Learning style can be defined as how individuals prefer to learn or their steady way of responding and using stimuli or motivation in the aims of improving their learning. According to Keefe (1979) learning style is define as the “composition of cognitive, affective and psychological behaviour that serves as an indicator of how an individual perceives, interacts with and respond to the learning environment”. Sims and Sims (1995) state that learning style helps in providing means for developing systematic understanding of how to absorb, retain and process the content of information.
In difference, Moseley, Hall & Ecclestone (2004) stated that the diverse experiences of individuals’ learning can be difficult to measure to determine how best an individual’s learning styles is determined. This learning style has been majorly stated to allow individuals to learn through the experiences thereby helping a different people to organised and manage their own learning (Goldfinch & Hughes, 2007). Understanding learning styles support student nurses to comprehend the value of learning and developing the skills needed to practice. It is important for individuals to know their learning styles because it helps to build and produce effective team work as well as to strengthen self-confidence.
Learning style is an aid to reflection; it helps nurses to reflect appropriately on the care of the patients so as to deliver good standard of care. Without learning styles for nursing students it can be quite challenging to reflect on a situation as reflection stages involve thinking and learning in order to produce a better outcome. O’Carroll & Park (2007) also stated that reflection has become a key learning tool for practice based professions such as nursing. This simply means nurses are expected to reflect at all times based on the kind of care that is given and also to reflect on any areas of improvement, and if the right care is given to the right patients to provide a good standard of care.
According to Cottrell (2003) learning has many aspects process involving an individual’s learning past, the environment and the interaction in between. It is therefore based on the styles that are being used to acquire new knowledge and skills (Lesmes-Anel, Robinson & Moody, 2001). Another usefulness of understanding learning style for student nurses is to approach how to overcome problematic situations and also to be more competent when qualified. For example if a student nurse have knowledge about their learning style, they will be able to look for the environment that best suit them as an individuals and would be able to work effectively within a team and other interdisciplinary team successfully .
Student nurses will also be able to target areas that need improvement by identifying the areas that are more difficult or a weakness so as to set up a strategy to deal with it for a better outcome, to get more out of their education, careers and to be able to deliver good standard of care to patient. To sum up usefulness of knowing learning style to student nurses it makes learning stress-free, more effective and reduces the chance of anxiety. It also saves student nurses undertaking learning on a successful basis, becoming an outstanding learner, increases flexibility and helps to learn from a wide variety of different understanding which can be recognized, informal, planned and unplanned. Learning styles will also enable student nurses to improve and develop learning skills like communicating, creative thinking, critical thinking and collaborating all this skills will help student nurses to learn successfully on the programme and in future. In addition, it increases awareness of how we acquire, opens up the entire process to examine and improve on learning.
In Honey questionnaire (2006), the author identifies four learning preferences which are Activist, Reflector, Theorist and Pragmatist. My dominant learning style indicated to be a theorist in the formative work. The answer to the questionnaire also shows that my score was also strong for both pragmatist and reflector as a learning preference. While in activist learning style found a low score indicating underdevelopment of my learning style. According to Alghasham (2012) learners predominantly possess different strengths of learning preferences; therefore being dominant in one area does not ultimately imply weakness in the other areas. In the study by Lesmes-Anel, Robinson & Moody (2001) found that learners are predominantly reflector-pragmatist compared with trainers as reflector-theorist.
According to Honey’s questionnaire my dominant learning style being a theorist, I learn well from activities where I have the chance to question and probe practice, I am also stretched by analysing a complex situation by working with people who ask probing for searching similar answers. I adapt and assimilate observations into complex and logically sound theories; I also think problems through stage by stage and tend to be perfectionists that like to fit things into a clear structure. The activities that allow a theorist to benefit from the learning process for me as a student nurse are situations where there is a chance to discover the association and the interrelationship between ideas, events and situations.
For example, being a theorist allows me to learn best by contributing in class activities which means taking part in good effective communication and it has enabled me to seek for information by asking questions to stimulate others participation and also to understand the coherent and the assumptions of the theories. Conversely, the difficulty here is in the case where there are activities without background information or apparent purpose which will impair my learning and where I feel myself out of place with other members, for example when with lots of activist or people of lower intellectual competence. (Honey & Mumford, 1986).
Honey and Mumford (1986) expressed a pragmatist learner learns best through existing activities that allows the individual to try out. This way learner has the tendency to have the opportunity to practice what they have learnt. Having a strong style as pragmatist enable me to take part in activities by effort to follow instructions from lectures, colleagues, author’s mentors and nurses on placements who have the theoretical and practical experience to share with. For example, during my first placement I had the opportunity to practice under supervision on how to take out cannulation using the Aseptic Non Touch Techniques (ANTT) to remove cannula and Nasogastric tube in both men and women.
This assisted in building my self-confidence and also promotes self-regulation of clinical reasoning skills. On the other hand, Honey & Mumford (2000) found that it can be difficult for the learner in situations where the learner cannot see significant reward from the activities. In this case, it will be best for me as a student nurse to link theory to practice by asking questions to clarify points being made to develop my understanding.
Jasper (2003) expressed reflector as an individual who has the experiences of standing back and looking at a situation from different perspective. Having a high score as a reflector in the questionnaire, shows I will enjoy activities which involve watching, observing and listening to people during group discussion and lecturing session. There also the tendency to think about what has happened or learnt by relating new ideas or information to the past experience and then to examine them (Howatson-Jones, 2010). Learning as a reflector will enable me as a student nurse to be thoughtful and consider all possible areas and implications of obtaining detailed information before making decision (Honey & Mumford, 1986).
Evaluating my learning style as an activist has indicated under-developed style in my learning. Having this style will improve my ability to experience new skills by working as an individual. I will have to develop the aspect of my weaker style which is activist to support my learning on the programme and in my nursing career by being able to learn from new experiences as learning needs for example doing what I have never done before like reading unfamiliar newspaper, articles, textbooks with different views to my own and changing a plan of my routine.
Having a little conversations with strangers or someone I have not talk to in a while, meeting new friends and having a little talk, changing activities which is switching every few hours as diverse as possible for example if I was sleeping, waking up to read will help, if I was talking trying to be quiet will be helpful all this will aid strengthen my weaker style. I will also be prepared to take risk by going outside the relaxation zone of what is identified and experiment new and unfamiliar routine and developments.
According to Heidari and Galvin (2003) activist learner is an action learning where the learner becomes independent in the learning process thereby contributing to the team. For this to be achieved increasing the independent learning and reducing my day to day routine work, which In this case action plan requiring daily tasks will be applied. Finally enthusiastic thinking aloud by getting some of my friends to join in a game where we give each other topics and planning to give unplanned speech for at least few hours will develop my weaker style.
In conclusion learning style is beneficial for student nurses because it allows individuals to reflect on the past, present and future. It has also indicated my dominant learning style and I was able to identify my weaker style which has aided me to provide an action plan that will equip me to learn from a wide variety of experiences for me to be able to deliver good standard of care to patients now and in future.