Learning Orientation Research



It is not enough today to use traditional classroom methodologies to deliver online and distance learning solutions. We need to deliver solutions that support today's learners who are continually motivated and able to adapt to today's evolving challenges. Many learners coming from the traditional classroom setting are not truly ready for successful distance learning. After years of instructor directed learning, they are not self-directed, self-assessed, or self-motivated (key skills / attributes for successful learning) enough for learning independently. Today's new age learning requires a better understanding of why some learners are more successful than others. It also requires an understanding of individual learning differences.

Research Purpose

The research purpose is to present information about individual learning differences and highlight the impact of emotions and intentions on learning. It also includes strategies and guidelines for providing the instruction and learning environments that recognize and support more self-motivated, self-directed learning.

Research Description

This research discusses the theoretical foundations for understanding sources for individual learning differences. Discovery in the neurosciences in the last ten years have revealed the extraordinarily complexities of brain activity and of multiple levels interacting dynamically. These theories highlight more than the cognitive element, they explore the dominant power of emotions and intentions on learning and the very human variability of learning. This research perspective is more robust than typical, primarily cognitive (thinking) explanations (such as, learning styles and strategies), because it discusses a more comprehensive (whole-person) set of key psychological factors. The challenge is to use this information to personalize learning and use the technology to adapt learning and match individual learning differences.

These theories specifically enhance the instructional design process, differentiate audience needs (both as aggregate types and individually), and guide new solutions development (e.g., relationships, tools, content, and environments). They help integrate the sophisticated technology that makes adaptive learning environments possible and very useful in developing successful online relationships. The concept of personalizing for customers is certainly not new. But the Web and the sophisticated use of technology powered by learning objects elevate personalization to a new art form. The Web is the perfect environment for precision and predictive learning, because individuals can be uniquely identified, and relevant content, tools, and environments specifically tailored to them. Today, along with the important developments in instructional psychology, open standards, and sophisticated database functionality, an entirely new foundation for truly personalized online learning is quickly becoming a reality. The most obvious benefits of these innovations is the creation of a learning ecology that can share resources from large reservoirs where content is shared individually, widely, and more economically.

Learning Orientations

There are four learning orientations: transforming, performing, conforming, and resistant. The learning orientation profiles (http://www.trainingplace.com/source/research/learningorientations.htm) describe a learner's proclivity to learn or perform and provide specific scales for measuring common learner-difference attributes. Learning orientations are an effective way to differentiate the audience according to the higher-order psychological factors that powerfully impact learning and performance and foster how we develop, manage, and sometimes override our cognitive learning preferences, strategies, and skills. These learner-difference profiles differentiate the audience, guide analysis and design of instruction and environment, and tailor solutions that improve learning ability and the learning experience.

Learning Orientations describe higher-order psychological attributes and learner-difference variables for successful learning, offers explanations for fundamental learning differences, and suggests strategies for accommodating learning needs for audiences differentiated by learning orientation. Learning orientations (a) represent conative, affective, cognitive, and social influences on learning, from a whole-person perspective, (b) introduce higher-order psychological aspects into audience analysis and instructional design methodology, and (c) provide guidelines for differentiating the audience.

More About the Learning Orientations


Hopefully, this summary will provide suggestions that contribute to more successful mentoring relationships for distance learning and a greater understanding about fundamental learning differences. When we support individuals with only a universal type of learner in mind we unintentionally set learners up for frustration and possible failure. If we are serious about providing good mentoring support for distance learners, we must provide multiple ways to provide instruction and environments so that all learners have opportunities for success. These descriptions are a first step in recognizing individual learning differences. They are also an important step in recognizing the expanded, dominant role and impact of emotions and intentions on learning, especially since distance learners need to become more self-motivated and self-directed learners.

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Created by the Learning Orientation Research Team.

Updated June 2001 by Margaret Martinez & The Training Place.
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Copyright Margaret Martinez 1996-2001
Some projects were funded in part by the Society for Technical Communication
(STC Research Award, 1997-1998).