Learning Styles of the Mind


As a staff, we are reading the book deliberate Optimism written by Debbie Silver, Jack Berckemyer, and Judith Baenen. It is a great book with humor, but its on point with the title. It gives a much-needed point of we teachers need to find ways to be positive.

As I was reading this today, I came across a section about learning styles. I enjoyed this section because it gave me ideas on how to get to know my students by their learning styles. The authors used the research of Dr. Anthony Gregorc, and his Mind Styles Model.

Let me show you a little bit of what he says in this model. There are two levels our brains work on perceptual and ordering levels. On each level there are two sub-levels. Perceptual level deals with more of the concrete or abstract, while the ordering level deals with the sequential or random qualities. From a Mind Styles Model website:

Perceptual Quality

  • Concrete: This quality enables you to register information directly through your five senses: sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing. When you are using your concrete ability, you are dealing with the obvious, the “here and now.” You are not looking for hidden meanings, or making relationships between ideas or concepts. It is what it is.”
  • Abstract: This quality allows you to visualize, to conceive ideas, to understand or believe that which you cannot actually see. When you are using your abstract quality, you are using your intuition, your imagination, and you are looking beyond “what is” to the more subtle implications. “It is not always what it seems.”

Although all people have both concrete and abstract perceptual abilities to some extent, each person is usually comfortable using one more than the other. The person whose natural strength in the concrete, for example, may communicate in a direct, literal, no-nonsense manner. The person whose natural strength is the abstract may use more subtle ways to get a point across.

Ordering Ability

  • Sequential: Allows your mind to organize information in a linear, step-by-step manner. When using your sequential ability, you are following a logical train of thought, a traditional approach to dealing with information. You may also prefer to have a plan and to follow it, rather than relying on impulse.
  • Random: Lets your mind organize information by chunks, and in no particular order. When you are using your random ability, you may often be able to skip steps in a procedure and still produce the desired result. You may even start in the middle, or at the end, and work backwards. You may also prefer your life to be more impulsive, or spur of the moment, than planned.

Both ordering abilities are present in each person, but usually a pattern emerges for using one over the other more comfortably.   There are four combinations of the strongest perceptual and ordering ability in each individual:

  1. Concrete Sequential (CS)
  2. Abstract Random (AR)
  3. Abstract Sequential (AS)
  4. Concrete Random (CR)

No one is a “pure” style. Each of us have a unique combination of natural strengths and abilities.

When I began to look at this, I began to think I can see my own gifted students in these categories. Let me show you by breaking down each level.

Concrete Sequential (CS)

  • These are students who love neatness, order and detail.
  • Don’t like to be distracted when learning.
  • These students like hands-on activities with direct instruction.
  • These students re factual, organized, dependable, and punctual.
  • These students are hardworking, consistent, and accurate.

How you may see these students:

  • You may see this student as a control freak
  • You may see them as a rule follower
  • You may see them as never wanting to change, or a perfectionist

How to work with these students:

  • Try to give step by step instructions
  • Try to use real life examples
  • Value this child for they like to focus on the details

Abstract Random (AR)

  • These students are spontaneous, flexible, and quick to jump on an idea they believe in
  • These students are sensitive, compassionate, and perceptive
  • These students are sentimental
  • These students like to pay attention to the human aspect
  • These students are seen as people pleaser

How you may see these students:

  • Have trouble working with people who are bossy, or seen as controlling
  • Like to multi-task as compared to doing one job then moving on to another
  • They have poor time management skills

How to work with these students:

  • Remember these students are sensitive
  • Remind these students to slow down a bit while sharing their ideas
  • These students are great listeners, and can be in tune with others
  • Help others to feed off of their positive energy

Abstract Sequential (AS)

  • Thrive on researching topics that interest them
  • These students like to direct their own learning
  • These students like to work alone
  • These students can be highly skeptical and dislike distractions
  • These students have little use for “small talk”
  • These students like facts and figures
  • These students are voracious readers
  • These students don’t always pick up on social cues

How you may see these students:

  • These students may remind you of Sheldon of the The Big Bang Theory
  • These students due to their reading have a great amount of knowledge they can share
  • You may see these students as “Know-it-Alls”
  • You may see these students as not caring about feelings, or valuing others
  • These students can’t always work with others due to their different opinions

How you can work with these students:

  • These students have a great knack for applying logic to finding solutions to various problems
  • Remember when these students are questioning your thinking it isn’t an attack, they are probably trying to understand your opinion
  • When working with these students remember they like facts, so allow them to have real world activities they can apply their logic to
  • These students can help discussions because they can find some key points or details of issues or problems that come up.
  • Allow these students to use their passion for research in your classroom

Concrete Random (CR)

  • These students have the philosophy of “if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it”
  • These students can be instigators of change
  • These students like things based in reality
  • These students are inquisitive and independent
  • These students like to learn hands-on
  • These students enjoy a trial by error philosophy when learning
  • These students get the gist of ideas very quickly
  • These students demonstrate the uncanny ability to make intuitive leaps when exploring unstructured problem solving experiences
  • These students love subjects like science or technology

How you may see these students:

  • These students are seen as risk takers
  • Some students are strong willed to do things their own way
  • These students offer creative and unusual ideas (out of the box thinkers)
  • These students are seen as mavericks who are too independent
  • These students are seen at times poor team members
  • These students have the mentality that its done once, and not redone
  • These students can be seen as impatient

How to work with these students:

  • These students are good at working sequentially, so use that as an asset
  • These students may be more apt to see upcoming pitfalls or see more often trouble spots in a project
  • These students adhere to deadlines well, so use that as an asset
  • Use these students investigational approach to projects to help support other students
  • These students are doers, not necessarily talkers, so use that as a positive

Remember, no one fits these categories 100% of the time. Everyone has tendencies towards different categories at different times. Gifted children are intriguing to me. They are very smart, can leaders, can be mavericks, and can be very independent.

Do you see your students in these categories? Do you see yourslef using this information to help reach and teach you students differently as I did?

As always, comments are welcome!

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2 thoughts on “Learning Styles of the Mind

  1. Pingback: Importance of Teaching Self Advocacy | Ramblings of a Gifted Teacher

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