What Type Of Learner Are You?

We all are learners. Regardless of wherever we are currently in our walk of life, the one thing that we are all doing is learning. Learning need not necessarily be in a formal setting or have a goal. From learning how to throw a ball to becoming proficient in Java, learning can be classified on a continuum from simple to hard.

Learning is not dependent on your age, gender, profession or how proactive you are.  It happens in different ways for everyone. The way you learn, the pace of your learning,  and the degree to which you retain and use what you learn depends on a number of factors; the foremost being the type of learner you are.   

Learning in a formal setting is quite different from the ordinary kind of learning that happens  every day. Unlike the former, the latter has a fixed goal/objective driving it.l, Here. classifying the learner is important to effectively customize the training experience and maximize the ROI of training.  My years of experience in the Learning & Development domain,  witnessing and handling real-time training requirements, delivery and facilitation have given me an insight into four broad categories of learners. You can use this to identify your learner type.

What Type Of Learner Are You?

Proactive Learners

Proactive learners are those individuals who enroll for a training program out of enthusiasm and are alert about and have a wide understanding of future growth areas. If the person is an early certified Digital expert or if they  constantly look out for the latest products and solutions that are being launched, or if they keep up with the top intelligent digital mesh that is shaping the technology future, then they are a proactive learner. Learning is a culture / habit for proactive learners.

Reactive Learners

These learners have experienced failure or difficulty with their projects and have enrolled themselves for the training program to build their competency. The reactive learners are deeply committed and their growth post learning is definite as their primary purpose when getting trained is to improve themselves. Reactive learners are also called as ‘learning from your mistakes’ in soft skills terminology.

Subjective Learners

These learners are clear on their topics and look at building their proficiency levels higher. For instance, If they are a Java expert, they will work solely on upskilling themselves to a Java Full stack developer; they won’t bother whether new technologies are emerging. Their subject will be the only focal point and they might also become emotionally connected to the training. Subjective learners also have the likelihood of becoming a Subject Matter Expert.

Competitive Learners

They form the last minute nominations. ‘Just before appraisal’ learners fall into this type. There can be two subtypes here: one attends training  due to peer pressure or to keep their resume updated with market competitors and the second takes up training to learn as they know their competitor is ahead of them in upgrading. Most of the training nominations have more than 35% competitive learners in the class. These kinds of learners will be brand ambassadors of the training program in many ways because they love talking about the outcome of the learning and like to tag themselves in required social media platforms.

What Is The Need To Classify Learner Type?

Identifying your learner type will help you to explore their learning curve and hence the career path. As a mentor, if you know your team member’s learning type, you can groom him / her accordingly. Observation and introspection are a valuable tool for that. But before you start classifying your learners, first understand what kind of learner you are.

You can introspect and know yourself by asking the following questions. For instance, If I am planning to be an entrepreneur one day and I am currently working in an organization to gain further experience and waiting for the right time, which type of learner I am, Proactive learner or a Subjective learner? Is it too early for competitive learning or is it going to accelerate the path towards my ambition? How do I prepare myself for reactive learning in future? In the above scenarios, what if my primary style of learning is Reactive? Does that put me in danger as an entrepreneur? These kinds of questions will help to plan for your competency skill movement in a strategic way. When you are able to effectively answer these questions, you can be sure that you are on the right path to plan for your competency skill movement in a strategic way.

Once you are sure what kind of learner you are, then move on to observe the team’s learning mindset. You should always strive to ensure that you have a diversity in the type of learners. You need a team where someone is proactively bringing their knowledge on the table, someone who is the fixer by learning, SMEs as guides and learners who put your team on top with certifications and top program completions. Like how we need a pyramid of employees with right diversity, having a team with various types of learners will enable a holistically effective learning culture.


About Narmadha Kamalakannan

Narmadha Kamalakannan

Narmada Kamalakannan heads the L&D division at TCS, Bangalore. She has authored two books and is a consistent blogger running her website on www.tigressandbutterfly.com and an avid reader. She is also a DISC Certified Behavioral trainer and a Global Skill Development - Professional Certified L&D Specialist.She has excellent interpersonal skills and strong abilities in designing, conducting and implementing training and educational programs at Leadership levels. She actively participates in various L&D forums and communities and is a keen learner and enthusiastic Leader

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One thought on “What Type Of Learner Are You?

  1. Very true. Nice article for trainers as well. We need to pay attention to all participants as pee their ability to learn. A good trainer motivates trainees to learn on their own.

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