Medical Teaching - Different Learning Styles

Have you ever found yourself trying to explain something to someone who stares at you blankly? Here is a brief explanation of the different learning styles and their characteristics. Different categorisations of learning styles exist.

One famous categorisation of the different learning styles is the Honey-Mumford model. See if you recognise yourself in one of these descriptions:


Actavists enjoy themselves the most when they have new experiences. They will try anything once and are very open-minded. Their motto is “carpe diem” – Enjoy the present moment – and they like to get stuck in, troubleshooting and brainstorming. They don’t like sedate environments. They are sociable but mostly like to be the centre of attention. Activists can be disruptive to a group. They keep challenging, ask questions which are likely to be addressed later on in the teaching session and generally could take over a group.


Theorists are ultra-logical. They don’t like the big picture and prefer to approach problems step-by-step. They analyse everything and are perfectionists who like to create tidy and rational systems. They tend to be detached and objective and hate ambiguity. They find it difficult to conceive lateral thinking. Theorists would come across as studious and thorough during a teaching session, and teachers may find that they sometimes spend far too much time focussing on unnecessary detail rather than the big picture, particularly when dealing with abstract topics.


Reflectorsare cautious and thoughtful and like to collect and analyse as much data as possible, before coming to a decision. They are the type of people who like to 'sleep on it'. They are usually the quiets ones at the back of the room, who prefer to observe and listen to others. Reflectors can be frustrating to teach because they rarely give you feedback, stare at you blankly, looking as if they are not enjoying themselves when they are in fact internalising. However, they may well give you the best feedback.


Pragmatists are enthusiastic about trying out new theories and techniques in practice. They like to “get on with it”, acting quickly and confidently with their ideas. They don’t like wasting time with long-winded and open-ended discussions. They are very practical, enjoy challenges and solving problems, and are always looking for better ways of doing things. Pragmatists will enjoy sessions which progress at a good pace. Teachers often make the mistake to assume that their students have a similar style to theirs. A good understanding of the different styles and a strong ability to detect their students’ approach of learning is therefore key to being a good teacher.

Do you want to know more about the different learning styles
other models being used and how you can become a better teacher by adapting to them?

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