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Learning Styles: Concrete, Abstract, Random, and Sequential

By JD

Educationisnotthefillingofapail,butthelightingofafire.W.B.Yeats

Wannalearnmoreeffectivelyorbeabetterteacher,orhowtocommunicateandconnectwith
peoplebetter,orhowtoinfluencemoreeffectively?
Learntomatchorbridgelearningstyles.
Itsoneofthosethingsyoudoeveryday,butyoumightnotbeawareof.Itsabouthowyou
sequenceinformationandhowyourelatetoit.
Thekeyistofirstknowyourownpreferences,andthenunderstandothers.

Concrete, Abstract, Random, Sequential


Herearethepartsthatmakeupthestyles:
1.ConcreteYouredealingwiththehereandnowandprocessinginformationbasedonwhatyousee,hear,think,feel,andtaste."Itis
whatitis."Youwantarealexample.
2.AbstractYourelookingforthepatterns.Youremorecerebralinyouranalysis.Youreusingyourintuitionandimagination."Things
arentalwayswhattheyappeartobe."Youabstractfromtheexamples.
3.RandomYoureprocessingchunksofinformationinarandomway.Youcanhoparoundwithease.
4.SequentialYouprocessingchunksofinformationinalinearway.Youpreferaplanorsetofstepstofollow.
Ifyoupreferrandom,youmighthavebouncedaroundorskimmedthebullets.Ifyouprefersequential,youmayhavereadthatlinebyline,
buildinguponwhatyouknow.
Ifyouwerelookingfortheexampleeachtime,youmightpreferconcrete.Ifyouweresaying,ah,Icanusethistoimprovemyapproachto
learningorsharinginformation,youmightpreferabstract.

Concrete Sequential, Concrete Abstract, Abstract Sequential, Abstract Random


Heresthelearningstylesinanutshell:
1.ConcreteSequentialYouwantyourinformationpresentedsequentiallywithconcretefactsanddata.WhatIveseenwithconcrete
sequentiallearnersistheylearnwellwhenoneexampleorconceptfollowsanotherinalinearway.Hoppingaroundisaproblemandcan
createfrustrationandconfusion.
2.ConcreteRandomYoudontcarewhatsequencetheinformationcomesyourway,aslongasitsconcreteandyoucanrelatetoit.
WhatIveseenwithconcreterandomlearnersis,theycanskiparoundprettyquickly,buttheyneedexamplestolatchonto.Theyre
prettyeffectiveatcuttingthroughfogandfindingwheretherubbermeetstheroad.
3.AbstractSequentialAbstractionsaregreataslongastheyfollowasequentialflow.WhatIveseenaboutabstractsequentiallearners
is
4.AbstractRandomAbstractionsaregreatanditdoesntmatterwhatsequence.WhatIveseenistheabstractrandomlearnershave
thesimplesttimelearningbecausethesequencedoesntmatter,butcanhaveahardtimesharingwhattheyknow.Ivealsonoticedthey
getboredwheninformationissequentialanddetailed.
Wereallamixofstyles,butwehavepreferences.Itsaalsoacontinuum.
Theimportantpointistoknowyourselfandtorealizethatotherpeoplemaynotbeprocessinginformationthesamewayyoudo.Ifthey
dontlikehoppingaround,createapathforthem.
Ifyourgoingtooslowlyforthem,tryjumpingtothemainpoints,evenoutofsequence.Basically,testwhatworksforyou.
Now,youhavetoaskyourselfiswasiteverreallyADDorjustadifferentlearningpreference?

Back at Work

Itasimplegatheringofthemindsandexchangeofideas,buttheteamwasclearlytalkingpasteachother.Theonearchitectwaspaintinga
pictureofawonderfulcastleinhismind.Theotherarchitectwantedspecificexampleshecouldrelateto.
Itwasadeadlock.
TheinterestingthingInoticedistheywerebothsequentialinhowtheyweregoingthroughtheirlogic.Itwasonelogicalpointfollowedby
another,andonelogicalquestionafteranother,buttheymissedeachother.
Therealdifferencewas,theonearchitectprefersabstractions,whiletheotherprefersconcrete.Iftheywouldhaveknownthis,orifIwould
haveknownthisatthetime,thenIcouldhavespotteditandbridgedthegap.Infact,notknowingthis,Ihoppedfrompointtopoint,not
realizingtheywerebothoperatinginasequentialway.
Itwasamismatchofthreestylessimplybyalackofawareness.
Itsaloteasiertosolveaproblem,whenyoucanseewhatsreallygoingon!

Key Take Aways


Herearemykeytakeaways:
Knowyourselffirst.Figureoutyourownlearningpreferences.
Figureoutifyoupreferconcreteorrandom.
Figureoutifyoupreferrandomorsequential.
Adaptyourapproachforothers.
Testwhatworksforyou.
Exploreotherstyles.
Whatsurprisedmeiswhenmycolleaguefirstpointedthesestylesouttome,Ihadahardtimefiguringoutwhatmypreferenceswere.
Partlyithadtodowithhowtheinformationwaspresented,butisalsohadtodowithmyjobcontext.
WhatIrealizedisthatIadaptmystylealotbecauseasateamleader,Ihavealotofdifferentstylestomatchallthetime.
Ialsorealizedthatitdependsonthescenarioandcontext,sothenexttrickformewaslearningtooptimizehowIlearnincertainscenarios.
Forexample,inalotofcases,Icuttothechaseandgetanexampleandabstractfromthere.
Idontwastetimetryingtoconnectfuzzydotsupfront.Thissavesmealotoftime.

Additional Resources
ApplyingWhatWeKnow,StudentLearningStyles
ConcreteSequential
ConcreteRandom
AbstractRandom
AbstractSequential

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