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Page history last edited by suifaijohnmak 14 years, 11 months ago

Jenny asked "what you know about cognitive styles? I wanted to do a dissertation on this" and I try to answer today or tomorrow. Matthias


Jenny, here are the links on learning styles:

1. http://www.danielwillingham.com 

2. http://www.lsda.org.uk/files/PDF/1543.pdf

3. http://suifaijohnmak.wordpress.com on What makes you a blogger 2008/12/07

You could also check on Randy Buckner's publication - on neuroscience. by John


Here are more links

4. http://www.chaminade.org/INSPIRE/learnstl.htm

5. http://www.learning-styles-online.com/

6. http://libres.curtin.edu.au/libres16n1/Chau.htm


by John  I have interest in this learning styles and multiple intelligences for years.  Learning styles have been researched extensively as you could see in reference 2.   However, I don't think there has been much research done for educators or scholars, as it is typical to conduct such research on students only.  It is worthwhile to study the impact of learning styles on blogging, with neuroscience backup, I suppose. By John

  • (2009-03-02) I love it that you don't let yourself intimidate by people like Jenny's supervisor and Wilingham!


Unfortunately, I don't know much about cognitive styles (in the sense of secured literature knowledge) but only suppose a lot about them. In the context of blogs vs. forums, I can't help thinking that they play a role. It's probably no incident that Jenny also combines interest in both questions.


I know that topics like cognitive styles or learning styles are very much contended because, one one hand, many people feel that there is really something to it, but OTOH much research from the fifties went wrong and ended up with the notorious "no significant difference". The more popular the idea becomes, the more vehemently it is denounced as a hoax by people like Willingham who confuse "no evidence yet" with "does not exist". Most of the "rebuttals" I know, however, reveal very clearly how biased the study conductors were and that probably the study design was biased, as well.


In particular, styles were often mistaken for abilities (see Sternberg whom I cited here ). Also in the unfortunate VAK theory (visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, which lumps together such different "visual" styles as reading verbalizers, spatial visualizers, object/shape visualizers, data visualizers) is, IMO, a disguised approach of coping with the less able pupils who struggle with reading ("auditory") or are only good at running around and doing things with their fingers ("kinaesthetic"). Similarly, "right-brained" styles were until very recently seen as inferior (which nobody would explicitly admit), like left-handers.


So I understand that the topic is too risky for a dissertation with a career depending on it. But I think in our case, we would not lose anything if we had also the styles in mind when we designed the qualitative questions. If afterwards the data or the triangulation interviews support a difference of cognitive styles or preferences, we are fine, and if not, what have we lost? Yes - I agree with this. I am particularly intersted in your idea of convergent and divergent thinkers, and of course Honey and Mumford's Reflectors, Activists, Theorists and Pragmatists would also be relevant. I have often referred students to this site in the past - www.businessballs.com/kolblearningstyles.htm

  • Thanks for the link. I have most of my knowledge from Sternberg's book where he points to approaches that unify many of the 4-quadrant schemes into a bipolarity (in particular, Riding).  I think most of the older approaches cited in the LSDA document are really discredited today. I think in Kolb and Honey/ Mumford, there is again a tacit inferiority reservation against active and concrete as opposed to thinking and reflecting.

    And I am skeptical against the style inventories that mix personality traits and cognitive preferences, like the "Big 5" or Myers-Briggs (where, BTW, Jenny's blog indicates INTP like Stephen, according to this mysterious test http://www.downes.ca/cgi-bin/page.cgi?post=47882 .) Maybe personality styles overlay the cognitive preferences, or even amplify the effect of the latter, which makes it easy to confuse them both. I think the former are too difficult and beyond our scope. 


I am very curious to hear what Jenny's ideas about her styles topic were? My ideas still lack a reasonable wording. I am grappling with concepts like "wide" vs. "narrow" context, but I am not sure if that covers the crucial difference well. After all, they would align with the "long distance" links in blogs vs. the "shortrange" discussions in the forum.

In P Zeus & S Skiffington (2003) The Complete Guide to Coaching at Work (page 190) Learning styles.  The authors mentioned that Honey and Mumford have develped four basic learning styles based on Kolb's learning cycle.  These can be assessed by their learning styles questionnaire (LSQ), which they claim explains why some people learn and others do not.  While such a claim is not accepted unequivocally, the LSQ has high face value and many of our coaching colleagues attest to the usefulness of the instrucment.  It can help the coachee understand his or her own learning style prefrences as well as weaknesses.  The four identified learning styles are: activists, reflectors, theorists and pragmatists.

1. Activists are individuals who like to become involved in experiencing situations.  They like new opportunities, feel comfortable in the limelight and tend to maintain high profiles.  They learn best in the present, when there is an element of risk, when they can bounce off and become energised by others.

2. Reflectors prefer to think things through.  They like to listen, watch and gather data before committing themselves to a decision or conclusion.  They tend to be cautious and conservative in the face of new knowledge and experiene.  They learn best when given time to think or mull things over, when they are given access to all available information to guide their decisions, when they are not pressured by deadlines or hasty decision-making processes.

3. Theorists are interested in ideas for their own sake.  They like to assimilate and synthesise new information and fit it into their theories and explanations of how the world works.  They learn best when they can use models and systems that make sense to them, when they can understand and explore links and connections between facts and ideas, when the subject matter is objective and based on rational principles.

4. Pragmatists are interested in ideas to see if they work.  Ideas in the abstract have little meaning for them.  They like to solve poblems, are practical and want to put new knowledge to use.  They learn best when they can link ideas to real life situations, when they can try out strategies and ideas, when they can deal with practical situations.

Based on my experience with coaching and mentoring, and observation throughout the CCK08, I think:

(a) bloggers are likely to exhibit a combination of the style of Activists (who would like to put theories into practice - by writing blog posts, and may be the "quick" bloggers) and 

(b) Reflectors (who would like to think or mull things over, and may be the "slow" bloggers).  Reflectors would prefer to read forum posts rather than quick response to forum posts. However, reflectors could also be quite active forum poster when they can 'bounce off' and become energised by others..

(c) Some scholars (professors and PhDs or Masters candidates) tend to be theorists who prefer blogging over forum - as they like to assimilate and syntheisise new information and fit it into their theories.  Most theorists also possess the traits of reflectors, since they would also like to think or mull things over

(d) Pragmatists are more likely be inactive or rare bloggers or posters to forum, and they may be the lurkers (reading and observing others' posts on blogs and forums).  Some practising or trade educators/teachers are pragmatists, and the CCK08 course could be challenge to them (when they perceived this coures to be theoretically based, rather than practically based).  That also explains why some "connections conference" have tended to offer "training solutions" to these pragmatists (to learn about emergent technologies/ICT)

I think a person could exhibit some degree of each of the styles of Activists, Reflectors, Theorists, and Pragmatists throughout the life journey, and would prefer to use a combination of tools under a specific learning context.


My hypothesis relating to learning styles (of CCK08 participants):

Blogging - frequently used by Activists (quick bloggers) and Reflectors (slow bloggers), could be favourites to Theorists, rarely used by Pragmatists (who are just interested in reading rather than writing on blog posts - the lurkers or those dis-interested participants after 1-2 weeks of the course)

Moodle posting - frequently used by Activists, and reflectors, occasionally used by theorists, infrequently used by Pragmatists (as some may think that Connectivism and Connective Knowledge are too theoretical).  John 4/3/09


  • Thanks for the mapping of your concrete experiences to the categories. Would that suggest that the 4 categories are not significantly different across bloggers vs. forums?
  • I hope we could find this out through analysis of the existing blog postings, forum discussions and the surveys, and see if the 4 categories are significantly different or not.  There are surely some participants who are bloggers and moodle posters (may be 7.4% i.e. 44 out of 596, just an estimate).  If we could reveal the percentage of each category - i.e. bloggers only, moodle posters only,  and both blogger and moodle and check if they align to some of the traits of the 4 learning styles we may be able to establish some casual relationship.  Jenny, Matthias and Roy: do you think those traits as outlined could be included in the questionnaire?  We could re-structure the statements to reflect the CCK08 studies. I think this empirical research could reveal some emergent knowledge when we map these out. John 4/3/09 


It was more than 12 years ago that I did my Masters- but I remember that having spent some time in the library sorting out a dissertation proposal on learning styles, my tutor (a rather eminent Dewey researcher - Les Smith), practically threw my proposal out of the window. I think his argument was that I would never be able to get anything substantive out of it. And if we take the LSDA document that you have cited John - http://www.lsda.org.uk/files/PDF/1543.pdf - which I have been familiar with for some time - you can see that they identify 71 models of learning styles, with 13 of these being major models. I think this was why my tutor wouldn't let me study this for my dissertation.


A research topic that has already been heavily researched.  John

At the moment, my ideas about cognitive styles are still rather scattered. My blog category http://x28newblog.blog.uni-heidelberg.de/category/cognitive-styles/ includes 31 posts. I should probably sort them out and find the most relevant for you. And I could try to relate some of Jenny's table entries to wide vs. narrow context. But it's nearly midnight and I'm too tired now.CognitiveStyles


Despite my caution, it seems that all 3 of us are interested in Learning Styles and it also seems that it is very relevant to a study which is focussing on learning preferences between blogs and forums.  We should keep this in mind as we develop Part 4 of the questionnaire.


Thanks for this Matthias. I still have to read your blog posts. Not all 31 ! But a have not yet done a selection. On the category page linked above, there are short excerpts so you can easier decide which ones to pick. The most important one is the one here where I cited Sternberg. Please do add to the questionnaire.


2009-03-25 MM

responding to the comments on the Hypothesis page from "5:26 am on Mar 26, 2009" on:


I think we should focus more on cognitive and perhaps learning styles and shun personality styles because these are really another hornets' nest, and the intro/extraversion is also seen just the other way round, see the old blog post. (JM 270309 - Sorry Matthias - I should have made it clear that I wasn't really suggesting that we go down this path for the research. I was just intrigued by my husband's comment and rather amused by it!)


Jenny's [husband's] observation "schizo tendencies" is probably not a surprise for a blogger if you try to guess which disorders are neigboring to which cognitive styles, and if you consider what the symptoms of morbid schizophrenia is: To connect ideas that are not to be connected.


Similarly, you can divide the whole right-brain/ left-brain clich├ęs among the neighboring disorders. I once read (sorry, have to look up the reference) that the traits commonly labeled left-brained are neurologically more akin to the reward center while right-brained thinking has more resemblance with fear on the fMRT.


This would explain the preference of left-brainers for goal-pursuing and looking linearly ahead and focussing on a more narrow context ("where is the prey to eat?") while right-brainers are more inclined to all-around circumspection, and wider contexts ("is there a predator to eat me?"). 


So, LB traits are more neighboring to disorders of the award center (ADHD) while RB is closer to anxieties. Given my poor knowledge of such disorders, this is probably too much speculation, but I find the idea fascinating that our basic styles are shaped by the two existential challenges of the life of our ancestors: eat or be eaten. Yes - this is intriguing!


(Sorry John, we were obviously typing past each other at the same time).


How about a self and peer assessment?  If you find this too intrusive, leave it blank please.  John 26/03/2009 (Another way of conducting self-awareness and control survey in EQ and Leadership development


  How I see myself -LB How I see myself - RB How I see myself - LB & RB How I see Jenny

How I see


How I see


How I see Roy
Jenny     Well - I've never thought about this before and have had to go to some websites and look it up and try a few tests. On most of them I come out LB - but on one I came out RB so who knows? I just wish there was a bit more of both :-)         
Matthias Predominantly RB, but re-trained by 50s/60s and Math Diploma degree, just like lefthanders were retrained at that time
John LB when analysing blog RB when blogging, moodle discussion

RB & LB when creating blog posts

(I am both L&RB,

but emphasis

on RB when doing it here (wiki), like to imagine, and be creative (RB as reflective in my blogs - patterns, videos, pictures) and relationship based.

LB predominantly, though at times like RB

You prefer to systematically analyse ideas, a typical blogger with strong reflections.  Could be excited by RB people like Matthias, John (at times only) and Roy (I am not sure!)

LB predominantly, RB active (or could be very strong - feelings)

You prefer to be assertive (feelings, emotions) rather than hiding them, but your vision is driven by your LB (A typical scholar)


RB predominantly, though your writings are all based on LB

You prefer liberal thinking, creative and innovative ideas, imagination to established theories, coupled with theories you like to develop (A typical theorist, with LB and RB both shining at times)


RB (primary)



but could be vice versa



I could provide you with a copy of self evaluation survey on self awareness under EQ if necessary.  However, I don't like to be "controlled" by those "expert" survey.  John 26/03/09


(MM 28.3.09) Just a quick note that I probably won't be able to answer John's new assessment soon, because the other work (on attractors -> hypotheses -> questions) is more than enough at the moment. Also I am not sure which ones of such style inventories are only fun and which are flawed but intended to be serious and thus have contributed to the bad image of the entire styles research. I remember that in the magazines of the 60s/ 70s, there were plenty of simple questionnaires "telling" us what type we were.


John said "Amazing, we have a team with different style, balancing each others' strengths & weaknesses?",

Yes, and especially we are balancing eath other's biases, and this is IMHO an extraordinary thing and a rather new approach to quality research that we could perhaps discuss publicly even while the hypotheses have to be secret. I am glad that it really works, and it works differently than I imagined. In a way, it is much more exhausting, but in some respect it works better than I hoped for.


(John 29/03/09) I posted the questionnaire for all of us to enjoy & so you could refer to it at any time.  The one that I posted was sourced from David Kolb's book on Organisational Psychology - An Experiential Approach -( included in pg 15-17 of Workshop Learning Guide - Management and Communication Skills, School of Managment, University of Technology, Sydney Ed 1995).  Your results could be compared to 127 practicing mangers and 512 Harvard and MIT graduate students in management for the Learning Style Profile (serious study, not just for fun).  Whether it is reliable or not is subject to interpretation.


You are right that our focus should be on the questionnaire, and I am going through all these review of the questionnaire in great detail too.


Glad to hear that our team works.  We have just been working on this project for a month (and Roy has joined in less than half a month), I think we have really made great progress.  I could understand how difficult it would be if research is done individually - for a typical Master or PhD (take a look at Antonio, he seems to be struggling with it after nearly 4 months).  When I did my own research, it took me more than 3 months just to set the questionnaire and background research.


Comments (2)

Jenny Mackness said

at 12:03 am on Mar 5, 2009

Many thanks John for all this information. I need a bit more time to digest it - but will come back soon.

suifaijohnmak said

at 7:37 pm on Mar 28, 2009

I have just checked the learning styles:
John - Protector
Jenny - Thinker
Matthias - Scientist
Roy - as I haven't got your blog, can't check it out. But I would guess that you are the Scientist. Aren't you?
http://www.typealyzer.com/ for the check.
Amazing, we have a team with different style, balancing each others' strengths & weaknesses?

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