Ways of learning

It has long been held that people learn in different ways, e.g. some more readily from experience – being shown what to do and then doing it themselves – others from a more theoretical base.

Theories on ‘experiential learning’, which identified four types of learning styles or preferences and a four-stage learning cycle, have been influential, although findings from neuroscience increasingly challenge established perceptions about how people learn; however, these developments are yet to translate into widespread changes in practice. Any theory or model of learning styles is necessarily a simplification of the complexity of how we learn – there is no secure evidence to support any one theory, nor even that learning styles are fixed – so a ‘blended learning’ range of methods is likely to produce the best results, enabling people to use their own generally preferred style as well as sample other approaches, for example:

open learning – gives access to a range of learning resources but encourages ownership of learning and development

e-learning – uses online media, from email and websites to video and webinars, which can create a virtual classroom experience, commonly used for specific training e.g. health and safety, hygiene, data protection

coaching – development technique based on one-to-one discussions to enhance • individual skills, knowledge or work performance, often for a current job, but also to support career transitions

mentoring – a relationship in which a more experienced colleague (rather than line manager) uses their greater knowledge and understanding of the work or workplace to support the development of a more junior or inexperienced member of staff

secondment – the temporary loan of an employee to another department or role (sometimes to an external organisation) widely recognised as valuable for both employee and organisational development

shadowing/job rotation – similarly useful forms of development, particularly in supporting development of skills and competencies for new or higher-level roles.