Personal Development: The Four Learning Styles

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“Personal development is a vital part of an individual’s growth and progression. By allowing you to explore key areas of self-improvement, you’re more likely to feel fulfilled in your personal life – and it could even benefit you from a professional perspective

There are several benefits of own personal and professional development. Personal development assists one learn more about their abilities and aspirations thus providing a clearer idea on what one wants to do at either a personal or professional level. Once one finds out their abilities, you are able to make clearer goals and set out activities designed for you to achieve the goal. For example, if you have identified your career path, you will be able to identify the relevant course required to attain that career.

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Personal and professional development encourages one to be motivated as you will have clearer goals and being equipped with the professional skill required to produce quality work. The motivation and interest in what we do keeps us going as it is an avenue of attaining our goal.

Professional development carried out on a regular basis helps improve our learning, morale, confidence and knowledge. It is an avenue for either a career change, for gaining a promotion at work or getting a new job. With professional skills required for the job, one is better equipped to progress in their career path.

In view of the benefits of personal and professional development listed above, it is important for any organisation to develop staff because a workforce that is knowledgeable and confident in their roles contributes to quality delivery of customer service. In a client facing environment like the Job Centre, it is important for staff to be confident and provide a uniform delivery of service to all customers.

Training also ensures consistency across the staff who deliver the service as it ensures staff are aware of the company policies and procedures as well as the expectations to achieve the company goals. Efficient service delivery results in increased financial gain for the company.

The implementation of an ongoing training and development of staff helps identify and address any weaknesses in the workforce thus leading to a knowledgeable and quality staff who can deliver the organisational goals and policies. Ongoing training also ensures compliance with up-to-date laws and Regulations.

It is also important for organisations to develop staff as it will reduce the employee turnover. When staff are trained and improve skills, they feel valued, loyal and will often not change employers. High staff retention reduces the costs of employers having to recruit often as well as contributes to the good reputation of the company.

Staff development through ongoing training helps build a bank of qualified staff who can be relied on in cases of promotion as well as giving cover for Mangers and staff absences. It is therefore important for any organisation to develop staff as they are the image of the company and determines its ability to thrive in the future.

It is important to develop staff as it leads to a successful organization where all the legislation, policy and procedures as well as company goals will be abided to. Furthermore, the continuous development of staff enables the workforce to positively engage and adapt to change.

David Kolb presents a theory of principles and concepts on how people learn. He bases the learning theory on two levels that includes a four stage cycle of learning and four separate learning styles. According to Kolb, we learn through transforming our experiences. For example, through our experiences, we reflect on that what happened, then we review what happened or went wrong, next we plan and learn lessons from that experience. This learning cycle has proved to be a helpful tool in project management and resolving problems. See table below for the cycle:

David Kolb furthermore presents learning style descriptions and it is important to know a persons or your own learning style as it facilitates the development of the learning style to suit your preferred method. Concrete experiencers learn by experiencing and learn with and from other people and value discussion and feedback. A Reflective person looks at things from various perspectives and learns through lectures and testing of knowledge through assessments. An Abstract conceptualizer likes theory, enjoys studying alone and creates ideas that are clear and well structured. Finally, Active Experimenters learn by doing things. They are hands-on who practice and try new things, take risks, get tasks done and prefer small group discussions.

Peter Honey and Alan Mumford theory was informed by the work of Kolb and they identified four learning styles that people tend to follow one or two of them. The learning styles are activist, reflector, theorist and pragmatist. Activists learn by participating or engaging in activities, new experiences and enjoy taking on challenges. Reflectors learn by observing and thinking about what happened and they are data analysts who prefer to reflect on the data and engage in stakeholder consultation. This category usually delays in reaching conclusions. Theorists on the other hand prefer to analyse and understand the theory behind any action before making a decision. Pragmatists like to try out new things and see if they work.

Both these theories reflect that as learners we are influenced by our experiences and all have varying learning styles that we use.

People have a preferred learning styles therefore it is important to be aware of the style in order to match the development opportunity. Awareness of a learning style will improve the speed and quality of learning. In a number of instances where development opportunities are presented through informal or formal training, often a single or multiplicity of learning styles could be used based on the opportunity. For example, for e-learning, a common tool we use in the Job Centres for our Online training requires visual to read the test or illustrations, it also may involve auditory as some information contains audio recordings. It will also require the solitary (intrapersonal) learning style as this requires one to concentrate on reading the information presented on the computer.

On the other hand, on the job training for a mechanic in a car assembly plant will require verbal, kinaesthetic and social (interpersonal) learning styles to learn how to fit car parts and work as a team to have task completed.

Job shadowing is one of the developmental opportunities offered in a number of work places and assist in training staff to learn a new role often in view of progression. Depending on the job type, this is mainly visual as it involves observing the way the job holder caries out their day to day role. It will also be both auditory and visual as it will entail listening and asking questions on how the work is being carried out.

Workshops can also present a multiplicity of learning styles. Often workshops are help in a formal setting and involves projecting the information on large screen thus using the visual style. It also may include role plays and practical exercises that require kinaesthetic as well as social styles through the group work.

Based on the examples above, this reflects that several learning styles can be used to impart skills and knowledge as people all have varying ways they learn.

Reflective practice involves thinking about and reflecting on what you do. It is closely linked to the concept of learning from experience, in that you think about what you did, and what happened, and decide from that what you would do differently next time.

Reflective practice is therefore important as it helps one to identify what went well or what did not well in the implementation of your activities and job role so as to set strategies on improving the issues that arise.

Reflective practice assists one to identify their skill gaps for which personal or professional development can be undertaken. For example, when one is doing job shadowing, you can identify a skill gap in leadership skills for which you can search for leadership training courses that will place you in a better position for progression and application for managerial roles.

Reflective practice will also assist both staff and management to identify and obtain resources that can help correct an obstacle in service delivery. For example, when Universal Credit was rolled out, the Work Coaches used to carry out the Habitual Residence Tet appointments which usually take up almost one hour and this affected the office diary as other important appointments like the verification of Identify could not be booked earlier leading to delays of payments of Universal Credit. The Management resolved this issue by opening up a diary for the Administrative Officers who are now in charge of dealing with Habitual Residence Test appointments. This is working well as it has now freed up the diaries for the Work Coaches to process initial UC claims so that the claimants are able to receive their first payments in time.

Personal and professional development is important as it helps one to manage their own learning and growth through their career.

Maintaining a record of a personal and professional development plan assists one to review your achievements and check your progress against your goals. Keeping a record assists one to see how they have progressed and grown over time. For example, one of my development activities was to get a mentor to support me in my progression journey. I set a timeline of six months and have progressed on this and now have a mentor with whom I have held an initial meeting.

Keeping a record of your achievements will assist you demonstrate them to a potential employer. For example, a number of job applications and interviews in the Civil Service are competency based. They require you to give an example of times when you have demonstrated or used the skills required for the role. Therefore, keeping a record of your achievements is crucial and will act as a reminder to prompt you during interviews and when applying for jobs.

Maintaining a record of your professional development plan ensures career progression as it supports you to identify and work towards achieving your goal. Discussing and reviewing your personal and professional development plan with your Manager every quarter of the year during your one-to –one meetings will provide input and guidance that can be monitored in the next quarter. Your Manager also will be able to put in place other supporting mechanisms or resources that can support the staff to attain their goal. I currently receive support from my Manager and I am a Deputy on the Team where I am improving my leadership skills.


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