Learning Styles – Are You a Talker or a Thinker?

by Jennifer Miller on September 13, 2012

in Learning

Learning Styles are You a Talker or a Thinker



Have you ever attended a training workshop, strategic planning session or day-long meeting and been asked to do an activity that had you up out of your seat, brainstorming, interacting with others . . .and possibly even doing some oral summary report to the whole group?

What was your reaction to the activity? Did it energize you . . .or did it drain you?

If you loved it, most likely, your cognitive learning style is “participative”.

Were you less-than-enthused? Perhaps you were feeling rushed, or uncomfortable tossing out brainstorming ideas. If that’s the case, then you are likely a “reflective” learner when it comes to absorbing, sorting and synthesizing information.

Who cares about learning styles?

Well, you might want to, for starters. More and more training is being delivered “on demand” and via informal learning environments. It’s up to you to take charge of your learning and knowing how you best like to learn can reduce the time you invest in non-productive learning formats.

Also – do you host meetings or facilitate learning workshops? Learning styles is an important concept for you too.  When you design your meeting to address both types of learning styles, you’ll improve the productivity of your meeting.

What are the learning styles?

Think of the two learning styles as being on opposite ends of the continuum. Your learning style may fall anywhere along that continuum.

Learning Styles Continuum

Someone with a participative learning style likes to be actively involved in the learning process. These are the “talkers”. If you have a strong preference for this style, you like working with others to process information. You enjoy bouncing ideas off of other people, “kicking the tires” on a concept and getting direct feedback. You may also like physically handling the learning material, or acting out a concept that’s being taught.

People with a reflective learning style, aka “the thinkers”, like to think quietly about the information being presented. If you don’t mind working alone, and perhaps even prefer it to working with others, then most likely you have strong preference for reflective learning activities. When explaining a concept to others, you prefer to use words rather than pictures or activities to demonstrate the concept.


How can I build learning styles into my meetings or workshops?

First rule of thumb: This is not an either/or choice. You will have a wide range of learning preferences in your audience, so mix several aspects from each learning style into your meeting or workshop. If you’ve worked with this group before, you may have an inkling of whether the group as a whole favors one learning approach or another.

Participative Learners prefer:

  • Opportunities to chat in pairs or small groups
  • Case studies
  • Watching (and even participating in) demonstrations
  • Role Plays
  • Access to immediate feedback about their performance

Reflective Learners prefer:

  • A bit of quiet time to reflect on their answer before speaking aloud
  • Self-directed learning (send them information in advance to review)
  • Brief “lectures” – where the speaker gives an overview
  • The opportunity to take notes/write out what their “take aways” are


Nobody likes to participate in meeting activities that suck. When you design your meetings or training sessions to acknowledge the continuum of learning styles, you’ll deliver a “yay!” rather than a “boo!” experience.



This information is drawn from Inscape Publishing’s Personal Learning Insights ProfileÒ, which unfortunately, is now out of print. Even though the self-assessment is no longer available, I still think about the concept when designing my workshops or meetings. See that ® sign? It means we can share information about the “learning styles”, but we can not portray it as our own idea. You know, it’s that copyright infringement stuff.


photo credit: composite photo from istockphoto.com images


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Art Petty September 15, 2012 at 3:01 pm

Great topic for those of us delivering and attending, Jennifer. Don’t forget about the Readers and Writers. I’ve found as I’ve grown older that my best thinking comes while writing. There, the secret is out…823 leadership and management blog posts so that I can figure out what I’m talking about! : ) -Art

Jennifer Miller September 16, 2012 at 1:12 pm

Art – I like it – readers and writers – that sounds familiar!

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: