Some Emotional Dimensions of Learning Style: a study of cases

Dr Mike Watts

University of Surrey

This paper is concerned in the large part with the actions of learners within places of higher education. It is concerned with their conscious awareness of their learning, of their 'making of meaning' and the meanings they invest in their actions in both devising and deploying learning in such institutional situations.

A primary objective of the research is to provide both a conceptual framework with which to understand the business of learning at this level (the theoretical domain), and to illuminate the actions of learners in their many guises (the existential domain). The theoretical domain concerns those presuppositions and assumptions, both implicit and explicit, with which actors construct the more general characteristics of their learning, its function and their role and situation within this. These include the principles that a person has for learning, his/her general ideas about method, style and approach to learning; about purpose, life and relationships. The existential elements relate to the actors' immediate experiences of events in all their particularity and the consequent thoughts, feelings, sense of self, of adequacy - their immediate experiences as they undergo learning in context.

This research opens the possibility of resolving some of the contradictions that occur where presuppositions and experiences are contrary to each otherto the extent that learners cannot cope with the daily tasks of learning. The intention is to provide a framework for expressive activity in the developing experiences of learners, for learners to become aware of presuppositions about learning even as he or she is in the act of transforming these as learning takes place.

The paper discusses data from interviews with a range of students, but focusses on the extremes of the spectrum to present cases broadly of two kinds, of learners:

1. For whom learning is a robust affair, who have a strong need to learn and can maintain the impetus for this over many positive and negative periods of learning ;

2. For whom learning is a fragile affair, who are discouraged quickly and easily and who 'block'

rapidly at the firstonset of difficulty.

The question for teachers is how to keep learners 2 'on the learning path' so that they can take the risks that accompany creative learning.

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