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Personal Styles, Learning Styles, and Politics

Personal styles reveal something about how we learn, think, and relate to the world.

Not long ago, National Public Radio reported that 29% of the US population was considered to be on the left politically. That is interesting as about 28% of the population is abstract /random, a description that is related to “personal style”. The study of personal styles usually includes thinking styles and learning styles. The studies are designed to improve education, self-awareness, relationships, mental health, and productivity. There seems to be little research available on whether personal styles are related to political views, but the possibility is interesting. Personal styles reveal something about how we learn, think, and relate to the world. Knowing a little about personal styles is a useful thing.

“Personal style” is a description of how we receive, store, and use information.  A simple, but useful, model for personal style was developed by Alexander Gregorc. (1) His model uses two perceptual qualities, “abstract” and “concrete”, and two organizational methods, “sequential” and “random”  (or “nonlinear” ) . Gregorc couples these to form four possible style categories: concrete/sequential (CS), abstract/sequential (AS), abstract/random (AR), and concrete/random (CR). Although everyone has all four qualities, most people are predisposed toward one or two of them. A survey found that about 51% of the population prefers CS, 28% AR, 13 % CR, and 8% prefer AS. These refer to a person’s dominant style. It is important to remember that everyone has some of each style and there is no “best style”. Still, personal styles can be fun and enlightening to investigate.

What’s Your  Style? A person’s dominate style can be related to preferred occupations, satisfying hobbies, and even things they might find difficult. An extensive description of all four styles is available at this link (2).  A simple, 15-question test can determine approximately a person’s style. It takes about 10 minutes and is at this link if you are interested. (3) Please note that these are very approximate categories that may change with time and that they may be situational. A person may prefer one style at work and another for leisure, such as a surgeon who is CS at work may much prefer AR type activities for hobbies.

Learning Styles: Although personal styles change with maturation, it is useful to consider that a student has a preferred learning style. Students with a CS style tend to prefer programmed instruction, workbooks, lab manuals, field trips, and applications while students with an AS style tend to prefer lectures, books, syllabi, and guided individual study. Students with a CR learning style prefer independent study, games, simulations, and problem solving, and students with an AR style usually prefer television, movies, assignments with reflection time, and group discussions. (2) There have been some efforts made to match teaching styles to student’s learning styles but it is impractical except in the largest of schools. Teachers are encouraged to be aware of the different learning styles and to use a variety of methods directed to each style. There is much more to know about personal learning styles and a good reference for that is Thelearningweb. (4)

Political Styles: Perhaps political discourse could be improved by a knowledge of personal styles. The most polarizing divide in politics lately had been between Conservatives and Liberals. A 2009 Gallup Poll survey found that 40% of Americans describe their political views as conservative, 35% as moderate, and 21% as liberal. (5) That’s not quite the same as the breakdown in the personal styles categories, but the similarity is interesting. From considering personal styles, we know that CS and AR dominant people perceive and organize information differently, that everyone has some of each style, and  that personal styles vary with the situation and maturation.  Rather than there being a big Liberal/Conservative divide, perhaps issues could be considered a personal style difference. Then, rather than calling each other elitists and ignoramuses, we could just say “That is certainly an abstract/random approach to the problem.” or “My, aren’t we being concrete/sequential today?”

(1) http://gregorc.com/gregorc.html

(2) http://www.floatingneutrinos.com/Message/arcs/links_on_abstractrandom.htm

(3)  http://www.thelearningweb.net/personalthink.html

(4) http://www.thelearningweb.net/learningstyles.html

(5) http://www.gallup.com/poll/120857/conservatives-single-largest-ideological-group.aspx

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