Four Types of Learning


Please read the following descriptions of the four types of learners (based on M. Martinez of Brigham Young University and Michael Cholbi of Cal Poly Pomona), fill out the Learning Questionnaire, print it out and bring to class.


Intentional Learners: At the top of the learning continuum are intentional learners. Deeply aware of the social and cognitive factors influencing their learning, intentional learners place great importance on personal strengths, ability, persistent effort, strategies, high-standards, and positive expectations to achieve their learning objectives. Intentional learners develop skills to deal with problems arising in the learning process. They enjoy acquiring expertise, like to share knowledge with others, and often serve as a guide, coach, or mentor to others.

"Intentional learners take responsibility and control of their learning and become actively involved in managing the learning process" (Martinez). They use stimulating influences, such as intentions, motivation, passions, personal principles and high standards, to direct achievement of challenging personal goals.


Intentional learners learn best in loosely structured learning environments that encourage and support positive anticipations, expertise building, risk-taking experiences, mentoring relationships, self-directed learning, problem-solving situations, support for high learner control opportunities, transformative processes, high learning standards, and achievement of challenging personal goals for long-term accomplishments and change.


Performing Learners: In comparison, a performing learner is a non-risk, skilled learner that consciously, systematically, and capably uses cognitive processes, strategies, preferences as they focus on grades and on attaining normative achievement standards. In contrast to intentional learners, performing learners are short-term and task-oriented, take fewer risks with challenging or difficult goals, and rely on coaching relationships and available external resources and influences to accomplish a task. Performing learners clearly acknowledge meeting only the stated objectives, limiting effort, getting the grade, and avoiding exploratory steps beyond the learning task. These learners prefer semi-structured learning environments and seldom solely rely on compliance, others for motivation, or explicit direction and feedback.


Conforming Learners: Compared to intentional or performing learners, conforming learners are compliant and more passively accept knowledge, store it, and reproduce it to conform, complete assigned tasks if they can, and please others. The conforming learner does not typically think critically, synthesize feedback, solve complex problems, make independent decisions, or give knowledge new meaning to initiate change in themselves or the environment. These learners are typically less skilled learners who have little desire to control or manage their learning or change their environment. They prefer to have simple standards set for them, expend less effort, and receive explicit guidance and feedback as they accomplish required tasks. These learners learn best in environments that are safe, structured, focus on step-by-step procedures, and offer easily attained short-term goals.


Resistant Learners: In contrast to the other three learning orientations, resistant learners lack a fundamental belief that academic learning and achievement can help them achieve personal goals or initiate positive change. Too often they have suffered repeated, long-term frustration from inappropriate learning situations at the hands of unskilled, imperceptive instructors who unfortunately deter individuals from enjoying successful learning experiences and opportunities. These learners do not believe that formal education or academic institutions can be positive or enjoyable influences in their life.