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The learning journal provides a growing understanding of a subject or experience and is "to support academic inquiry and to create a history of learning for students to explore ideas, ask questions and respond personally to their experiences with reflection" (Popp, 1997). Daudelin (1996) states "reflection is the process of stepping back from an experience to ponder, carefully and persistently, its meaning to the self through the development of inferences; learning is the creation of meaning from past or current events that serves as a guide for future behaviour". This definition explicitly captures the relation of reflection to learning and suggests that reflection is integral to learning when learning is defined as making sense of past experience to understand and affect future experience.
Prior to an evaluation of my skills development it is crucial to establish and reflect on my dominant learning style. With the use of Kolb's et al (1984) 'Learning Style Inventory' (LSI) and Myres-Briddgs Type Indicator (MBTI) theory I have been able to evaluate my aptitude and learning styles with the results illustrated in 'Appendix 1'.
Kolb's 'Learning Style Inventory' illustrated in 'figure 1' is designed to help individuals identify the way they learn from experience. Zanich (1991) states the Learning Style Inventory is "a simple self-description test, based on experiential learning theory, designed to measure your weaknesses and strengths as a learner".
Source: Kolb et al. (1984)
The results of my LSI test in 'appendix 1' show that I have an orientation towards 'Abstract Conceptualization'. This suggests I am a 'theorist' and focus on logical analysis of ideas and act on intellectual understanding of a situation. Kolb (1999) however goes on to say it is the combination of the results from the inventory that will describe an individual's learning style most accurately. As shown in 'figure 2' the combination of my results (a high score in AE and AC) indicate I have a 'converging' learning style.
Individuals with a converging learning style are said to use their hypothetical-reasoning to solve a problem and find solutions to practical issues (Syed-Khuzzan & Goulding, 2009). They also like facts, working independently and will seek to make things efficient by making small and careful changes (Kolb, 1979). In addition to this Tobei (2009) suggests that those with this style "learn through interaction and that computer-based learning is more effective with them than other methods". This is accurate in its representation of my learning style as my learning preference is learning through contact and computers however preferring to work alone in finding answers to solutions. Kolb (1984) states the strength of those with a converging learning style is that they think about things and then try out their ideas to see if they work in practice. This is encouraging as my degree of study (Economics Bsc) is based on statistical theory and techniques for application in economic theory.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) was also designed to assess personality types and interpersonal functioning and has been commonly used in determining learning styles (Golay, 1982). The results from my MBTI test compliment my LSI score. Myers (1990) suggest that those with the INTP learning style are quiet, flexible, "theoretical and interested more in ideas than in social interaction with the unusual ability to focus in depth to solve problems in their area of interest" and can often be sceptical or critical. I am in agreement with both sets of results as I am more of a 'thinking' orientated learner and prefer to solve problems using reasoning and working independently. Both tests showing a similar result and interpretation of my learning style therefore it can be concluded that both are accurate.
Kolb et al (1984) also mentions that there are strengths and weaknesses associated with each style and that it may change from time to time and situation to situation. This idea is supported in my LSI results where I have a high orientation towards an 'Active Experimentation' (AE) style however the score of my 'Reflective Observation' (RO) and 'Concrete experience' (CE) style preference have little difference between them. This suggests that although I prefer 'thinking' and 'doing' I am willing to adopt and adapt my learning style to include 'watching' and 'feeling'. Kolb highlights that people who prefer a learning style will tend to learn more effectively if learning is orientated according to their preference however also acknowledges that limiting students to learning in one preferred style tends to "prevent them from developing their full learning potential" and that it is more effective to design a curriculum engaging learners of every learning style (Delahoussaye, 2002).
Many studies have highlighted the usefulness of determining learning styles with respect to individual development and as I will be basing my learning development on my determined learning style there is a need to be aware of the criticisms of such theories. An non-peer-reviewed literature review critiques Kolb's learning style inventory and other learning style models by disputing their reliability stating there is "no evidence that 'matching' improves academic performance in further education" (Coddielt et al, 2004) and Kolb (1984) himself admits that LSI is not definitive or always accurate. Learning styles can however be very useful to students to gain self-awareness (Evans et al, 1998) and I and many other students feel that this is true.
My second year at university has been particularly one of reflection and development as I have become more self-aware about my strengths and weaknesses. I have chosen to evaluate with the application of learning theory my development within the undergraduate programme, how I am approaching the upcoming assessment period and the skills I feel are most important for a successful career after graduation from university. Throughout my skills development I have used Kolb's Learning Cycle theory (illustrated in 'figure 3') which I learnt about in my first year at university. Kolb's learning cycle has enabled me highlight and address my weaknesses while improving my skills.