Learning in different ways: Part Two

(Continua de “Learning in different ways: Part One“)

Different approaches to learning styles and styles:

  1. Theory of multiple intelligences
  2. Thinking styles and cognitive development
  3. Thinking styles and instructional / learning design
  4. Styles of thought and creativity
  5. Learning styles: Honey and Mumford model

Let’s briefly see each of them:


  1. Theory of multiple intelligences

The hypothesis of multiple intelligences is a model of conception of the mind proposed in 1983 by Howard Gardner. For him, intelligence is not a set of different specific capacities, but a network of autonomous, relatively interrelated capacities, that endow the person with a certain biopsychological potential of information processing that can be activated in a certain cultural frame or in more of one, to solve problems or create products that have value for these frameworks, depending on the opportunities available in that culture and the decisions made by each person and / or their family, their teachers and other people.

The theory of multiple intelligences proposes the existence of seven types of intelligences, although years later, Gardner would add one more and then a ninth, although not integrated with the previous ones. All people have them in their entirety, with the peculiarity that some are more developed than others.

  • Linguistic intelligence: ability to think in words and use language to express and perceive complex meanings
  • Logical-mathematical intelligence: ability to calculate, quantify, use logical reasoning, consider premises, hypotheses, patterns and relationships and carry out complex mathematical operations
  • Space intelligence: ability to think in a three-dimensional way and perceive internal and external images, recreate them, transform them and make objects and oneself move through space, as well as coding and producing graphics
  • Body-kinesthetic intelligence: ability to manipulate objects and coordinate and use muscles in a coordinated manner, physical balance, speed and flexibility and sensitivity in touch
  • Musical intelligence: sensitivity to perceive tone, melody, rhythm and intonation
  • Interpersonal intelligence: ability to understand people and interrelate with them, ability to lead, organize, communicate, resolve conflicts and sell
  • Intrapersonal intelligence: ability to understand oneself, recognizing one’s strengths and weaknesses and establishing personal goals
  • Naturalist intelligence: ability to observe nature and understand its laws and processes, making distinctions and identifying flora and fauna
  • Spiritual intelligence: sensitivity for the religious, the mystical, the transcendental, concern for cosmic or existential issues, special ability to achieve high spiritual states and experiences


  1. Thinking styles and cognitive development

The styles have been applied to three types of characteristics of the person: a) cognitive styles; b) learning styles; and c) thinking styles. None of the three makes reference to the skills of the person but to the form with which the person uses them.

The theory of Sternberg (1988, 1997) describes 13 styles of thought in five dimensions of mental self-government (preferences):


  • Legislative: tasks that require creative strategies; choose your own activities
  • Executive: tasks with clear instructions, structured and with established guidelines.
  • Judicial: tasks that allow self-evaluation and evaluate the performance of others.


  • Hierarchical: distribute attention to several prioritized tasks according to their assessment.
  • Monarchical: tasks that allow you to focus completely on one thing at a time.
  • Oligarchic: work in multiple tasks to serve multiple objectives without setting priorities.
  • Anarchic: work on tasks that allow flexibility as to what, where, when and how.


  • Global: prefers to pay more attention to the general image of a problem and / or abstract ideas.
  • Local: work on tasks that require specific details.


  • Internal: tasks that allow one to work independently.
  • External: tasks that allow collaboration with other people.


  • Liberal: tasks that involve novelty and ambiguity.
  • Conservative: tasks that allow one to adhere to existing rules and procedures.

Perry’s theory of cognitive development (1970) consists of nine positions and delineates the steps through which students go from being dualistic and concrete, to being more contingent and relativistic, and then to being more engaged. Because some of the adjacent positions are similar, Perry placed the nine positions in three sequential categories: dualism, relativism, and commitment. Similar to Piaget’s theory of cognitive development (1952), Perry’s (1970, 1981) theory focuses on how students think but not on what they think.


  1. Thinking styles and instructional / learning design

Children (and adults) learn adequately in different ways, and they seem to take more advantage when instruction is differentiated in some way to accommodate these differences.

Understanding thinking styles helps teachers differentiate instruction to maximize the learning outcomes of all students (Sternberg, 1997, Sternberg and Grigorenko, 1997). In fact, learning approaches are related to thinking styles (Zhang, 2000; Zhang and Sternberg, 2005).

A style of thinking is a preference to use skills in certain ways. It is not a skill in itself, but the way one likes to use skills.

The key principle is that for students to benefit maximally from instruction and assessment, at least part of the instruction and assessment must match their thinking styles. Thus, a list can be drawn up with the different modes of instruction (lectures, readings, questions, cooperative learning, individual work, projects, problem solving, recitation, discussion, memorization, creativity, …) and the styles most in accordance with each one of them.


  1. Styles of thought and creativity

From the model of the creative process known as “investment theory” and proposed by Sternberg and Lubart (1997), it is argued that to carry out any type of investment, including the creative one, the individual has to “buy to the bottom and sell upwards. “Thus, the greatest creative contributions can generally be made in areas with ideas that at a given moment are undervalued.

In relation to the resources of creativity, this theory proposes that creativity involves six resources:

  1. Intellectual processes: generate the options in which others do not think, and recognize what are the good
  2. Knowledge: knowing what others have done in our field of work, so that we know what they have not done or what they have not yet thought to do
  3. Cognitive or thinking style: you have to like to think and act in a creative way and go against the current, as well as see the forest without losing sight of trees
  4. Personality: to be willing to take risks and overcome the obstacles they face and continue to do so throughout our lives
  5. Motivation: wanting to do it instead of just thinking about it
  6. Environmental context: work in a job, live in a country, or be in relationship with others that allow us to do all these things

Creative realization is the result of the confluence of these different elements. (Sternberg and Lubart, 1997, Sternberg, 2002)

In short, Sternberg and Lubart (1991) highlighted three characteristic styles of creative people: 1) legislative, which implies being guided by one’s own rules, procedures or ideas (inventors, discoverers); 2) global-local, since both can be beneficial for creativity, depending on the type of task or the work stage in the task; and 3) progressive, with a tendency to focus on the new, change and innovation.


  1. Learning styles: Honey and Mumford model

The theory about learning styles was developed by Peter Honey and Alan Mumford, based on previous work by Kolb; They identified four different types of learning or preferences: the active, the theoretical, the pragmatic and the reflective. These are the learning methods that each individual chooses naturally and recommend that, to optimize their own personal learning, each student should understand their learning style and look for opportunities to learn using that style:

  • Active: They are people who learn by doing. They need to get their hands dirty and immerse themselves in things with both hands in front of them. They have a very open attitude to learn and are fully involved and without prejudice in new experiences
  • Theorist: These people like to understand the theory behind actions. They need models, concepts and facts in order to participate in their own learning process. They prefer to analyze and synthesize to elaborate the new information in a logical and systematic theory
  • Pragmatic: These people need to know how to put into practice in real life what they have learned. Abstract concepts and games are not appropriate for them, unless they can see how to put those ideas into practice in their lives. As experimenters, they try new ideas, theories and techniques to see if they work
  • Reflective: These people learn by observing and thinking about what happens. They avoid jumping, because they prefer to observe things from the barrier. They prefer to take a step back and observe the experiences from different perspectives, collect data and take the time necessary to reach the appropriate conclusions


If you want to know a little bit more …


Stenberg, R.J. (1988) Mental self-government: a theory of intellectual styles and their development. Human Development no. 31.

Stenberg, R.J. (1997) Thinking Styles. Cambridge University Press (Versión en español: 1999, Estilos de pensamiento. Barcelona. Paidós)

Perry, W.G. (1970) Forms of Intellectual and Ethical Development in the College Years: A Scheme. Holt, Rinehart and Winston. New York.

Gardner, H. (1983) Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Basic Books. New York.


Honey, P. y Mumford, A. (1986) The Manual of Learning Styles. Maidenhead, Peter Honey Associates.

Sternberg, R. J. y Lubart, T. I. (1997). La creatividad en una cultura conformista: Un desafío a las masas. Paidós. Barcelona.


Sternberg, R.J. (2002) Raising the Achievement of All Students: Teaching for Successful Intelligence. Educational Psychology Review, Vol. 14, No. 4, December 2002.


Sternberg, R.J. y Lubart, T.I. (1991) An investment theory of creativity and its development. Human Development no. 34 (1).

Sternberg, R.J. y Grigorenko, E.L. (1995) Styles of thinking in the school. European Journal for High Ability no. 6.

Zhang, L.F. (2000) Are thinking styles and personality types related?. Educational Psychology, 20 (3).

Zhang, L.F. y Sternberg, R.J. (2005) A threefold model of intellectual styles. Educational Psychology Review, 17 (1).

Piaget, J. (1950) The Psychology of Intelligence. Harcourt and Brace. New York.


Piaget, J. (1957) Logic and Psychology. Basic Books. New York.

Piaget, J. (1952) The origins of intelligence in children. International University Press. New York.

Perry, W.G. (1981) Cognitive and Ethical Growth: The Making of Meaning, in Arthur W. Chickering and Associates, The Modern American College. Jossey-Bass. San Francisco.