Although Honey and Mumford always advocated that individuals are best equipped to learn from a variety of different experiences if they have more or less equal preferences for all four learning styles, the fact remains that people do favour one or two of these styles above the others.
Let’s consider the learners who favour the Learning Style known as Theoretician, or Theorists. These learners need conceptual models and theories to feel secure. They learn best if they can use abstract, logical reasoning, and structure new knowledge into models they have already mastered. Because they can be quite hard on people who don’t take their logical approach, Theoreticians tend to work alone or only with like-minded people. Dealing with the “irrationality” of others can be very stressful for Theoreticians. Therefore, they can come across as cold, unemotional and unfeeling, anti-social even.
In an ESL classroom, they are the ones who will relish old-fashioned grammar lessons, when the teacher/trainer takes to the whiteboard to explains the rules of language. They need ordered concepts and models, a rational approach to language use and practice. Theoreticians are keen on exploring the principles and theories that underpin language use, and will feel at ease applying theories, questioning and researching. Conversely, they will feel unhappy when asked to brainstorm, or role-play, and they typically steer clear of discussing subjective or ambiguous topics.
As trainers, we need to understand how best to use the positive aspects of this learning style, while at the same time, being aware of possible stressors and obstacles to learning.
Theoreticians learn best when:
Theoreticians learn least when:
When properly framed, Theoreticians can bring much needed logic, discipline and focus to class interactions and group work. But they also need to learn to relate to others and be more tolerant of feelings and emotions as well as ambiguity. They may also need to curb their need for perfection, which can prevent them from being more participative in class and from contributing more with ideas and suggestions. Questioning arguments and detecting inconsistencies and weaknesses is very positive – and a skill other need to develop (Analysts, for instance). Still, Theoreticians can appear intolerant of others or superior, and therefore be rejected by their colleagues, and both are intolerable in the language classroom.