This article appeared in the Athletics Weekly June 20, 2013 printed edition, reprinted with permission. For more coaching advice, visit http://www.athleticsweekly.com
In the last article in these pages on “learning theory”, I introduced Kolb’s Learning Cycle, which was further developed by Honey and Mumford. This showed how our preferences indicate where we enter the learning cycle and its possible application to coaching.
Earlier articles on “personality types” introduced the ideas of Carl Jung and how our preferences can drive our behaviours. The type dynamic indicator, which is part of the type mapping system is based on those ideas and uses a series of questionnaires which give insights into our personality types and preferences.
In this article I would like to show how the ideas from both Kolb and Jung underpin the “learning style indicator” (LSI) questionnaire from the type mapping system and can assist in communicating with your athlete or squad. The LSI draws on the ideas of Jung by using the attitudes of extravertion/ introversion (E/I) and the functions of sensing/intuition (S/N). By identifying those preferences we can understand what drives people’s learning and show:
- How people prefer to gather information (E or I)
- How people see information (S or N)
An extravert’s (E) energy is more naturally focused to the outer world of people and things and so may gather information by questions and debate, whereas the energy of an introvert (I) has a primary orientation that is more naturally focused on the inner world of thoughts and things by exploring those ideas themselves.
People with a sensing (S) preference tend to see the world as it is and they process facts and details that are tangible and based on reality. People with an intuition (N) preference tend to focus on general impressions, abstract patterns and future possibilities.
By pairing the above preferences we can apply a description of the typical behaviours and the preferred learning methods each type will display. As coaches, understanding these preferences means we can decide how best to transfer that information and develop training sessions appropriately.
Activators have an extraverted/ sensing (ES) preference; clarifiers have an introverted/sensing (IS) preference; innovators have an introverted/intuition (IN) preference; explorers have an extroverted/intuition (EN) preference.
The diagram below integrates Honey and Mumford Learning Styles and the LSI types and shows how each type has a tendency to move the learning process on to a stage that suits its own particular preferences. Learning to use each stage of the cycle in a more conscious way can make learning and training more effective.
We would not use each style or stage in equal measure, but it does suggest that there can often be a more appropriate balance that is influenced by people’s preferences and the situation. Greater awareness of your learning style preferences can also help reduce tension when you are communicating information to others. This is because people with different styles have a need to spend more time at a different part of the cycle. Coaches should be careful not to use the predominate style that suits them, but flex how they communicate to suit that of the athletes.
Activators learn by involvement, practical activity and simply “getting on with it”: Activators are keen to move into this stage. They will prefer training sessions described in the diagram above so it will be fast-paced, interactive, have tangible outcomes and be practical to suit their needs.
Reflectors need a period of contemplation where there is an opportunity to review, understand and personalise the experience. Clarifiers are keen to move into this stage. They will prefer sessions where they are prepared in advance, know exactly what they will be doing and why it is designed for them.
Theorists need a period where the implications can be explored and new ideas or theories can be created. Innovators are keen to move into this stage. They will prefer sessions in which they understand why it will help them achieve their future goals, understand the theory as to why they are doing it and how it fits their needs.
Pragmatists require a period where those new ideas are explored more actively, perhaps with some trial and error. It is the stage where plans or schemes emerge. Explorers are keen to move into this stage. They will prefer sessions where there is a lot of variety and they can be involved in their design.
The cycle is recursive, each stage is part of the cycle and the preference is just the starting point at which the cycle is entered. So maximum learning takes place when all stages are completed — that is, when the theory is understood, how it is then practically applied, how we then do it and when it is followed by time to reflect on the action.