The Four Learning Orientations

Learners situationally fall along the continuum of learning orientations. Depending on the specific learning circumstances, a learner may cover a full range of one learning orientation or move downwards or upwards in response to negative or positive responses, conditions, resources, results, expectations, and experiences. Most learners will respond with some level of resistance in negative environments. Upward change into new learning orientations requires greater effort and learner control and stronger intentions, feelings, and beliefs about learning.

Conforming learners, compared to transforming or performing learners, are complying learners that prefer to more passively accept knowledge, store it, and reproduce it to conform, follow simple steps to complete assigned tasks, and please others.

Conforming learners more often

  • enjoy the security of routine and knowing what to expect, in contrast to change and exploration.

  • are most comfortable having others make decisions, set goals, and establish procedures. They are uncomfortable using initiative, thinking critically, making mistakes, and reflecting on their progress.

  • avoid discovery, complex problem solving and abstract thinking. They have little desire to take charge of their learning and progress.

  • prefer doing the easy or basic tasks first and like using step-by-step procedures to accomplish the stated objectives. They enjoy having a clear idea about what specifically needs to be done, being shown how to do the tasks or steps, and having plenty of feedback describing how they are doing and what needs to be done next.

  • enjoy collaborating or working in a group or team that has strong guidance, progresses at a common pace, and has supportive external resources.

To be more successful, conforming learners need to become more independent and willing to take greater risks. In supportive, uncomplicated learning environments, conforming learners will enjoy working hard to achieve simple, clearly explained goals.