient. The lack of adequate educational framework for training of youth workers in the field of formal education leads to inefficient use of the capacity of professionals.

This course fills a gap in the youth sector, namely the need of methodologies for the preparation of trainers, who are able to train youth workers. This course will set the basis for the preparation of teams of trainers of youth workers. The course will serve the goal of development of youth work in the participating countries and other interested parties. A large number of youth workers can be trained according to the methodology at national and international level to use and promote non-formal learning as a tool to enhance the realization of young people in the labor market and increase their social cohesion.

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