When I started my internship with the WMF this summer, it was clear that I would need to be able to learn quickly and effectively for most of the summer. My mentor had recently been to Hacker School, where she’d encountered the idea of engineering learning styles. She wanted to know how I learned so that she could point me to the resources I’d have the best chance of absorbing, and asked me if I’d be willing to take Soloman and Felder’s questionnaire and see where I landed on the various scales.

I ended up with a moderate preference for reflective/intuitive/global (click here for a description of the categories).
I’ve posted my detailed description and reflection below the cut. How do you learn best?


I ended up with a mild preference (3 pts) for: Reflective, Intuitive, and Global and a very mild preference (1 pt) for Visual.

Verbal-Visual-Active are all linked for me. Taking notes (longhand or typed) helps me retain information more than reading, watching, or listening alone. Talking out a concept/plan with someone else, or discussing what I understand and where I see it connecting to other things, is often very useful. I absorb information quickly from written text.

I can’t stand informational videos of the voiceover/screenshot type. Put it in text and include any necessary illustrations and I’ll learn it faster, retain it better, and be able to refer to it more easily. That said, I learn well from lectures, especially when I take notes while the instructor writes/draws on the board. I learn well in a traditional classroom.

I need both the parts and the whole, and if either is missing I’m going to be frustrated. I love learning details and getting meticulous work just right, but without context it’s busywork. “Trust me; this is how it needs to be done, and I will explain later” counts as context. I like to be told, “The details will make this needlessly complicated; let’s zoom out;” it lets me know I can go back for the details later without missing anything too important. “This is where I blatantly lie to you for your own good” (when someone is explaining fractally complicated concepts) lets me know (a) that there is a subtlety there and (b) that I don’t need to worry about it (yet).

I’m not sure whether it’s possible to separate my reflective and global learning tendencies. Once I get enough information I see the patterns and then I can make the leaps I need to and the patterns just make sense. I do need some time to let the information/connections settle. I love interdisciplinary work and applying techniques/information/theories in unexpected ways.

This is a common workflow for me: read voraciously and mainline information. Goof off, procrastinate, clean the house, update my computer, read more things that are tangentially related, start to make an outline, decide it’s WRONG ALL WRONG, reshuffle it and start writing bits of it (blocking out the not-quite-there bits with [not-quite-the-right-thing]), figure out what my thesis actually is, iterate, reshuffle, repeat. Write title/abstract/introduction. Edit severely and BAM it’s beautiful. It requires lots of copy/paste and highlighting and maybe some capslock and I don’t even know how I’d do it in longhand.

Some of my favorite learning experiences have been extremely intense but also supportive. I like diving in and new material rarely intimidates me. Unfamiliar communication and social structures are more likely to trip me up and it is helpful when people explain social norms to me, though I can pick them up eventually and get through until I do. Tight deadlines can be motivating as long as I don’t have any other crises to deal with, but I need downtime after them.

For the actually getting to learning and practice: I love detailed to-do lists. I mostly keep them on paper or in a .txt on my desktop.

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