1. Background information
Duong’s majors in Computer Science. He has good abilities to technology, analysis, control and solves problems. He is confident with his skills and always wants to become a good manager. After graduated from the Science University, he and his partner established the Rubik, an information technology solution and consultant company that supply content managing software and set up informative and high interactive websites for users. They provide consultations and working out IT solutions for enterprises and social organizations, promote Information and Technology application capabilities, increase turnout and enhance relations with business partners with the least expenses.
Currently, he is the General Director and is responsible for managing total activities of the Company such as Strategies, Personnel, Projects, Finance, Marketing and Branding. He outlined several strategic plans in order to develop company and tried to achieve those things. He encountered a lot of issues since his company has been established. During the first time, he managed by his instinct. So, he made some terrible decisions which influenced the existence of his company. And the worst decision was about strategic product which will discuss in the Case Study part.
2. Report objectives
This report focuses to analysis the preferred learning style and how it affects to individual. And considering an understanding of how to learn from the experiences, how this can be used to solving the problem which is encountered in working or learning. Beside, the author utilised four academic models in the critical discussion
The author will describe about a special case which he faced in the commencement of his company. It is possible to present the learning style can influence to individual. This report includes four sections:
• Introduction: this section brief outline of the author’s organisation, his role and the problem or issue identified • Literature Review: this section discuss about the concepts of experiential learning and analysis four models. • Case study: This section gives an analysis of how to apply the theoretical frameworks discussed above in the author’s detailed problem situation. • Conclusion and Reflection: this section provides a critical evaluation of the learning throughout the assignment. Summarizing the problem and theory. And discuss about the tendency which the author should develop in the future to tackle better the similar issue.
2. Literature Review
❖ Learning style concept
• “Learning has occurred when someone:
– knows something they did not know earlier, and can show it . – is able to do something which they were not able to do before”. (Honey & Mumford 1992 in Foot and Hook 2005:193)
• “Learning is shown by a relatively permanent change in behaviour that occurs as a result of practice or experience. (Bass and Vaughan 1966 in Foot and Hook 2005:193)
• “The Shorter Oxford Dictionary defines learning as:
1. The action of the verb TO LEARN.
2. What is learnt or taught.
3. Knowledge . . . got by study.”
(Shorter Oxford Dictionary in Foot and Hook 2005: 193)
❖ Learning process
• Kolb (1974)
Figure 1: Learning Processwas defined by Kolb (1974)
Source: Kolb (1974)
❖ Learning preference
• Kolb (1976)
Figure 2: Learning preference was defined by Kolb (1976)
Source: Kolb (1976)
• Honey and Mumford (1982)
Figure 3: Learning preference was defined by Honey & Mumford (1982)
Source: Honey & Mumford (1982)
2. Model 1: Kolb (1974)
David Kolb, Professor of Organisational Behaviour at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland in the US. Kolb et al (cited in Cameron, 2008, p.119) suggested that “learning should be viewed as a circular process, where by experience was followed by attempts to make sense of that experience through reflection and conceptualisation, followed by experimentations with the concepts so developed, followed by further experience, reflection, and so on”. He proposed that people go through different stages to learn. There are four stages: concrete experiences (CE) which favours experiential learning; reflective observations (RO) which there is a preference for analytical and conceptual thinking; abstract conceptualisations (AC) which active in try out and practice learning; and active experimentations (AE) which extensive consideration before any action (Kolb 1976, 1984 cited in Cassidy, 2004, p. 430).
And there are some features derived from Kolb’s theory (Coffield et al, 2004, p.61) suggested that: Learning is best understand as a process, learning is a continuous process grounded in experience and learning embraces the transactions between the person and the environment. Beside, Kolb suggested that the pairs of four activities may be symbolised as polarities (Sadler-Smith, 2001, p.610): the converging style relies on abstract conceptualisation and active experimentation, the diverging style emphasises concrete experience and reflective observation; the assimilating style relies on abstract conceptualisation and reflective observation; and the accommodating style emphasises concrete experience and active experimentation.
❖ Some critical discussions about Kolb’s theory:
Kolb (1974) learning style theory is associated with some weakness. First, there are some ideas about origin of Kolb’s theory. For example: Garner (2000) (cited in Coffield, 2004, p. 63) identified that Kolb’s learning styles are not identical with Jung’s personality types. He indicated that there is ‘only occasional weak connections’ (2000, 343) between the two approaches. In addition, he pointed out that Kolb has skipped the important function of subordinate abilities in Jung’s work. On the other hand, Coffield et al (2004, p.63) argued that Kolb’s theory originated in the other thinkers and retained a deserved recognition as original and significant because it described in detailing the features of learning experience and the fundamental of learning process.
Besides, he launched LSI for evaluating the learning styles of individual. Second, the reliability of Kolb’s theory has many criticism and controversy for a long time. Example: Freedman and Stumpf (1978, p.279) (cited in Coffied et al, 2004, p.64) argued that through the test – retest reliabilities, the LSI is not reliable as a theoretical constructions being investigated. And Sims et al(1986); Veres, Sims and Shake(1987) and Sims, Veres and Shake (1989) (cited in Coffieldet al, 2004, p.65) argued that when comparing the 1985 version with 1976 version through test–retest reliability, the result is not sufficient to support Kolb’s theory. However, they now recommend that researchers should use the modified version of the LSI to study learning styles after changing to the instrument which has increased its reliability (Coffield et al, 2004, p.65)
Kolb’s theory probably is a fundamental theory of learning style. It has an important significance in researching and applying the learning style. Although existing many different judgments about origins, reliability, Validity, etc., there are revisers who use Kolb’s theory and LSI for their research or theory such as Honey & Mumford (1986).
3. Model 2: Honey and Mumford (1986)
Alan Mumford was in charge of senior management development at the Chloride Organisation and Peter Honey, who was the chartered psychologist, was invited to studying the topic how manager learn in the late 1970s (Coffield et al, 2004, p.71). They researched experimenting with different individual with the various approaching base on Kolb’s theory in four year. After that, they launched Learning Style Questionnaire in 1982. The four learning styles were defined are: activist, reflector, theorist and pragmatist. Honey & Mumford (2000) (cited in Coffield et al, 2004, p.71) suggested that there is no single style in four could be strong than any other. Each of style has strengths and weaknesses. And the strengths of each style may be crucial in the specific situation and not in another.
❖ Some critical discussions about Honey & Mumford’s theory: There are many different comments about Honey& Mumford (1986)’s theory. Such as Swailes and Senior (1999) (cited in Coffield 2004, p.74) argued that the scale scores was difficult to distinguish to allow individuals to be classified on the definition of learning style and they suggest that the LSQ should be amended to overcome the weakness. And Sadler-Smith (2001b) (cited in Cuthbert, 2005, p.244) argued that the LSQ produced four styles but he suggested that it might be used to learning processes rather than learning style. However, Duff and Duffy (2001) (cited in Cuthbert, 2005, p.244) proposed a contrary view for this issue that he tested the LSQ with undergraduates and he claimed that construct validity was not supported by their data. And Pickworth and Schoeman (2001) (cited in Cuthbert, 2005, p.244) reported that LSQ produced four factor solutions and high internal reliability after they tested this instrument with South African undergraduates in science and humanities.
Honey and Mumford produced their theory and LSQ grounded on Kolb’s model, however they created a new structure for their model. Although there are many doubt about their model’s reliability but it has some certain strengths such as they indicated that individual favour the particular stages of learning cycle, and the learning experience could be improved by increasing the awareness on learning style.
4. Model 3: Allinson and Hayes (1996)
The Cognitive Style Index (CSI) is designed by Christopher Allinson and John Hayes in 1996. The CSI is an instrument with a three point rating scale and used in adult organisation context (Coffield et al, 2004, p.85). There are two important factors in this theory: analysis and intuition.
“They follow Mintzberg (1976) in linking right-brained intuition with the need of managers to make quick decisions on the basis of ‘soft’ information, while left-brained analysis is seen as the kind of rational information processing that makes for good planning “(Hayes and Allinson 1997 cited in Coffield, 2004, p.85).
❖ Some critical discussions about Allinson and Hayes’s theory:
Sadler-Smith, Spicer and Tsang (2000) (cited in Coffield, 2004, p.86) suggesed that CSI measures a single dimension and it could support a single-factor model by followed the ‘parcelling’.
However, Löfström (2002) (cited in Coffield, 2004, p.86) claimed that a two-factor model was provided a good fit to the data based on the obtained from 228 working adults.
And “Allinson and Hayes acknowledge that more research is needed to understand the relationships between cognitive style, intellectual ability and educational achievement”(Coffield et al, 2004, p.85).
CSI was designed use for adult but it was not influence to awareness of individual. So this problem and the correlation between CSI and Cognitive abilities need to research more in the future (Coffield et al, 2004, p.88).
5. Model 4: Jackson(2002)
Chris Jackson, an organisational psychologist now at the University of Queensland, developed his model which named Learning Style Profiler in the UK over 10 years (Coffield et al, 2004, p.56). The LSP is described as ‘an applied neuropsychological model of learning styles for business and education’ (Jackson 2002, cited in Coffield, 2004, p.56).
His learning styles included initiator, reasoner, analyst, and implementer. And the characteristics of four styles described in table 3:
Learning Style Profiler of Jackson is a sophisticated instrument which use
for business and education. But it is possible that the name LSQ chosen by Jackson has a weak point for description, because it resembles Honey & Mumford (2000) (Swailes and Senior, 1999 and Duff and Duffy, 2002 cited in Coffield et al 2004, p.56).
Learning Style Profiler is a sophisticated instrument. It is focused on the personal development through encouraging self-awareness. Jackson is encouraging an optimistic behaviour for developing individual potential. This approach will possibly verify the organisation of psychology, education and training more effectively than lots of current commercial applications that base on theories of fixed individuality traits (Coffiel et al, 2004, p.57). 6. The comparison among four models
Source: adapted from Coffield et al (2004, p.139)
4 learning-styles models matched against minimal criteria
✕criterion not met
— no evidence either way or issue still to be settled
Note: The evaluation is in all cases ‘external’, meaning an evaluation which explored the theory or instruments associated with a model and which was not managed or supervised by the originator(s) of that model.
3. Case Study
1. Situation of problem
In this Case Study part, the author wants to discuss a problem encountered in the past when he made a decision about a strategic problem for the company that he had founded. The issue has had a profound effect on him and his company over the years. In 2007, after two years working at the Science University, he felt bored and terrible in bureaucratic position. He had always wanted to involve himself fully in a new experience, face new challenges and solve new problems in his life. So, he left the university environment and took the next step on his road. He is persuaded by a dream to become an entrepreneur and work hard to start a business from scratch with a bit of money. He found some friends who had a similar idea. Quickly, they made a decision to establish a company with many services related to technology and marketing, web development, graphic design, social media, digital marketing and branding. Finally, Rubik Information & Technology Solution Company which is their company was born with 10 partners and he became General Manager of this.
They had the beginnings, the insight and the courage, but not much experience, nor money. But they are not fearless and are absolutely sure they can get through any troubling situation. He and his team thought they could build the branding, a prestigious mark of their company with a strategic product. They would brainstorm and develop a social network with functionality. They named it as “always friends”. They learned about features of some famous sites in the world and added a lot of ideas for their product. Everyone in the company expected this product to grow and develop like Facebook or MySpace in Vietnam and all over the world. However, everything did not go as well as planned. He planned to launch the site within the next 5 months but his company faced many difficulties in capital, human resources and especially knowledge of the market, which in this case had to do with community networks. Actually, at first time, a lot of money was invested in infrastructure, such as the office space, office systems, computers, office suppliers, furniture, etc., and the company had no income at this time. Hence, there was a lot of pressure on them concerning the issue of capital.
Some of his staff didn’t believe in the success of the project and so there were a number of psychological problems and loss of focus on the work needing to be done. It was very difficult to understand social networking which is a trend of the modern age with many complex features. The technology and some simple and discrete ideas are not all that is needed for a successful social networking. It must be a unified system. It depends on many factors such as locality, age of user, accessibility, usability, the application program, method of approaching the user, and how to expand and retain users. Besides that, a proper and accurate marketing strategy was needed. However, they had not thought seriously about these issues. The final result of this project was that implementation was not scheduled and could not deploy on the Internet as planned. It was cancelled. Everything turned out a business disaster with many mistakes in management, strategy, and planning.
Source: Adapted from Honey & Mumford (1986)
Base on the above results which is matching with Honey & Mumford (1986)’s theory, the author obtains the highest score in the category Activist style. He tends to act without considering the possible consequences. He is open-minded, ready to face challenges, and is good at problem solving. He usually processes everything by brainstorming. He often bases his actions on feelings. And he actively seeks out new experiences. He usually produce a lot of spontaneous ideas. He quickly gets bored with methodical, detail work, consolidation and anything requiring sustained effort (Cameron, 2008).
3. The author’s application:
The author’s company actually faced a huge crisis. In this situation, he had to take a serious look at issues and solve them step by step. He had to redefine the direction and restructure all the activities of company. It was an extremely difficult period. They had really invaluable lessons on business management. In the future, he should consider carefully his planning, implementation and decisions in any similar situation. He should analyze and observe companies in Vietnam with a similar model to avoid previous mistakes. Also, he should discuss issues and listen to others and retain their advice before making his own decisions. The preparation about capital, marketing plans and human resources is very useful. And finally, he must understand fully the area where he wants to start doing business.
The role of management is changing, and changing rapidly. The world in which managers operate is fluid, making predictions is difficult, and competition often fierce. (Cameron 2008, p.119) and Cameron highlights the fact that “…in such an environment the ability to ‘make sense’ of a complex and rapidly changing world, and to learn continuously from experience, is crucial.” In fact that, the author is an Activist; however, learning styles are dynamic, and depend on the situation and previous experience. Based on the learning process (Kolb, 1974) and preference (Honey and Mumford, 1986) he can apply this issue to similar situations, and particularly, he can reflect more on his experiences and adjust his learning activity.
Kolb (1974) (as cited in Cameron 2008, p.121) suggests that “you should get into the reverse habit of becoming more reflective about your experience. If something always seems to go wrong, try to analyse why. How does it differ from fairly similar things that go right? Is there anything in your studies that can throw light on this? Can you gather constructive feedback from colleagues to indicate whether you are unwittingly contributing to problem?” (Cameron, 2008) suggests that in some cases, you will be required to do learning activities which are inappropriate to your natural style. It may be difficult for you but it will be able to improve your abilities and gain advantages in your work.
4. Conclusion and Reflection
The report presents two important theories in the learning style literature: Kolb (1974) and Honey and Mumford (1986). Also it describes more two anothers: Jackson (2002) and Allinson and Hayes (1996). This report introduces main theme of the theory, analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of each model and try to comparing among them. In order to understand Learning Styles are basically the ways that people learn better. There are so many learning styles theories or models. However, there is no perfect model of learning style for every individual. Butunderstanding fully about natural learning style and developing this style are extremely important. It helps to recognising the preferred learning style, how to learning effectively, how to developing a person’s capacity,etc.
The case study is described in this report is a real problem. During the past period, the author encountered many problems in his business which caused a lot of trouble. He overcame them however he retained a lot of lessons. Two things are the most important: First, he must understand fully about himself including strengths and weaknesses. It means he must understand all features of Activist style and how they can impact to his action. Second, he should apply and control them in order to improve his business and his life. It means the author should adjust his learning style in the specific case such as standing back and think about the experiences, collecting sufficient data before reaching conclusions, listening carefully from others as a Reflector style’s features or think about the problems through logically, analysis and more logical as Theorist style’s features.
The author decided to choose the way to become a manager when he was quite young. It is not an easy way. Although so far his company has existed for nearly 3 years, he will face with many challenges in next time such as: how to manage the changes, development strategy, human resource, finance, customer relationship, etc. As Henry Mintzberg (1973) (as cited in Mullins, 2007, p.189) argued that “Managerial work is enormously complex, far more so than a reading of traditional literature would suggest. There is a need to study it systematically and to avoid the temptation to seek simple prescriptions for its difficulties.” Learning styles affects every aspect of life. It is the best if the author understands fully about it, process and uses effectively it in his natural learning style. He has activist tendency, so he has energy, creativity and he will grow in new experiences and challenges. In the other hand, he will need to regulate and maintain his motivation. He must discipline himself to plan for the important task in his works.
Learning style is not to stereotype and it depends on the previous experiences. Hence, he can thrive on the experiences and tackle better the similar issue which is mentioned above in the future. Honey and Mumford (1986) (as cited in Mullins, 2007, p.414) suggested that “an understanding of one’s learning styles will enhance learning effectiveness, whether as a trainee or as a tutor. An integrated and effective learner will be equipped to manage all four styles even though they may have a preference for one.” Beside, Bass and Vaughan (1966) (as cited in Foot and Hook, 2005, p.195) suggests that learning is the behaviour changes and development resulted from new practice and experience. Learning style is dynamic. So, he is participanting a Management of Business Admistration (MBA) programme. He expects to developing analytical, problem solving, decision making skills and especially to improving the understanding of modern management issues and techniques. It is the key factor to developing his individual’s potential and long-term development of his organisation.
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